Photography by: Angie Garcia
I’ved worked from home/for myself for almost 3 years and I can attest that nothing teaches you more about yourself than doing so. I mean 4 years ago I thought I was an extrovert. To think back to that is just laughable. I’ve learned a lot about my strengths, a lot about my weaknesses and a lot about areas I want to grow in. While we might not all be freelancers, I think that there is a lot of validity in learning to work from home. Maybe you are a blogger, maybe your company has flexible settings in which you can work or maybe you just have projects you want to complete around the home. I thought I’d share my top 10 tips for accomplishing these tasks and how I stay focused!
1. Invest in Your Schedule
The number one thing I invest in is my schedule. Your time is your most valuable asset regardless of if you are an entrepreneur or a mom that needs to get stuff done around the home while little ones require your attention! I spend about 2 hours a week outlining my schedule and making sure I adhere to it. Every Friday I spend about an hour writing out a big to-do list for the following week. On this I list what blog posts need to be completed, which shoots I need to do, meetings I have, contracts to sign, photos that need editing, accounting to manage, etc. I also go through my editorial calendar for the following week and make sure I know which posts go live on which day so I can accurately plan my social media calendar ahead of time. Then once I’ve made a big to-do list I divide it up by days. This way I’m not running unnecessary errands if I know I’ll be out doing a shoot on Tuesday by the place I need to go to. After I divide up which tasks to accomplish each day I schedule my day by the hour. Always be sure to leave an hour to two open in your day because work tasks will always take longer than time allotted and issues do come up. The day before I’ll finalize my schedule, confirm meetings with brands and make time for something fun each day. If I have a free hour for lunch I’ll grab it with a friend or if a meeting ends at 4:45 I’ll get a manicure after! Working from home can become incredibly lonely and monotonous so I try to implement something for “me” each day no matter how small or big it is.
2. Ask, “Is this my job?”
Along with guarding your time, you have to guard your commitments. I think women especially struggle with misconstruing kindness as professionalism. I always think I’m being the best blogger I can be when I’m saying, “Yes” to everyone and making sure I’m giving them exactly what they want from me. The problem with that? We say, “Yes” to jobs and tasks that aren’t ours, our schedule gets tied down and we can easily be up until 2 a.m. completing our actual work. Then I’m really not being kind to my husband or my family because I’m ignoring them when we should be having quality time. There is a time and place for everything and I am the biggest proponent of giving back, helping others and always being kind. But saying, “Yes” to everything isn’t always equivalent to being kind as a professional. Being kind as a professional means I’m putting forth my best effort to everyone I owe my time to: first and foremost, my readers and secondly, the people that pay/employ me.
I’ll share an example that a lot of bloggers deal with to explain how I handle this tip. Bloggers get a lot of meeting requests. In a single week I can have upwards of 100 people requesting to meet for coffee to learn how to start a blog, grow a boutique, work with bloggers or learn how to strategize their social media for their own brand. If I were to agree to every meeting I would be doing all my blog posts at midnight and churning out crummy work for my readers and the brands I work with. Neither of which party deserves. To combat that I try to incorporate blog tip posts, I’ll share advice through e-mail or speak at workshops because in my heart, I want to help these people! I just don’t always have the time to.
Some weeks I’m really able to meet with people and I love to do so! Unfortunately, on weeks that I have a lot of brand meetings and work to get done I have to go through my schedule and prioritize by asking each and every task, “Is this my job?”
Ultimately, I’ve had to realize I’m not a blog consultant. There are many people that do that for a living, but I don’t for whatever reason God has. And as much as I hate to tell someone no [I seriously cringe and want to beat myself up] I have to know I’m being kind by doing my best work for my readers and brands during working hours. And honestly, I wouldn’t be kind meeting these people because I don’t have the time to fully mentor them in the way they deserve. It’s a hard lesson to learn as I age because my immediate response is, “Yes! I’d love to help you!” And then I realize when I take on too much I fail people and they did nothing to have to deal with that.
You might have a different struggle. Maybe you have a coworker that loves your assistance on projects that don’t even pertain to your responsibilities or maybe as a mom you have people that really don’t understand how busy your schedule is. Ask yourself, “Is this my job?” As a mom I’m sure you can say that your job is to provide the best possible care to your children 24/7. And if you have to say no to happy hours with girlfriends in order to do so, know that you aren’t being mean. You’re being as kind as you possibly can be to your children. I always find when I stay true to what my job is, I’m always blessed with free time in the future that I can say, “Yes” to these things I wish I could! Guard your commitments, be honest with what you can handle and you’ll be given some of the best opportunities you wouldn’t have even though of to help others all while being kind and professional at the same time!
3. Pick One
Some people that work from home live and breathe by the rule: dress well, work well. And there is so much validity to that statement! When working from home it can be so easy to just get up, brush your teeth and work in workout clothes and bed head. But then by 2 p.m. I feel like a complete slob and I’m embarrassed. I want to take a nap and I feel so exhausted. However, I also don’t think you have to get up and get ready 100% each and every day. If I know I’m having a writing day, I can be writing content upwards of 8 hours. If I’m sitting at my desk in jeans, flats and a button-up blouse I can start to get uncomfortable. I get “fully ready” about 3 days a week and then on the other 2 days I pick one. Pick one thing to do: hair, wardrobe or makeup. I might wear Lululemon and no makeup but my hair will be curled. Or I’ll throw on jeans and a sweater with a top knot and feel more like myself. Just picking on thing is a lot quicker than getting ready but you always feel more professional and put together to take on any task.
4. Schedule Response Times
There are so many perks to working from home! You can call your mom at 11 a.m., you can run to Target at noon or you can text your friends without concern that your coworkers will give you the side eye. However, a Snapchat here, a few group texts there and three phone calls later can eat away at your day. And when you work from home your day doesn’t end at 5, it ends when your work ends. I have to be really strict with myself and not take calls during work hours unless I absolutely need to. I also schedule my social media time and my response times to group texts and e-mails. In between each to-do item on my to-do list I take about 10 minutes to respond to texts. Then I’ll respond on social media right before meal times. I’ll call people back on my way to the gym or right before Paul gets home from work.
5. Treat Yourself with Meals
Don’t be so hard on yourself over eating out! I remember when I worked in a PR firm I would always try to only eat out 2-3 times a week because between coffee meetings, lunch meet ups and date nights you can spend so much money and consume so many ridiculous calories! haha. However, when you work from home be a little more lenient with yourself. If I don’t leave to work out or go to meetings that day there are plenty of days I am home all day long and can get a little bit of cabin fever. If I I have a free hour I like to meet a friend for lunch or grab dinner with Paul. It doesn’t have to be expensive or unhealthy, but it’s so nice to just get out, sit on a patio and sip an iced coffee if time allows. Be really kind to yourself mentally so you don’t feel lonely. Working from home can be the best thing or the worst thing in the world. Make sure to enjoy the perks of working from home like coffee dates with girlfriends or early date nights with your boyfriend so that you still enjoy social aspects that come along with work.
6. Dress Your Desk
Don’t feel bad splurging on office accessories. It’s always special to make your desk “yours” and I think even something as little as a laptop cover makes your desk space feel more inviting. I didn’t always have room for an office! For years I had a little desk in my 500 sq. foot apartment but I tried to keep my desk decorated to my liking so I felt like it was a place I wanted to spend time at. My laptop cover is from Buchanan Case Barrington Gifts and they have the cutest personalized items for your desk. This Highclere Accessory Case is $42 personalized and would be perfect for a girl’s desk to hold miscellaneous items like pens, paper clips, tape, etc. Cluttered desk, cluttered mind! Here are a few office accessories I love for him and her!
7. Capitalize on Your Best Work Times
If you aren’t sure what your best work time is, schedule three different days accordingly. One day do all your difficult work between 7 a.m. and noon. One day do all your difficult work between noon and 4 p.m. And on the last day do your difficult work between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. See how your work turned out and monitor your disposition during each time. I love to work in the morning! I tell Paul once our little girl has an early morning feeding [around 5 a.m.] I’ll probably just get up and start working. Then I’ll be able to take a nap when she does around noon. It’s not that I love mornings, I just work happier, smarter and more efficiently all before noon. If I work late at night I’m exhausted, cranky and making errors left and right. In the afternoons I definitely get the 2 p.m. slump and start yawning or craving a Diet Coke. Because of this I schedule my core work in the early morning, meetings in the afternoon and make sure to end my work day by 6 or 7. I do answer e-mails in the evening, but that’s something I enjoy doing so I don’t view it as a negative!
8. Clean for 15 Minutes in the Morning
You don’t have to be a clean freak, but clutter is really tied to interfering with your productivity. After your coffee in the morning take about 15 minutes in the morning and clean up. Make your bed, clean your office space and empty the dishwasher. This quick clean sweep allows me to think and focus much more clearly on the task at hand without getting side tracked.
9. Create Your Own Coworkers
If there is one thing I miss about working in an office it is 100% having coworkers. I miss having lunch with the girl that sat by me and I miss chatting with people about what they did the night before or movies they recommend I see. It’s really nice to have friends that share a common work goal. If you work remotely or you work for yourself, it can be difficult to find coworkers. I say to create your own! You don’t have to all do the same thing. Find other small-business owners or find other people that work from home. A way I recommend doing this is joining social groups that cater to like-minded women. If you’re in Dallas, I recommend Circle Seven Five. If you are in Texas and want a group that is faith-based try Polished! You’ll find other women that might not share the same job title, but share a lot of the same viewpoints. Treat these girls as your coworker besties. Meet for coffee. Share with them your work struggles. Encourage each other on your successes.
Being a blogger I always view other bloggers as coworkers. The Teacher Diva and I call each other at least 2 or 3 times a day. We do have to be careful because we could easily chat for 2 hours on the phone, but we try to keep these between 5-10 minutes long. I might ask about how she would handle a certain situation or she may bounce an idea off of me. It’s so helpful to know that other women “get” what you do and want to encourage you to succeed.
10. Have an Active Lunch Break
One great thing about working from home is you aren’t on a time crunch to take a shower and get back to the office! Take a walk, sign up for a spin class or try a new yoga studio during your lunch break. You may think if you eat at your desk you don’t need one. And 4 out of 5 days a week I don’t take one. However, I try to give myself one active lunch break a week. I might go to the gym and I might even just run to my mom’s house and see her really quick. But doing something other than sitting will take your mind off work which is what your lunch break should be doing!
Of course different things work for different people, these are just the tips that work for me! I’d love to know what tips you have for working/studying/accomplishing tasks from home! Thank you so much for reading. 🙂
In partnership with Barrington Gifts. All opinions are my own!