For so many of us, it’s the holy grail.
We dream of leaving our day jobs and pursuing our passions. We envision a world of instagram-worthy vignettes… of lattes and lunch meetings, of yoga pants and a perfectly styled home office. Then reality strikes. Our dream comes true and we’re left on our own, in a messy house, with 2 dogs taking ownership of our furniture (“THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!”) and a spouse asking why the laundry was left wet in the washer for two days. (Whoops.) You haven’t showered in 36 hours and your email inbox is overflowing. This is not the life you imagined and now you’re left wondering if you made a huge mistake.
Work from home warriors… I’ve got your back. Press pause on the negative track that’s looping through your mind. Just because Pinterest lied to you doesn’t mean all hope is lost! Working from home can be tricky, add in a roommate, spouse, pets or kids and you’re bound to feel like there’s no hope for any productivity. I’ve been working from home for almost 4 years now and I’ve put together 5 simple rules you can put into practice today to help you find some serenity now. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Create Office Hours and Stick to Them: There will always be times when you’re on a deadline or when you get behind or when something urgent comes up that you must attend to late at night but for the most part, anything that comes in after 7pm can wait till 9am the next day. While quick responses are an important part of customer service, setting boundaries around yourself is an important part of maintaining your sanity, cultivating healthy client interactions, and avoiding long term burnout. You cannot be available to your clients and customers 100% of the time. It’s not healthy for you or for your business. Set boundaries. I personally like to work late at night because it’s when I feel creative. But I take weekends completely off and I have family time from 7-9pm every evening.
2. Phones and Email OFF, Not Away: If you can hear the *ding* of your work email every 2 seconds while you are trying to enjoy dinner with your family, you are going to be distracted and eventually your curiosity (cough, anxiety, cough) will get the best of you. You’ll want to go see what’s come in. It’s better to turn your email program completely off after hours. My phone lives on silent actually because I have set times to work on email/messages and if I hear the dings all day it distracts me from my other tasks. If the thought of this sends your heart racing, remind yourself that there’s always room for emergency exceptions but for the most part, being “on call” to your messages will kill your productivity and your creativity.
3. Manage Expectations Like it’s Your Job: Almost every time I have any sort of bump in the road with a client or customer, it is because I didn’t do a good job of managing expectations with them. What does that mean? It means that you need to be very clear about what people can and should expect from you and what they cannot expect from you. Be up front with what they can expect, what you expect, your availability, etc. And if something goes off track, keep them in the loop! People are always happy when they know what to expect. They get nervous and frustrated when they feel left in the dark. Communicate expectations effectively and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble.
4. Create a Harmonious Space: Whatever your workspace is, whether it’s a loft straight out of Dwell magazine or your perfectly worn in favorite spot on the sofa with your laptop on your lap, make it a harmonious space. You will work better and more efficiently, you will feel less stressed, and you’ll get more done in less time. I’m telling you, it works. What does that mean for me? It means cleaning up clutter for 5-10 minutes before I sit down to work. It means having coffee or a cup of ice water nearby. And it means lighting a favorite candle, opening windows for natural light, or listening to a relaxing playlist.
5. Get Good at Being Interrupted: If you work from home, chances are you’re going to be interrupted. A bunch. And if you work from home with a spouse or kids around this goes from “chance” to “inevitability”. While it can be super frustrating to deal with, if you can practice being good at getting interrupted you’ll save yourself a lot of stress. What does it mean to be good at being interrupted? It means that you are able to roll with what each day brings you but also that you can be interrupted, deal with it positively, and then jump back into focused tasks. Babies, roommates, spouses, pets, and life all throw interruptions at you all day long. The better you are at dealing with them, the less stressful your day to day life will be. Be thankful that you have the lifestyle and ability to let you experience and handle these interruptions and practice gratitude instead of frustrations. Everyone (including you) will be much happier!