For nearly 3 long years as a freelancer, I’ve been under the steady paw of home management, overseen by a small [but very business-oriented] Tabby cat. In light of current events, I thought I’d put together this grandly titled ‘Ultimate Guide to Working From Home’ as I’ve been getting a lot of questions about tips for working from home.
Get your laptop out, your preferred method of calendar setting, make sure you have a decent supply of [cat treats +] coffee in the cupboard and throw away the yoke of conventional work hours. Unless of course, that’s what your boss will still want you to work – mine tends to vary her demands based on a busy nap schedule and availability of the top tier cushions [a cat’s gotta do what a cat’s gotta do].
I’m joking of course (mostly) but as a freelancer, I have gathered together a list of the things that help to keep me on top of my busy business, the ones that keep me from getting too distracted and from feeling lonely during the week – something a lot of people struggle with.
Starting your Day
One of the best tips I’ve been given over the years is to get up, shower, breakfast, get dressed and then work out or walk around the block. Basically everything you’d do normally to commute, without the sweaty strangers. It gets your heart going, sets your brain into ‘time for work’ action, the fresh air fires up your mind and you can get [cat treats +] milk if you’re about to run out.
I now have almost a full wardrobe of pyjamas and ‘activewear’ that I get dressed into – keeping a smart-ish top for video calls, answering the door to the postie and making sure that my comfy office jumper (it’s so soft I look like a sheep – but when your boss spends 18hours sleeping, that’s ok) is within reach at all times during winter. Ladies, invest in a few soft bras. It’ll help your productivity, I promise. Also, brush your hair – it makes such a difference.
Find a work buddy
Someone who you trust implicitly, that has your back honestly and doesn’t mind when you send them a flurry of cat memes when you’re hitting a procrastination patch.
Set yourself up a home office
One of the most important items in this ultimate guide to working from home is if you don’t have space for a separate office, allocate yourself an area at a desk or table – with a comfortable support chair, well lit, ventilated, separate from the TV and ideally with some way to close everything off or put everything away at the end of the day. I’m lucky enough to have a separate office, one that I’ve decorated with mementoes that make me smile, though I’m forced to share a few of the walls with Mr Kiwi’s musical instruments.
I also have to admit that I’ve got a work corner in our lounge, where I have a coffee table elbow length away and I watch the occasional re-run of a series whilst doing admin. (I thoroughly recommend a series that you love, but that you’ve watched below so you don’t have to concentrate too hard – The Office, Black Books, Doctor Who, The Magicians, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel…) I occasionally cheat on my desk with the ‘soft desk’ option (aka the boffice), especially on a cold winter morning where leaving your duvet seems like the worst thing in the world – but long term it’s not great for your neck or posture. I still do it anyway!
How to Get Organised
Without super pressing deadlines, it can be quite hard to organise yourself – I like to have a week to view diary (mine is a Moleskine one) which I divvy the notes page into to-do list sections. To keep from feeling overwhelmed I’ll prioritise number the first 5 jobs that I need to get done that day. Once I’ve done them, I’ll prioritise the next 5 jobs – their hierarchy may or may not depend on which ones I can do whilst watching Xena Warrior Princess in the afternoons. I also section my day into hours – I’ll allocate specific time to getting specific client jobs done so that they all get a fair slice of the time. It also means that I don’t usually forget things – if it needs to get done, it goes into the to-do list.
Something I really find valuable is spending an hour setting my weekly to-do list on a Sunday evening – it makes me feel a little more in control, I hit Monday morning running and it stops me overthinking when I go to bed.
If you’re procrastinating (I know I’m getting bad when I catch myself cleaning light switches – true story) start with a small, easy job. Email that person back, chase that client for an outstanding image [top up the cat nip] – pick something small to get the ball rolling.
Many people use the Pomodoro method – bursts of 20 minutes work then 5 minutes rest, but I find that too choppy, so I tend to work for an hour or so, then take 10 minutes to make a cuppa or [pet the boss] stretch my legs.
Ignore Those Chores & Social Media
Work time is work time. For sure, use your lunch break to load the washing machine or unload the dishwasher, but try not to let household chores distract you. I also keep my phone in another room, and I’ve turned off all notifications in an attempt to control my raging social media addiction (luckily I’ve managed to turn it into a career.)
Set Up Social Activities
Something I should definitely say in my ultimate guide to working from home is that actually love it. I love working at home on my own. It certainly helps that I have a fairly active social life and regular contact with lovely clients & other freelancers, but I’d advise anyone working from home extensively to start organising the occasional social activity. Working coffee dates, treaty lunches away from your desk, evenings out, joining a networking club with hot-desking options – whatever fits your lifestyle. Personally, by the third day of working at home, I’m climbing the walls, so I take my office (literally pop my Macbook, my diary and allll those chargers into my bag and toodle off somewhere that serves coffee).
Learn your own working patterns
I’m a dyed-in-the-wool night owl. No matter what I’ve tried, I just don’t function creatively until later in the day, so I work with my body clock – getting up at 7am, working 8-9am, do my morning routine (shower, walk etc.) then lean into the day. Somedays I simply don’t feel like working – but be aware that for every Tuesday a freelancer has taken off, they’ve worked a long Saturday – it’s all swings and roundabouts.
Do you enjoy working from home?
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