focus makes the difference

Beginners Guide to Working at Home

Working at home and doing work at home are two different things. One is a temporary choice, like having homework. The other is a lifestyle that combines focused flexibility, ninja-like organization abilities, and multi-tasking skills that would make the most accomplished juggler blush.

I started working from home when we brought my middle son home from the hospital. We knew we didn’t want to put them into child care and at home seemed like the better choice. I was fortunate to have a situation that allowed for that choice even back before working from home became a staple in society.

Working from home was no picnic – although we did take a few picnics now and then. Not only did I have to contend with the kids, but household chores taunted me from my workspace. Add in the well-intentioned friends and family who heard I worked from home and assumed it meant I had plenty of time to run their errands, have a quick visit, or talk on the phone until the cows came home.

working from home

Despite the challenges, I know it was the best choice for me. Working from home and then homeschooling our boys while I worked from home, allowed for an ever-changing landscape for my days. Some days, I could sit at my desk for hours. Other days, I took my desk with me. Still other days, I waited until the rest of the house fell asleep before I could get anything done.

Turns out, I thrive in the change.

Anyone that wants to work from home can find a way (and a space) to make it work, but here are my top tips for keeping your sanity (although some in my family will deny that I have any sanity left at this time).

1. Working At Home Tips

Designated Work Space

You don’t need a full room to have an office. You need to have YOUR room – a space you can claim as your own.

When I first started out, we had a whopping 1300 square feet in the entire house. I had no room of my own, so I claimed a spot in the kitchen next to the outlet for our dial-up connection.

Yep! I’m that old!

I built a shelf that housed my files and reference books and also served as a school workstation for my sons. I worked right in the center of the house, but my family soon learned that if I was at the desk and the keyboard was clacking, I was at work.

But, as our family grew and our space grew, I eventually had a true office all to myself. Well, not really to myself because I homeschooled and you are never alone when you home school. At the same time, I was spending more time taking the boys to their activities and being the frugal mom I was, I would sit and wait instead of driving back and forth. I developed a portable office to allow me to work on the go.

No matter what shape or form your designated space may take, make sure you make space for your work at home office.

2. Set a Schedule

The schedule may change with the season and sometimes the day, but you need to know what you’re doing and when you’re supposed to be doing it.

Over the years, I developed the Focus Folder that sets up tasks for the day in four areas and then breaks them down into little bits to help get them accomplished. I often use timers (digital ones purchased through Amazon) to challenge me to get things done in short bursts. These little bits of action add up to big differences and are the key to how I wrote 1,000,000 words in one year.

The key to setting a schedule that will work for your working at home goals is to try, evaluate, review, and adjust.

First, try out different ideas. There are thousands of time management plans out there – including the Focus Folder I mentioned above. Choose one that you think will work and give it a go. After a week, evaluate how the system worked, where it didn’t work, and what you could make work better for you. That’s the evaluation process. After that, review your goals and the system or try a whole new system. Finally, adjust your schedule to work for you – because if it doesn’t work for you then you won’t work it.

3. Make Time for Self

Life is going to happen, and you need to have time set aside to breathe through those life-attacking moments. When I built out my first WhiteBoard of World Domination, I covered every day of the week. This past year, I ONLY included weekdays in my Focus Folder and Little Bits plan. I can still work on weekends if I want because I LOVE my work and for me it’s fun. But I have set aside time so that I don’t have to work.

This self-time also includes sleep and movement. You need to stay rested and healthy if you are going to make working from home a success.

4. Set Time for Home Stuff

The biggest lie we tell ourselves when we are working from home is, “I can do that project while I do the laundry.” Maybe it’s not the laundry but instead, it’s the dishes or starting dinner. The truth is you CAN’T do that project and do the chores. But if you don’t do the chores, they stare at you the whole time you’re trying to work, and you can feel them staring at you.

If you are going to avoid being taunted by your chores and you’re going to manage to get all of your work done, then you’ll need to set aside time to get it done. This is another place I utilize the digital timers. I set one for 20 minutes and I get done all of the chores I can in that time. When the timer goes off, I get to a stopping point and shift my attention back to work.

When doing these little bursts of chore work, I end up getting the chores completed without getting off track with my work from home tasks.

Not everyone wants to work from home, especially after trying it. If you do decide to take the working from home path, then prepare for your success by designing a space, making a schedule, setting aside time for yourself, and time for the home. The best plan will make the most of your working from home choice.

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