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Home Working - Lessons from a year of being self-employed.
Published on March 30, 2020
Image by William Iven from Pixabay
For several decades I worked in in large organisations, thriving on the rules and policies that so many of them use to guide and manage their emloyees. Almost one year ago, I embarked on a radical lifestyle change and made the transition to being self-employed and working from home.
There have been many lessons throught this short journey ,however, one of the steepest learning curves has been about the discipline needed to successfully transform your home into your main place of work. Here are some top learnings that have helped me out so far and can be be helpfully applied to working under lockdown?
Routine is everything
Humans are creatures of habit and there is something reassuring about following familiar patterns. Although I got annoyed about having to be at the office at a fixed time having a lunchbreak (at lunch time) and going home at the end of shift, the freedom of working for myself allowed me to throw that schedule out of the window. After a couple of weeks of doing what I wanted when I wanted, I soon realised I was getting nothing done and at the end of each day, I was getting more and more frustrated with life in general (and me specifically).
The answer was simple, impose some routine on my days.
Have a fixed pattern to your working day – start at a set time, finish at a set time and take regular breaks throughout the day. With less distractions than in an office, homeworking can mean you end up spending hours sitting in front of a laptop which will destroy your productivity and make you feel awful. Regular coffee breaks and a fixed lunchtime helps with this.
Structure, structure, structure
Having a comfortable routine is a start, but if you are routinely watching YouTube clips or Netflix Box Sets, you are going to achieve nothing. By setting a weekly structure of the key task you want to achieve, not only do you generate useful output, you also get a satisfying sense of achievement when you tick that item off your to-do list.
Everyone will have their own opinion of what key tasks are, for me they are centred around starting and growing a business:
  1. Admin and Accounting.
    Nobody enjoys the never-ending pile of paperwork or trying to balance invoices (not so many of these) and expenses (lots and lots of these). By setting time aside to do these tasks - I make it a Monday to get it over and done with - ensures these tasks don’t slip down the priority list.
  2. Marketing
    The ongoing task of growing my network, meeting & greeting potential future clients and generally getting out to spread the word about what I do. This has been my biggest challenge but something I am starting to enjoy in a twisted sense.
  3. Training
    There are so many new skills to take on board and walking around like a lost schoolboy is not the image I want to project.
  4. Paid work
    Oh yes and remember to put some time aside to earn some money to pay some bills.
It is up to you what you give priority to but do take some time to think about what you want to achieve in your week, be realistic and write it down.
Be able to walk away
Working from home can mean “always working” if you are not careful. Sitting with your laptop on your knee in front of the TV at 9pm is not how it should be. Some advice I was given early on was to ensure I set up my workspace carefully. The tip I have lived by since becoming a full-time home worker was to make sure, at the end of the day, I could close the door on my workspace.
If there is a physical door you can close so you seperate work and home that is great. If space does not allow that, make sure you can close your laptop and move it out of sight so it is not subliminally calling to you.
These are a couple of basic tips I learnt early on and have been a big help in building a healthy work from home environment for me to operate in. Hopefully it may give you something to think about during these unusual times when even more of us our being forced into turning our homes into make-shift offices.
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