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WORKING FROM HOME: HELP, HINTS AND HABITS
Working From Home
I work from home. So do many of you. More and more people are taking advantage of the opportunity to get out of the cubicle and onto the couch (or kitchen, or wherever you work). Whether your business is engineering, computer programming, teaching, writing, crafting, building or cooking you may have found, when it comes to work, there's no place like home. For many this opportunity means the freedom and flexibility of setting your own hours and arranging your schedule to meet your personal needs. It can be great.
Working from home also presents its challenges. For those who "dream" of that work-from-home job and think it is the answer to every problem in life...think again.
Some of the challenges involved in working from home are:
A) Personal Distractions - The things on your mind. There is always something around the house that needs attention that can distract you from your work.
B) "People" Distractions - By this I mean other people. Unless you live alone, and even then there is the phone and email, you will have to contend with others who may compete for your attention even when it needs to be given to your job.
C) Noise - Even if the personal distractions are avoidable, a certain amount of inescapable "air pollution" must be contended with. Barking dogs, loud neighbors, screaming children, music lessons, radios, etc. all have to be managed in a way that a business office can sometimes eliminate.
D) Space - Maybe not an issue for everyone, but many will have to contend with carving out an adequate location to carry out their work from home career. This can be particularly challenging if the home is being shared by several others.
E) Time management - Without a boss looking over your shoulder, without a clock to punch and without a "closing time" many people find managing their time when working from home to be a real challenge.
F) "The Pull" - When you work from home...your work is often always "there" like a magnet - drawing you in. You can't get away from it. For some this will become challenging as they may appear to be always working in every spare moment and losing precious time that could be spent with family or on other important things.
These are just some of the work-from-home challenges. As I said, I work from home. I am a husband and father of 4 children who are all in grade school and high school (and thus all still at home). My wife home-schools are youngest two. We don't have a huge house. And the work I do demands some significant concentration. So I know something about the challenges of working from home.
The following are a few helps, hints and habits I have learned to make my work-from-home experience more effective. These may not apply to you. But for me they have been helpful.
5 HINTS FOR WORKING FROM HOME
1) Plan & TRACK your daily hours. I put this first, because for me it has been the most important lesson I have learned. How many hours are you going to work this week? For some jobs this may be hard to entirely predict. But most people have a pretty good idea of how many hours they will need to spend on their job per week. I use a white board next to my desk. On this board I write out exactly how many hours I need to put in each day to meet my goal. I do not, except for extremely rare cases, go to bed until those hours are done.
An expression my pastor is fond of (yes, the pastoral ministry is another "mostly work from home job" is: "plan your work...then work your plan."
Another reason this is important is to help us be realistic about our "work from home job." Some people like the freedom of owning their own business and/or working from home. But if they ever actually added up what this "business" is paying them per hour...they would be forced to realise they could be much more "free" working for someone else.
2) Make sure other EVENTS and appointments are factored into your schedule. Nothing throws off a work-from-home job more than unexpected or forgotten appointments or plans. A trip to the doctor, a sporting event at school, a church committee meeting - all very important - can completely upset your schedule if you forget to plan for them. Your family needs to understand that just because you work from home it doesn't mean you can be automatically volunteered to chaperon every school event. A well kept and organized schedule will help you more efficiently get your work done on time.
A favorite expression of mine is this: "your failure to plan does not constitute an emergency on my part."
3) Create a suitable PLACE for your work. If your work requires concentration, the kitchen table may not be the best place in the house. Not only that, but you should pick a location (in my opinion) that you can conveniently "leave" when you are done. Most importantly - make your work space actually work for you. My office is in our basement. Not very glorious. But I finished off the walls and put in a little drop ceiling to make it look comfortable. I had to run a high speed Ethernet cable from our modem because the wireless signal was not strong enough or fast enough. I even bought a little fridge for sodas and snacks. It works.
Need help designing your work space for maximum efficiency? Try this handy FREE office design tool at: http://www.needofficespace.com/freeofficespacedesigntool.php
4) Use TECHNOLOGY to your advantage. Allow answering machines and voice mail to take care of calls you don't need to take during your "working" hours. A great investment, for some folks, might be a pair of "noise cancelling" headphones. I own a set from Bose - and they were a fabulous investment! There are also many FREE Internet resources that can help you keep your work organized and your space less cluttered. Check out www.keepmymarbles.com for a good document organizing site or http://www.flashcardexchange.com/ which you can use to make flashcards (or index cards for organizing clients or products!). There are lots of eager professionals willing to help you with projects at www.elance.com.
5) Don't be afraid to have "the talk" with your family. Depending on how understanding your family circle is, you may need to have a polite chat about how they can help you stay focused and get your work done. Constant interruptions may be a sign that they don't entirely appreciate that, even though you are "home", you are still "working." Chat about how you are trying to organize your time so that you actually have more time to spend with them in the end.
Do YOU have some work-from-home tips to share?
Feel free to leave them below. Thanks for reading! Now...get back to work. :)