It’s a beautiful sunny day as you open the door to your bright – but cosy – office, where your desk is positioned precisely to give a stunning view over a perfectly kept garden. The birds are calling – but generously stop at those times you need to concentrate – while your back and shoulders are gently massaged by the ergonomically designed chair supporting your weight.
Your laptop is perched on the breakfast bar in the kitchen; a room in which every other surface is cluttered meaning each morning begins with clearing just enough space that the mess around you is less distracting. You struggle to get comfortable, to concentrate on what you’re doing, and everything you pick up is either sticky or damp.
Which is your reality? It’s probably somewhere between these two states.
As someone who works from their home, it’s important to recognise both the benefits and problems this causes. Working from home is ideal for me, as a freelance parent balancing my daily tasks, but how do you make sure it is actually working?
1.Picking Your Spot
When I first started my business, I was working from the dining table – where the kids also did their homework and we (sometimes) ate our meals.
It wasn’t ideal but there were things about it that worked, the light’s great as it’s near the window – and there are three doors between myself and my husbands office. There’s plenty of space to spread out, and it’s certainly more comfortable and less distracting than working in the kitchen (yes, I tried that too).
Find out what you need from your workspace and claim the spot which ticks most of your boxes.
2.Make it Yours
Now my desk has easy access to music, light, candles, my books and stationery; but even if you’re using a time-share surface (like my dining table) try and find a way to claim a space for those things you need accessible even if it’s just a drawer.
And make sure that space is somewhere you want to go back to.
3.How Are You Getting On?
Do you get distracted? By social media? The washing and cleaning? The TV?
Maybe your space is too quiet, you might have found you’ve started talking to the cat – or even yourself.
Whether it’s boredom or loneliness, sometimes too much of your own company can be a problem. Recognise this for what it is.
If you need to keep working and you’re not doing it at home – you’ll have to find something else.
So, where can you go when you’re struggling in your space?
I have a few cafe’s that work for me, some people go to their library, and there are often co-working spaces available in many areas.
But sometimes it’s even more simple than that. I have one friend who has different areas set aside for different tasks – a creative chair and a table used for planning, as well as the desk for getting things done.
If you can’t get going in your normal space – look around.
You’ve created your nook and pushed away the distractions – then new ones arrive.
If you’re a parent of school-age children, these dates will be marked in your calendar, but with pre-school children or a partner whose working pattern doesn’t quite fit with yours, you’ll often find your space is being invaded.
As long as you’re not actually responsible for the childcare, it’s ok to say ‘not now’ – however difficult it feels (I’m particularly bad at this).
Close the door, tell people when they’re not going to be able to disturb you, this is ok. It can seem harsh and certainly takes more control, but remember it is fair.
When my kids are at home I tell them which days I’m working and those days I’m not (I am fortunate mine are now pre-teen). And I actually think psychologically it’s as important that I’m telling myself it’s ok for me not to be working some days.
And for those times when everything around me is too much, I love my noise-cancelling headphones.
6.Know When to Stop
Because this is the other risk, when the work is piling up just over there (I can see my desk from the sofa) and emails are being delivered to your phone.
That’s what flexibility is about, right? I can stop working early sometimes to help the kids with homework and if that means I have to do a little extra at the weekend, that’s my choice.
Just make sure it is your choice.
Like most things in freelance life there are plenty of issues caused by working from home which balance the benefits.
These are just the things which have helped me when I’m finding it’s tough – I’d love to know the things which have helped you.
Let me know