When I was starting out as a freelancer, all the advice I read about working productively from home was along the lines of “get up early, pretend you’re going to an office, stop working at 5pm and repeat.” It seems that if it was up to your garden variety business blogger, working as a freelancer from home would be just as rigid as your typical corporate job - without the benefits package, thankyouverymuch.
I am all about making the most of every situation - and if the situation involves yoga pants, even better. As small business owners, we have an incredible opportunity to tailor our schedules to the exact needs and wants of both our businesses and our lives - no corporate template required.
Behold, my new and improved rules for working from home.
You don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn. Instead, create a powerful morning routine.
Ever noticed how if you get up at 5am it’s near impossible to keep your eyes open come 2pm? Me too - and I don’t do good work when I’m exhausted. Instead of forcing yourself into an unnatural wakeup time, make the most of your morning whenever you find your optimal wakeup time. Make a checklist for daily to-dos so your day gets off to a strong start with a little momentum. It’s also a great idea to mix in some time for personal development here - I recommend reading Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning for more ideas.
You don’t have to get dressed up in business casual. Instead, put on a bra and a pair of yoga pants different from the ones you slept in.
Working in pajamas is fantastic. However, working in the pajamas that you’ve been wearing and sleeping in for the last 48 hours will leave you feeling gross, stinky and unproductive. As part of your morning routine, put on some clean clothes, and for heaven’s sake, a bra. You’ll feel better - just trust me on this one. If you plan to exercise later in the day, it’s totally fair game to save the shower for later, and get dressed in your workout gear.
You don’t have to work 9-5. Instead, time block your schedule to get things done at their most efficient times.
Figuring out work-life balance is a heck of a lot easier when you’re not trying to balance 8-hour blocks and two-day weekends. And no, the solution is not to take breaks in the middle of the day for personal tasks without making them up later, and then wonder why you haven’t gotten anything done. Instead, block your tasks into chunks - business and personal - and arrange them in a way that works best for you.
For example, my favorite time to squeeze in a workout is the 10am bootcamp class. So, I start my day a little earlier and schedule a break into my schedule for a workout, shower and lunch. If need be, I’ll work a little later, too. Also, fighting the crowds at the grocery store on Sunday afternoon gives me a seizure, so I block out a few hours on the weekends to catch up on work, and shop during a weekday, instead. Do be sure to set dedicated time with your family - for me it’s no work or Instagram allowed while we eat dinner or watch our favorite TV shows.
There’s no magic to the 40 hour work week, so experiment to find the right amount of time for you to make the progress you desire in your business, while still having a rich and full personal life. And remember, one of the major benefits to the self employed lifestyle is flexibility. I’ve never been able to find a perfect weekly template for balance - instead it’s all about adjusting to the ebbs and flows of the different areas of your life and looking for long term balance.
I also suggest using housework as a mindless break between projects. Unload the dishwasher, throw in a load of laundry or wipe down the counters when your brain is ready for a break. It’s an active way to take a break, more productive than surfing Buzzfeed and runs no risk of falling down the internet rabbit hole. When you’re ready to return to work, actually work; save emailing your Grandma or planning your wedding for your next break.
You don’t have to sit at your computer all day. Instead, get some exercise and a little sunshine.
Some of my favorite benefits of working from home are the healthy habits I’ve been able to incorporate - but it doesn’t happen without some effort. If you don’t need to leave the house for work, it’s really easy to become sedentary. Make a conscious effort to get up from your desk regularly, and use some of the time you save on commuting for an afternoon walk. I highly recommend a Fitbit or other tracker to get a realistic picture of your activity levels - I was moving way less than I thought each day.
Take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to pack your lunch and snacks in advance, and treat yourself to whole, healthy meals. Hello, non-brown avocado on a non-soggy salad!
You don’t have to lock yourself in your office to work. Instead, make sure you have a quiet space to retreat to, but enjoy the flexibility of working from anywhere.
One of the most common pieces of advice I hear is to have a separate space set aside for work, and it’s one of the few that I wholeheartedly agree with. Especially if you have kids or a spouse home during the day, you need a space that’s clean, quiet and all yours for most work. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that’s the only place you can work. Experiment with different places for different projects and for a fun change of scenery, head down to a new-to-you coffee shop or cafe. Personally, I love to write blog posts curled up with a blanket and a cup of coffee in the mornings on the couch or even (sacrilege!) my bed.
Ladies, what are your unbreakable rules for working from home? Are you more of an old-school routine kind of gal, or do you embrace all the flexibility? I'm dying to hear in the comments!