Self employment is something that I absolutely love. I’ve been working with my partner (in life and business) since 2011, and we both left our former careers mid-2014. The ability to create our own schedules, decide when we want to start our workday, or control our time off is something we got used to quickly. For the most part, my days are filled only with things I’ve chosen to take on. It’s been such a luxury to work for myself, and because of my former career, it’s one I truly appreciate.
Though we only worked from home for a short time, I feel like the tactics for being self employed apply to both home or studio environments. When we first quit our jobs, we worked out of our house for about two months before finding a studio and showroom in Austin. Then again, when we moved from Austin to Flagstaff, we worked out of our house for about six months before opening our retail store and moving the studio into that space.
I love working for myself, and yet I do sometimes struggle with scheduling and organizing my day. Sometimes I way over-commit my weeks, saying yes to too many events, cocktails with friends, and meetings with vendors for the store. Even when I don’t pack my calendar, I can still get thrown off by too many small tasks that need to be accomplished. In the past year, because of the complexities of running a physical retail store, a blog, and our jewelry brand, I’ve learned how to be productive with each minute that I’m working to make the most of my time. I hope that sharing these 5 ways to successfully work from home will help anyone struggling to create their best workdays.
Even though my studio is fairly large, I have dedicated spaces for most tasks that need to get done. There is a production table for making and packaging jewelry, an area in my closet for tagging items for the sales floor, and a space for computer and paperwork to happen, a table that holds my photo equipment, booth and props, etc. I keep these spaces tidy and clear of clutter to help streamline my thoughts and actions when I’m working at each one.
If you have an extra room that can be your designated work room, this will help create a separation in your mind between home life and work. With kids, a partner at home, or adorable pets to distract you, carving out a space for yourself is necessary to getting anything done at home. A bonus for having a dedicated space is that you can personalize it, filling it with inspiring images and items that will help you get shit done.
PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE
Keeping my phone out of reach helps me stay focused on the task at hand, rather than mindlessly scrolling Instagram. I try to only pull out my phone when it’s time to do my daily Instagram post! I’ll leave my phone in my backpack or purse to remove that distraction. Even though I have the freedom to chat on the phone whenever I want, I try to reserve catching up with family and friends for the evenings, days off, and weekends. I even leave my phone on silent if I’m working on a deadline. If you miss an important call, they’ll leave a message or call back – I promise!
SCHEDULE YOUR DAY
No boss means it’s extra important to schedule your day in order to be productive and efficient. It took awhile to create a system that worked for me, but I finally came up with a way to organize my day that allows for a mix of productivity, creativity and freedom.
First, I created a monthly calendar where I write deadlines, monthly reminders, appointments, meetings, holidays, birthdays, etc.
Then, I have a to-do list to be completed each week. These are broken down into what day of the week this needs to be accomplished and includes specific items on each day. The general items tend to repeat every day, and the specific items are usually just once a week.
Beyond this, I have paper with a brain-dump style list. At the beginning of each week, I check the monthly calendar for events or deadlines coming up that week, then create a daily task list based on these and the weekly to-dos. The brain-dump items get filled in where appropriate or where I see that I have extra time.
This method has worked for me because things are relatively unscheduled throughout a day. I need a lot of flexibility during the day. I’m often dealing with customers, employees, etc., and various tasks take varying amounts of time each week. Rather than having time blocks, I just start my day with the most important items and get as far down the list as I can. Reprioritizing throughout the day and week is key, too.
DITCH THE DISTRACTIONS
I find that I have a few less distractions now that I work in my studio, rather than my home, which is one of the main benefits to working outside of your home. If the apartment or house wasn’t completely tidy while I was trying to work, I would get up and wash the dishes, or swap out a load of laundry. Then, I’d find myself rearranging my closet. Finally, I would remember that I should have been working for the past three hours. When your desk or space is a mess, you’ll feel distracted. Now, wherever I find myself working, I do a quick tidy around the space to remove any visible distractions.
When you don’t have co-workers inviting you to join them for lunch, or popping by your desk to distract you for a few minutes every hour, you have to remember to create your own breaks. It can be tempting to eat lunch at your desk while you catch up on emails, but it’s so important to step away a few times throughout the day. Take a mid-morning stroll to your favorite coffee shop, break for lunch with your partner, and do some mild stretching mid-afternoon to give your mind and body breaks from your computer screen and desk.
I know where my workday pitfalls are. I found them immediately when I began working for myself. I can work from breakfast until dinner if I don’t plan my time in advance, I can get distracted by the nearest unnecessary task if I’m unprepared, and I cannot force myself to be productive if my work environment is messy and not set up for work.
I’d love to know if you have any tips to share on working from home or being self employed!