When I tell people what I do, and that I work from home, far too often I hear, “I wish I worked from home and could do whatever I want…”
Well, today I’m here to set you straight.
Working from home demands a vast amount of dedication and self-discipline. It isn’t the cakewalk that you’ve made it out to be in your mind. When you work from home, you live where you work. How many of you would like to live at your desk or in your office (literally, not figuratively)?
Aside: I wrote moste of this while in the thick of freelancing and as a form of therapeutic recreation. It really helped me put a handle on how I was working and helped me take control of my life in a way that has had dramatically positive effect for myself and those around me. Here’s hoping it helps you, too.
On many occasions, friends and family have quipped about my habits of working in my PJs or sleeping in til almost noon. What they don’t realize is that it’s usually because I worked until 4am the night before and likely resumed working immediately after waking.
But, there’s no commute.
And therefore, nothing stopping me from being at the office at any hour of the day.
At least you can set your own hours!
True, and I’m very grateful for that when I need to cut out for an hour or a full day for various errands. Most often, though, it just means I’m working all hours of the day every day of the week. Once again, there is nothing to stop me.
But you can work anywhere! You could take a vacation any time!
Except, if I’m on vacation it means I’m not working, which means there is no active income entering our bank account. To counteract that, the simple solution is to work on the way to/from or during the vacation. Does that sound like a vacation to you?
Working from home sounds pretty awful, why do you do it?
Because I can set my own hours, work in my PJs, sleep til noon, work from anywhere AND there’s no commute. Plus, I pretty much get to do whatever I want. Haven’t you been reading the headings?
If I can be serious for a moment, working from home obviously has both benefits and detriments. Setting your own hours is only wise if you have the discipline to stop working and the ability to find value in resting and leisure activities. If you miss that, you miss everything.
(Pro-tip: you might want to read that last bit again.)
It took me four and a half years to realize that taking a break was not only relaxing, but paramount to a successful, healthy work life.
Discipline for the Uninhibited
If you’re like me, discipline is a word that makes you a bit uneasy. It means structure, routines, order, strictness, boring stagnant misery. Well, that’s how I used to feel anyway. Discipline is actually an integral part of complete, unrestricted freedom. No, really… just check out some of these examples.
Finding Freedom in Routines
As boring as it seems, a strong routine is actually the fastest way to a fun, relaxing lifestyle. Creating a routine for yourself is one of the most important steps you can take towards freedom. Sure it’s foolish to try to schedule “fun” into a weekly calendar, but it’s more foolish to believe you’ll have time for fun if you don’t schedule a definitive end time to your work.
Here’s a brief example of my typical daily routine:
- Personal Reading
- Field Emails (1hr or less)
- Get stuff done
- Field Emails (round 2, 1hr or less)
- Get stuff done
- Quit work, switch to personal projects/relaxation
- Personal work/relaxation
Respecting Your Time (Avoid Time Sink)
The biggest destructive force to a good schedule and routine is time sink.
The quality of your free time and your work are intimately connected. If you guard your free time and keep it sacred, totally devoid of any work, you’ll find that you will be more productive and less distracted while you work. Similarly, if you keep your work time entirely focused and free of interruptions you’ll find that you can work fewer hours and commit more time to hobbies and rest.
If you don’t respect the boundaries between work and leisure you’ll quickly find yourself discontent with the work you complete and unsatisfied by the quality of your down-time.
Take it from a guy who knows first-hand: when you refuse to rest you will actively seek, and feel justified in, taking distraction-filled breaks throughout the day. Later, when you feel compelled to rest you won’t be able to because you’ll have this nagging feeling that you didn’t get enough done and you need to accomplish just one more thing. Which leads me to my next point…
Manage Your Expectations (The reason you’re dissatisfied)
The leading cause of unhappiness isn’t poor circumstances or unfortunate events, it’s a mismanagement of expectations.
Consider all the times you’ve felt unfulfilled in your work, or like you had an overwhelming number of items left on your to-do list at the end of the day. Also consider all the times the new (phone|computer|movie|whatever) left you wanting. Is it because your job is overwhelming? Is it because those products/events were overhyped or under-delivered? Or, is it because you set an unrealistic expectation of how much you could do in a day, how long a project would take, or how incredible the shiny new thing truthfully is?
Leading a satisfied and fulfilled life is deeply rooted in managing your expectations properly. When you set realistic expectations for yourself, and others, you’ll soon find that your job is better than you realize, there will always be more days to get work done, and that how you’re living today – right now – is vastly more important than how much better your life can be in some unspecific time in the future.
Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around…
That’s what it’s all about, folks. Discipline, dedication and healthy expectations. If you have those three things, you can change the world. Or, at the very least, you can work from home in your pajamas and not go horribly wrong.