I never really expected to get away from the 9 to 5 office grind. In fact, I had always believed that was the way it was supposed to be. You put in your 40 hours a week for 40 years and then you retire. Things rarely seem to go as planned, however, and that was the case for me. I grew dissatisfied with punching a time clock and having my life dictated by others, so I decided to go into business for myself.
My first foray into the world of self-employment involved investing all my savings into a brick and mortar business. Two years later I was not only broke, but seriously in debt. Word to the wise, just because you know an industry inside out doesn’t make you a businessperson. Anyway, perhaps it was pride but I didn’t want to go back to working for someone else, so I began looking into home based businesses.
With a bit of trial and error, I finally fell into one that I absolutely adore and believe I am really good at. It is not without its challenges to work from home, however. Let me share a bit with you about one particular issue I had – how to get family members to take my home based business seriously.
It is not that my family was disrespectful or hurtful, although I have known people that work from home that deal with that too. My problem was that they didn’t respect when I was “on the clock” so to speak. I didn’t make it any easier for them when I kept my hours pretty flexible. I worked when I felt like it, and chilled when I didn’t. Considering I wasn’t on a set schedule, it really was hard for them to recognize that at certain times I wanted to be left alone. They figured if I could stop when I wanted to, why couldn’t I stop when they wanted me to.
Hence, the first thing I did to rectify that was to set myself on a schedule and share that with them. I also took advantage of the fact that I am an early morning riser, so I made sure to get the tasks that needed no disruptions accomplished before anyone else was out of bed. My sweet time of 5 am to 7 am is still my most productive time of the day. I’ve heard of other home workers using the hours after the kids go to bed for this purpose. It can be any time that others in your household are involved in tasks and are unlikely to bother you. Throw everything you can at those hours and you’ll be surprised how more productive that makes your day.
Even with a schedule, it took a bit of conditioning to get family members to look at the clock before they intruded upon my work space. I rectified that problem by getting a “do not disturb” door hanger for my office door. Having a set place to work makes me far more productive, and having this sign to alert my family when I do not want to be disturbed gives me the ability to focus on work and get the day’s tasks done far sooner. In fact, my typical 8 hour work day that had once grown to 10 hours due to distractions is now down to about 6 hours. I’m happy about that, and so is my family because they get more undivided attention than they did before. Often my work week is shorter too!
That took care of the family at home, but that still left those not under my roof as well as friends that would think nothing of calling or texting at all hours of the day. That was somewhat a bigger challenge since I’m not one to ignore a call. I finally had to admit to myself that my cell phone simply could not be in my office, and I changed my voice mail to state that calls would be returned after my work day had ended. It took a few jokes about how the “boss” wouldn’t let me make personal calls during the day, but they finally got the message.
Another trick I do that makes me more productive and also lets everyone know what my day, week and month looks like is that I use wall calendars and task/project boards. By putting deadlines on the calendar and daily goals, I found I could accomplish more than I had thought I could, again in less time than I expected. By putting fun activities on the weekends, my family could see what the treat was if they left me alone during the week. I think they were as excited to see tasks crossed off as completed as I was. It was really fun when they’d check the board on Thursday night and see that even Friday’s items were checked off. “Long weekend?” they’d ask, and I’d grin and say, “Heck yeah!”
Setting a schedule and sticking to it not only resolved the problem of getting distracted and being disorganized, it also made others realize that even though I worked from home that it was a “real” job. Over time, the dreaded question of, “When are you going to get a real job?” was no longer asked, and friends and family began not only to respect my profession but to feel a bit envious of it.
I wouldn’t change it for the world. Setting my own schedule, taking long weekends or vacations when I desire, and being at home with my family during the day are all wonderful benefits. Whether you can shift to telecommuting for your current company or switch to a home based business, as long as you are able to keep yourself on task and get others to respect your work time, you will do well. Nothing beats the short commute time, nor the pleasure of working in sweatpants and t-shirts. Forty years of this? No problem!