image via: Death To The Stock Photo
Since I started working from home, I'm more accountable for my own time. There isn't someone standing over my shoulder checking how many hours I work (good), but there also isn't someone there to leave the office and remind me that my day is done (bad). There is also the distraction of just about anything... oh, look, is that a dirty sock? I might do some washing... or, hm... a coffee would be nice right now. So. Easily. Distracted. It's one extreme or the other with me!
I needed to figure out a system fairly quickly, but I don't think I've perfected it just yet. I'd love to know how my fellow designers, working from home folk, or organisational freaks in general get sh*t done.
What gets in the way of your super organised day?
- Clients | Ha! Ironic, right? That unplanned conference call? Other things that are a normal part of office life seem to throw me right off track at home. It's hard to re-focus and get back into the zone.
- Obligations | Working from home allows you the freedom to schedule things during the day, which is awesome. But it can become easy to fill up a day with Dr. appointments, trips to the post office, bank, supermarket, hairdresser, cooking a feast for lunch... you name it.
- Chores | I have a great view of the rest of my house from my desk. I can see if there are dishes that need washing, clothes that need folding, sweeping that needs doing, cats that need cuddling (not that that's a chore!) It's easy to drift onto the menial tasks that need doing instead of tackling that difficult problem blinking at you from the computer monitor.
- Freedom | Nobody is stopping you from taking a long lunch break, or heading out to the beach for the afternoon. It's dangerous.
How do I avoid distractions?
- Willpower | That's a big one. You have to be professional even when nobody is watching. Don't check personal emails or surf Pinterest during work time, it just slows you down, and you pay for it later.
- Schedule | If I have more than one client on the go, this is essential for allocating time and sticking to a strict schedule in order to fit things in. I use Google Calendar, but that's a whole other post!
- Pomodoro Method | I use the desktop app from TeamViz (it's free for the lite version). You enter tasks for the day, double click on the number next to each task to increase the number of "pomodoros" expected to complete the task (I have them set at the default 25 minutes), and run through the list. Every 25 minutes I get a 5 minute break, which I use to stretch my legs, check emails, and rest my eyes. If I'm going really well with a task, I simply skip the break so I don't interrupt my train of thought. It's been working really well. The app runs a little stopwatch on your desktop, so you can see the minutes ticking away.
- Plan | If I have to go out to buy supplies for lunch, or to an appointment, I make sure that I start an hour earlier on that day, or allocate the time elsewhere. Try to set appointments during a time that would be your lunch break, or before/after the working day where possible, to avoid unnecessary disruptions (It's amazing how many things I could find to do every day if I don't treat this rule seriously)
- Don't be too hard on yourself | What's the fun of working for yourself if you're a jerk boss? I allow myself to linger on lunch, with the understanding I will work a little later that evening. If I need time out to think, I might come back to work after a couple of hours. Afternoon nap? No problem. As long as I get in my hours for the day, I'm cool with it. The only problem with this is, a work day can stretch from 9am until midnight. It's best to try and stick to some semblance of 'normal' working hours in order to give yourself a good chunk of time off each day, instead of bits and pieces all over the place.
There's something else I'm wondering about, and this might be an Australian thing (despite our reputation as beach bums, we work long hours and do lots of overtime here). Whenever I pitch a job, I'm generally asked what my 'day rate' is. When I tell people, they respond with "Is that a 10 hour day? Or an 8 hour day?". I am really strict on this. It is a standard 8 hour day. You do not get 2 free hours a day (10 free hours a week, 520 free hours a year!) If there's a deadline, or I'm just having a productive day and I'm on a roll, sure, I can work 16 hours or more if I have to. But the expectation that a standard 'day' at work is 10 hours is not cool with me.
Do you work a 10 hour day? Am I living in some 1950's utopia, putting my foot down and demanding 8 hour standard working day? I'd love to hear your tips on staying focussed and managing your time as well!