Working From Home: 5 Things To Watch For
Today’s post is by Maureen Cooper, the founding director of Awareness In Action. Maureen trains people in the application of mindfulness, meditation and compassion in their lives. I am thrilled to have her back on the blog sharing her experiences and wisdom on how to set yourself up for success while working for home.
Earlier she wrote about how to deal with financial stress, which was enjoyed by so many of you. Do check it out.
It’s been fifteen years since I started my business and became a home-based entrepreneur and I have never regretted it. I work from home My company, Awareness in Action, is basically about supporting people to make meditation part of their everyday life. Meditation is an important part of my life and it is wonderful to have a job that is so in line with my own priorities. It motivates me and gives meaning to earning a living.
Here are a few of the benefits that are important to me:
- Being my own boss!
- Flexibility on many different levels—when to work late, fitting in a dentist appointment, making time for exercise.
- Not having to commute when everyone else is also struggling to get to work.
- Dressing up as I want.
- Being able to eat more healthily, and more cheaply.
- Being my own boss!
All this is not to say that running a business from home is just all plain sailing. There are some things it is good to watch out for.
Here are five of the main ones.
1. Working from home requires discipline.
The flexibility of working from home is indeed wonderful. You can work from the couch, stay in your pyjamas, stop and start whenever you want. When you are your own boss, it’s all up to you.
In order to establish and maintain a sustainable working routine you need to take a careful look at who you are and what brings out the best in you. If you are serious about making a success of working from home, then you might want to establish some procedures. These should be habits that help you create a good working environment and inspire you into a creative frame of mind.
It might be fun to take your laptop on to the couch towards the end of the day when you’re getting a bit tired. For the most part, I find I like to work at my desk, in my office where I have everything at hand.
Are you going to work regular hours? These don’t have to be standard office hours—although you will need to interact with clients effectively. You can set your own working hours that give you flexibility but also create a good structure.
Do you really want to stay in your pyjamas all day? I have a set of outfits for everyday working days that are very comfortable and easy to wear. Then I have a slightly more formal set for when I have online meetings with clients. When I go to meet clients, or to deliver a workshop then it’s normal work clothes. You need to work out how you want to play it.
2. Maintain a healthy work-life balance
It’s easy to think that once we have divested ourselves of all the irritating routines of an ordinary working day, everything will be smooth. However, the importance of making sure that work does not take over your life are even more important.
One of the reasons I like to work from my office is that it is clearly defined as a working space. My folders, books and notes do not spread over the whole apartment. When I walk out of the office, the rest of my home feels like a different environment.
It’s great not to have to commute but over time, I had got used to using that time very creatively. I would read, think about projects and listen to podcasts. Recently I have been trying to build that kind of time into my work day. After all, reading articles and books on my subject is also work!
Try to make time for a break in the day. Don’t get into the habit of grabbling a bite at your desk. It can be good to take an allocated time out to make some lunch, eat it and relax for a bit. It’s the same at the end of the day. It’s good to resist the temptation to keep coming back to your desk to check for last-minute emails.
It works the other way around too. If you notice the fridge needs cleaning, put it on your housework to do list. Don’t put on the rubber gloves and do it right there and then. It will make you late to your desk and thrown your rhythm out.
3. Don’t get isolated
It’s disturbingly easy to find a few days have gone by and you have not left your home! If you are working hard, then cooking dinner, and relaxing with a book or movie you might find you have not stepped outside your home all day. Do this for a few days and you’ll start to get stir crazy.
Plan times to go out that are not just about doing the chores. If you have meetings outside to see clients that helps but maybe tag on extra hour to have some time for yourself.
A change of scene can be inspiring when you have projects to think through, or some reading to do. I have a local café down by the water where I go to work some mornings. It’s worth experimenting with a few to find the ones that really work for you—and where the servers don’t mind you sitting with your laptop.
Because you are your own boss you can make time to include some volunteer work in your week. Having a few hours out in the community can be energising.
Make sure to keep up with friends and make time to spend with them. It’s all too easy, when you work for yourself, to feel you can’t take time off. The opposite is actually more true—time spent with friends can help get things in perspective and give you more energy.
I have got into the habit of arranging my meetings—both in person and online—to disperse them throughout my week. That way I have a few quiet days for projects that need full focus. At the same time, my week is broken up by interaction with other people.
4. Manage your social media engagement
As home-based entrepreneur you are obviously going to spend a lot of time on internet and marketing time on social media. We all know that social media can be a huge distraction. It’s all too easy to find yourself reding an article that someone has posted and that leads on to another thing you saw somewhere. Before you know it, an hour has gone by and you have not done what you set out to do.
Managing your time on internet is something that takes time and trial and error. I find that setting aside a dedicated time for scheduling my social media posts every few days works well. It gives me a structure to work with
A more subtle part of life on the internet is thinking about how you want to communicate and the tone you use. Not many of us have actually had training in how to communicate on internet and it can be all too easy to forget that there is another human being at the other end of your email, post, or comment. I run an online course on self-compassion on my website, and it is not unusual to have people coming on the course because of bad experiences they have had with feeling bullied, or humiliated online.
5. Self-compassion is an essential element of working from home
Actually, I find the practice of self-compassion particularly relevant for people running their own businesses from home. Self-compassion means to care for yourself when your experience suffering—and to help yourself to resolve it. We’ve looked at several ways we can care for ourselves as people working from home but self-compassion goes deeper.
There are three elements to self-compassion:
- Self-kindness, which helps us with self-criticism.
- Understanding connection when we feel isolated, or alone.
- Mindfulness, which helps us to keep things in perspective and not take ourselves too seriously.
It’s easy when you run your own business to be hard on yourself when things don’t go according to plan. We all have that small voice in our minds that can pop up when we’re struggling and tell us that we are no good. With self-compassion we acknowledge that things are tough, and we treat ourselves with kindness and understanding—just as you would with a good friend.
We’ve looked at the possibility of getting isolated when you work from home. Understanding connection from the point of view of self-compassion is to do with realising that just as we can have disappointments in running our own business, so does everyone else who is trying to do the same thing. It’s not that we are worse at what we do. Difficulties are part of life and happen to everyone from time to time.
Mindfulness meditation provides the space for us to be with ourselves without judgement and without an agenda. It helps to calm our minds and be more flexible and self-aware. For me it is the basis of what enables me to do the work that I do in the way that I do it.
Together these three elements provide a reliable set of tools to keep you together in a sustainable way.
Maureen Cooper runs Awareness in Action, which offers workshops, online courses and coaching on integrating meditation and kindness into all aspects of everyday life—work, relationships and your personal journey. You can follow her on Twitter & Facebook and read her blogs here. She runs a free 5-day e-course How To Make Self-Compassion Your Top Priority
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