“wow, you have the best job ever, getting to work from home.”
“you’re so lucky. i wish i had that option.”
those are some of the comments i hear when i mention to others i work from home. typically, i just nod and say, “yes, it’s awesome.”
i love working from home because i get to make my own schedule. i can pick up my kids during the day and go to their performances or games. i don’t have to worry about sitters or after-school care.
but anyone who works from home knows that isn’t the whole story.
sometimes i forget to change my clothes for days. sometimes i have no breakfast and cold coffee. sometimes it’s 3:00 p.m. and i’ve forgotten to each lunch, so i eat chips because i’m in the middle of a project.
working from home comes with surprising challenges that can leave you feeling frazzled or stuck. on particularly difficult days, you may even doubt your own abilities.
to help you overcome some of those tricky situations, today i’m going to share three simple strategies i’ve learned from many years of working from home.
1. honor what you accomplish each day (and even what you don’t)
i recently watched a ted talk by brené brown about the power of vulnerability.
if you have about 20 minutes to check it out, even if you have before, i encourage you to do so. she is very funny and authentic.
at the end, she talks about how we need to believe “we are enough.” she says when you believe you are enough, we can then become kinder and gentler to ourselves and others.
i have to tell myself that a lot. some days are not going to be productive; i’m still enough. some days i’m going to be frustrated; i’m still enough. on other days, i’m going to be on fire; i’m totally awesome and enough!
but some days are going to suck; i’m not going to accomplish anything — i’m going to be sad and feel like a failure …
and you know what? i’m still enough. so are you!
2. take care of yourself
sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. it’s easy to have no boundaries and work all the time.
if you are sick, make sure you get enough rest. if you need exercise, fit it in during a break. if you have a few appointments one day that make it difficult to accomplish your typical work duties, just go with it.
be gentle with yourself and plan around whatever comes up, rather than spending the day beating yourself up.
trust me, thinking negatively will not get more work done. you’ll probably get less work done.
try to accept each of your work days for what they are. you can also prioritize your most important tasks and move others to the next day. there is always tomorrow.
3. find the best ways (for you) to manage your responsibilities
some people have success with block schedules or creating very defined lists of tasks each day.
some find they need to be flexible every day, because of meetings or their specific responsibilities.
the key is to find what works for you and do that.
narrow down your favorite techniques and tools, which could include a calendar, a timer, notebooks, evernote, etc.
remember that what works right now might stop working for you in the future — and that’s okay.
if that happens, recognize you need a new system and look for other ways to stay productive.
over to you …
if you work from home, what challenges have you encountered — and how do you manage them?
share with us in the comments below.
reader comments (27)
i just began timing my work tasks and blocking social media sites when doing important writing. for years i had relied on my willpower and thought it would always be enough, but the temptations get the best of me more than i’d like to admit.
thanks for the reminder that sometimes we all need a change, and that’s okay!
kim clark says
it’s totally ok! and if one day you spend the day on social media, that’s ok too. 🙂
heather sanders says
“sometimes i forget to change my clothes for days. sometimes i have no breakfast and cold coffee. sometimes it’s 3:00 p.m. and i’ve forgotten to each lunch, so i eat chips because i’m in the middle of a project.” – um…yes. exactly. thanks for this, kim. i’ve been working from home now for 16 years. for most of those years, i was homeschooling 3 kids simultaneously (they were the “why” behind working from home). random meals, no sleep, pushing through sickness … it was the name of the game. i’m still learning to respect my needs.
kim clark says
yep, being gentle with yourself is key. when you take care of your needs, you have the energy to take care of others. this is really easy to say, not as easy to do.
felicity wild says
i’ve been self-employed for a year now and was surprised at how difficult it was for me to let go of the 9 to 5 mindset.
i found i had to readjust my definition of success away from hours spent staring at a screen and towards tasks ticked off a to-do list. after all, you can achieve more in a focused 5-hour day working on your own terms than an uninspired and distracted 9 hours sat at an office desk!
kim clark says
so true, with an office job it is the quantity of time you are required to be there. but working from home you move to quality of work.
the key is to try to not beat yourself up for running that errand or going to that appointment.
working from home is a blessing. you don’t have to look at people and work in your own time schedule. don’t have to look at people and work in your own time schedule additionally you don’t have to worry about meeting daily weekly or monthly sales quotas because you work for yourself and you set your own standards. it’s a lot harder working for yourself because you don’t have the 401k, the traditional pension plan, nor health care benefits. you have to work harder for yourself because you don’t have much to fall back on other than possibly earning all the money you want by working from home.
roman saavedra says
i have worked in my home for 3 years, and my first challenge was the “discipline”, you need to be very focus in your goals. all it can be a distraction.
jane rucker says
i chuckled as i read your post because i felt like you had been spying on me! i’ve had the good fortune to work from home for many years, and it is truly a blessing. but you’re right; there are things about it that you have to learn to deal with.
one of the most common i can fall into is failing to take appropriate breaks. i can get so involved in my work that hours or a whole day goes by without so much as a glass of water. terrible for your body and not really good for the mind or soul either!
defining and maintaining effective boundaries for myself is at the heart of staying at my best work levels for longer periods of time. it’s interesting to me how, as an employer, i was very kind while still keeping efficiency and morale up. yet, if i’m not careful, i can be a taskmaster to myself in my home office!
thanks for the great post! very good info!
kim clark says
so true! also thanks for the reminder to go get some water. i thought i was thirsty for some reason. 🙂
loryn thompson says
get it, kim! you rock and thank you for writing this <3
kim clark says
thanks loryn! you rock too!
michael larocca, technical editor says
the last time i worked in an office, paid by the hour rather than the task, we didn’t have social media to distract ourselves with yet. it’s a wonder i survived.
i have a post-it with the words “i am enough” stuck to my mirror because it’s such an important reminder. working at home means that not only don’t you have someone telling you what to do, but you also don’t have anyone telling you that you’re doing a good job. i have had to learn to be my own cheerleader. client testimonials and feedback help too, so i’m also training myself to ask for them.
kim clark says
yes! this is so true. i have found when we manage people who need praise, this can be a very hard balance for them. we all need to be our own cheerleader, and make look outside the box for the praise we need, because you can’t just go into your bosses office and ask if you are doing a good job.
ryan biddulph says
i take #2 really deep kim. super tips here.
as for taking care of me, i wake up to 40 minutes of yoga, 20 minutes of meditation and 1 minute in an icy cold shower. a few moments of prayer, then i begin my work day. i take short, frequent breaks throughout the day to remain energized, and exercise at least 45 minutes daily. 1 day running, the other day walking, and i do cardio 6-7 days weekly.
folks have no idea how well you must take care of your body and energy to create 2 or 3 or 5 guest posts every single day, for months on end. toss in my blog commenting campaign and ebook promotion and all the other stuff i do online, and no way would i be able to work from home as i do unless i took care of myself in such fashion.
kim clark says
ryan… you are my hero! i wake up every morning and have a cup of coffee and hope for the best. 😉
this is so on point today! i’ve been self-employed for 7-1/2 years. my challenge is just making (taking) time for me. i went to the doctor back in march and had a physical. i found out i am vitamin d deficient and i drink too much coffee (i drink about 6-7 cups a day!). i also had a bad scare in that i had to have a heart test repeated because the first one came up as a “concern.” but the second one came up normal. the doctor said, “anita, you need to get up and move around more, drink more water, eat more salads and nuts, exercise, and take a break from the computer (because i have carpel tunnel).” i ended up in the hospital in june with meningitis for a week! and it took another week and a half to fully recover.
i went back to see the doctor a couple days ago. she said, “what happened?” i said, “i fell off the wagon!” she told me i need to get back at it and stay at it this time.
i work alone from the time my feet hit the floor until the time i go to bed. i have my business and currently doing support for two other theme developers. i love what i do! in between i take bella out for short walks (which is 3 times a day) and maybe go to the store. she said, “you need to take a break and rest your mind. just focus on you and bella for a few hours each day and not just at bed time. so this is my goal and to make sure i stay healthy. i need to add me as a client to my own schedule each day!
for me, it is difficult to find the will power to finish all job-related-task with all the house distractions. i couldn’t work from home since i get really distracted with kids, and all house-related chores.
what worked form me was to rent a small nearby office and work from there =)
a little ‘cheat’ from the work from home idea but it works for me, i am more productive that way. i do have a work schedule so when is time to go back home i happy go and have all the time with my family.
great article! boundaries are so important, particularly when being in the “zone” is so seductive.
“i need to add me as a client to my own schedule each day!”
anita, i love this idea!
jennifer theuriet says
i love this and it all really rings home for me. i’m looking for a block scheduling system…does anyone have one they have had success with?
kim clark says
hey jennifer! i have tried, unsuccessfully, to implement a block schedule myself. i think my nature is just too adhd to do it.
but our vp of devops has had success in block scheduling. here is what he does:
morning communication block – which involves email, and anything that he needs to know about or answer first thing.
morning focused work block – this is when he turns off all communication like slack and is dedicated to priority projects, whether that is planning, reviewing, or doing.
(then he takes lunch, i know… it’s weird, but he does…)
afternoon communication block – he goes back through emails and all that.
afternoon less structured block – this is when he is available for meetings, and instant communication like slack.
i hope that helps a little. good luck!
freddy g. cabrera says
you have to take good care of yourself if you want to be able to take care of others and other things!
great topic, kim!
i don’t see many bloggers talking about this. the importance of taking care of your body and mind, in order to perform at your best as often as possible. sure sometimes we forget to take some time to take care of ourselves when we get super busy with projects and life getting in the way.
what matters the most is to get back on track whenever you take a little bit of a break from taking care of yourself. we all need a few super lazy days a year, right! 😀 haha ..
here is the interesting part of my blogging journey, i wasn’t getting the results i wanted to get with my blogging until i started to take good care of my body and mind. i noticed i was getting more done and i was way more creative with everything. exercising and eating healthy definitely has an impact on many areas in your life!
thanks for sharing!
i find taking care of ourselves really challenging for many people. most people are good by nature, hence, when it comes to taking care of themselves, they find it a bit selfish. like my wife, who always gives the best to our kids first. best food, best time, best programmes, etc. i always ask her, what about herself? personally, when we give ourselves the least, we end up not becoming our best. and how can we give others the best if we are not at our best. thanks for reminding us to care for ourselves.
stephanie sechelski says
i needed to hear this and yes we are enough. i picked blogging so i could be on my own schedule. keyword “schedule” . thanks for your post!
my wife runs her agency out of the house. at first we were thrilled!
no more huge overhead from the brick and mortar, no more commute issues, blah blah.
but then, reality set in (and the oversights became more in focus).
what about the kids/messes etc? when clients come over, she has to do a mini house clean (and i the yard etc).
she noticed her productivity nosedived almost 30% compared to working at the office. this translated into a net loss of almost $2500 per month. which incidentally was her overhead, approximately.
so, think twice before working from home. there is more than meets the eye.
drew walker says
i love brené brown. i recently purchased “daring greatly.” i’m so glad you mentioned her because her words always motivate me to not be hard on myself. sometimes it’s hard to remain focused so i continually find myself having to shut off everything. what i found that has been helpful to me lately is speaking encouraging words to myself.
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