Friday July 22, 2005 7:19 pm
When Your Office Is Home
It’s easy to get obsessed. Really, it is. With work, with the almighty dollar, with achieving and building your business.
When your office is home, there is no clock to punch, no rush hour drive to get as far away from the madness as possible. No, when you work from home, it’s all up to you. You can work as little or as much as you like. Unfortunately, most home-workers fall into the two extremes: those who don’t work enough, and those who work too much.
The ones who don’t work enough get caught up in the “home” aspect of the home office. Something is always calling them away: a crying baby, the laundry, a trip to the convenience store, a pot on the stove, daytime TV shows. They give in to temptation and never truly put in an honest day’s work. Then they come to me and ask how in the world I’m so productive.
It’s because I fall into the other extreme category. I’m a full-time writer, and I get caught up in the “office” aspect of the home office. It gets simple to see each minute as a potential dollar, and each day as a new possibility to sell the novel, write the next bestseller, break into the almighty national magazine market.
Know that when you are self-employed, you won’t have anyone looming over your desk to keep you on track. Sure, that may sound delicious, but do some real self-assessing: can you handle it?
If no one tells you when and how to work, will you have the discipline necessary to earn a living? Will you ever start your work? Will you ever stop?
When you get hooked into the cycle of never truly leaving office-mode, the point of working from home gets diminished. Sure, you may work in your pajamas, but you wind up putting in more hours than you would have at a day job, and you forget to enjoy the perks of being self-employed.
The single cure for either extreme mode is the same: set goals and meet them. If you’re not getting enough work done, set an attainable goal (write a new press release before noon, or make five cold calls before the end of the day), and keep to it, no matter how you have to juggle your life around it. If you’re working too much, set that same goal and then STOP. Write those releases, or make those calls, and then get up from that chair, stretch, and do something that doesn’t involve work in any manner.
I once read something that has stuck with me (pardon me for not knowing the attribution): At the end of your life, will you regret not putting in more overtime?
As for me, I’ll be embarrassed to die until I’ve achieved a lifestyle with a better balance: One that involves more family and fun time, and less time logged in my computer chair.
Sanity breaks are so important, and if you’re going to freelance full-time, you have to set limits. You have to take days off, re-discover your significant other’s birthmarks, and just plain enjoy life. Otherwise, why are you working? Remember what it is you’re working toward and why you chose to work at home.
If you’re like me, you may work better with a written schedule. On this schedule, write down both your work responsibilities and your “play” responsibilities. Mine sometimes looks like this:
9:00-12:00: Work on new article for XYZ Magazine.
12:00-1:00 Lunch break.
1:00-5:00 Write query and send it to 5 new markets.
5:00-6:00: Cook dinner.
...and so on.
I keep a daily schedule book that has room for me to write down all of my “to do” list each day. If you lose track of time, you may want to set an alarm clock to remind you when it’s time to quit, or you may try setting your computer to “defragmentation mode” at a particular time each day (your “quitting time”).
Commit to becoming less extreme. Working from home is a wonderful thing… in moderation.
JENNA GLATZER is the author of Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer and several other books. Visit her at www.jennaglatzer.com and pick up a free editors’ cheat sheet! She is also the editor of www.absolutewrite.com, the most popular online magazine for writers.
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