I finally feel like I’m in the groove of working from home. The first week after leaving my “desk” job was so jam-packed with back to back meetings, I don’t think I really realized just how different it would be. And then the second week came and I was smacked in the face with the harsh reality of how “un fun” working from home was… and just how lonely it would be!
Mornings would be fine, but by the afternoon, I would start to lose myself in my own thoughts and work and it was quite a terrible little spiral from there. (I called my mom so much that first month as I adjusted… just to talk to someone!)
I quickly learned what would and wouldn’t work for me. Actually I think that’s the ULTIMATE key to working from home… learning what works for you and not being afraid to make unconventional changes or adjustments to how you get work done. And, as I wrote this, I realized that a lot of these tips can help you schedule your days at college. As a student, you’re essentially a mini-entrepreneur!
A couple of things (in no particular order) that have really helped me enjoy working from home and making it as productive as possible:
ONE // Don’t Feel Guilty
This was the hardest thing for me to wrap my mind around and the hardest to implement. Yet, it absolutely was the most important. I had just come from a schedule where I was basically doing two full-time jobs and working what felt like around the clock. At some point, I think I began to feel like if I wasn’t working there was something wrong and I should feel guilty. Well, when I decided to quit my job, a huge chunk of my “everyday” work disappeared… but I still had this feeling that I should be working around the clock. (Even though a huge part of quitting was so that I would have more time to, you know, sleep!)
There’s also something, especially when you’re your own “boss,” to be said about not having someone to set the deliverables and deadlines. Technically, the more I work on the blog, the more I network, the more projects I take on, the more beneficial for the bottom line, right? Well, I had to learn the hard way that it’s impossible to keep up and saying no to certain things will help the bottom line more… because you’re focusing your energy and giving yourself time to recover and relax.
I had to really work at this… and sometimes there are nights when I’m out with friends that I can feel that little guilt feeling bubbling up! I have to do some positive affirmations to remind myself the importance of spending time away from work!
TWO // Find A Schedule That Works for You
Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to keep track of my mood and my productivity during the day… and scheduling “working hours” and “breaks” around those peaks. My schedule is weird, but it works out so well for me that I can’t believe I could ever get work done before.
Just to give you an idea of what tends to work for me:
I have tons of energy in the morning, so I try to schedule meetings in the morning. This forces me to shower, dress, etc. Most of these meetings include coffee, so it’s an extra great way to get up and at ’em. I pretty much try to hit the ground running in the morning, and then ease into a nice working rhythm through the afternoon. Generally by 2pm, I’ve put in a good number of hours and gotten the “boring” things off my to-do list. I’ll take a longer break to eat and play with Teddy and maybe run an errand or two. To be completely honest, it’s hard for me to get back into work at this point, so I try to schedule meetings at 4ish so I can get out of my apartment and be forced to do something. I like taking a long time off for dinner after that… lots of relaxation! And then I work a bit more (typically from 8-10pm) when I have a second wind.
My hours are definitely not “9-5.” They kind of end up being 7am-2pm, 4-6pm, and 8-10pm. By working when I’m at my best and relaxing when I need to relax, I end up getting a ton done. Versus trying to get things done when I’m hungry, sluggish, or just unmotivated. This little schedule took me the longest to work out, but tracking my own productivity rather obsessively shed a lot of light on what my schedule would really look like!
THREE // Find Friends
This. This. This. Find friends who you “get” what working from home means. (It doesn’t mean you can just drop your work at the drop of the hat and it doesn’t mean you’re not working!) And find friends who you can work with. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Mackenzie and I work together in a cafe down the street. It’s just what we both need: company and time outside of our apartments. It’s really fun, but also super productive. We work on so many things together that I generally come with a checklist of questions I need answers from Kenz on and then I go through emails responding to everyone. Plus, we always have someone to bounce and idea or two off of. (That’s something I really miss about working in an office!) The collaboration and working mix is just right here.
FOUR // Make a To-Do List for the Month, Week, and Day
I’ve been making daily to-do lists for as long as I can remember. But I always had a professor’s syllabus or quarterly goals to give me a sense of direction and to really illustrate the “big picture.” Now that it’s pretty much just me, I needed to make the to-do list grander than just a day. (Plus, I was getting so frustrated when I wasn’t completing tasks in one day.)
How I divide my to-do lists:
Monthly: Gives me a big picture view at the things I want to accomplish. Monetary goals, social media number gains, big events, people I want to reach out to, any kind of seasonal posts that I need to do
Weekly: Everything that must get done during the week.
Daily: I divide out the weekly must-dos throughout the week and then this also includes my everyday duties and responsibilities.
FIVE // Know When to Forgive Yourself and When to Push Yourself and When to Praise Yourself
You’re your own boss… praise and critiques are from you and you alone. There’s no quarterly review where your performance is being evaluated… There’s no one telling you “great job!” or “this could have been done better.” I personally found myself missing that feedback loop and had to implement a few guidelines for how to give myself the needed feedback. (Without being to critical of myself to the point where I was burning out!)
Having those monthly/weekly/daily to-do lists certainly help as I have something written down that I can check. Did I accomplish what I said I would? Did I drop any balls? If I got through everything and saw success, I learned how to recognize that and give myself praise. (Instead of just moving right along to the next month…) I learned how to recognize when I had been a little bit too lazy and needed to dig my heels in a bit more to get through the a few more things. I learned how to acknowledge when I did everything I could, but things just didn’t work out.
And a major component of this? Finding strategies to either correct the things that need correcting or doing more of things that went well!
Phew! Okay those are my five tips that I’ve learned so far! Anyone have anything to add?