I spent much of my working life working at home because I was a freelancer and often worked as an independent contractor. I established a set of rules for myself, mostly accidentally and through trial-and-error. Here they are:
- Establish a routine and stick to it. This means getting out of bed at the same time every day preferably early, getting dressed in street clothes early, eating at regular times, etc. I learned to provide regular structure for myself and it reinforced that I was a professional and should act that way.
- Acquire the necessary equipment to do your job. For most people this is a computer, phone and broadband internet. Since I worked in graphics, this included things like scanners, multiple computers, specialized software, cameras and high-end printers.
- Set aside a limited time for time wasters like Twitter and television. Social media is important to overcome the sense of isolation work at home brings, but limit the amount of time you give to it. Don’t leave the television running when you are working.
- Establish your work station. Set up somewhere that you work every day, and let kids and significant others know that when you are in the work station, you are not to be disturbed short of something really important like the house catching fire. Unfortunately, this rule does not work on cats.
- Don’t drink before 5 (and don’t do different time zones, like “I think it’s 5 o’clock in London”).
- Schedule breaks just like you would take in an office.
- Don’t skip meals.
- Get moderate exercise. For me this usually meant taking a walk or bike ride.
- Be alert for loneliness and melancholy. If you feel these coming on, call a friend or schedule a lunch with someone.
- If you are a freelancer and you find the work slowing down and the phone not ringing, don’t fret. Use the time to develop new advertising for your services. Read Jay Conrad Levinson’s 1984 classic Guerrilla Marketing.
- Keep a notebook for organization. Write down ideas, phone numbers and work orders.
- If you are a freelancer, get a real website that showcases your work. Make it easy for people to contact you.
These are my rules, but I’m sure I’ve forgotten things. What do you do to survive working at home?