When I left my full-time job to pursue a career in writing, one of the things I was most excited about was working from home. I imagined having enough time to keep our house in perfect shape, finally catching up with the laundry, and keeping on top of all the little errands that I never seemed to be able to manage when I was working from an office. I imagined long weekends, time for exercise, more time to for myself. Needless to say, the first couple of weeks didn’t exactly go according to plan.
During the first week, I obsessed so much over the housework that I hardly got any actual work done. During the second week, I worked so hard I sometimes forgot to change out of my pajamas, and during the third week, I realized I hadn’t kept on top of any of the errands or the laundry.
It’s not always easy to make flexible hours work for you instead of the other way around.
Here are a few tips that can help get your work-life balance under control.
1. Keep your productive hours sacred.
You only have 24 hours in a day, just like everyone else. For me, it’s the morning. I don’t schedule appointments, meet for coffee, or do anything that isn’t work-related in that time slot. In the afternoons, I’m more flexible, but I’m still extremely picky when it comes to my work time. I want to be able to take the evenings and weekends off, which means I need to get a full workday in almost every day.
2. Don’t let planning paralyze you.
It’s easy to sit down every morning and spend hours planning. Sometimes the planning can stop you from being productive. I once read a book that encouraged planning on a Sunday evening. This allows you to start the work week ready to go, without wasting any time wondering where to start.
3. A healthy routine is vital.
Waking up at the same time every day, getting exercise, and eating a healthy lunch, are all things that will improve your productivity. When you work in an office, often you don’t have a choice, but when you’re responsible for your own schedule, it’s easy to fall into bad habits. Implementing a good routine, that works for you, will help you to get your work done more efficiently.
4. Do a little bit every day.
As I mentioned earlier, I thought that flexible time meant I’d be able to keep on top of everything that needed to be done all the time. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to keep up with the laundry, get your hair done, and cook a fabulous dinner every single day. The method that works best for me is doing one non-work task per day. Sometimes it will be preparing a great meal, other days it’s running to the post office. The good news is that you can keep it all under control, it’s merely a matter of prioritizing and planning ahead.
5. Remember you are allowed to say ‘no.’
Very much linked to the first point is learning your limitations. Well-meaning friends and family will ask you to help them with some of their errands because you have flexible time. While it’s nice to be able to help, don’t take on anything that will infringe on your productive work time. Working from home isn’t the same as not working at all. People sometimes need to be reminded of that.
6. Ask for help when you need it.
It’s strange to think that even though you’re at home all the time, you’ll still need help with certain things. In my first week, I found that I was extremely stressed out, trying to fit everything into one day. I tried to identify the things that were stressing me out the most, and I asked my husband to help with those things. An example of this was going grocery shopping, it took up a lot of my time, and I would stress about it unnecessarily, asking for help made a huge difference to my work routine.
7. Get out of the house at least once a day.
If you’re a mom, you probably don’t need the reminder, but making sure you get out of the house, whether to take a walk, see a friend or grab a coffee is important. Not only will it help stimulate your creativity, but it will also help you to take a break from the ‘office’ too.
8. Set aside downtime.
The lines can easily blur between work time, and relax time. Make sure that every day at a specific time you stop working. I usually end somewhere around 18:30, and I never work on the weekends. You’ll find that if you separate your work from the rest of your life when you start back at work on a Monday, you feel refreshed and ready to go.
These are a few of the simple tricks that I’ve implemented since working from home. It’s continually under construction, but I find that I’m a lot more productive, and happier, working from home than I ever was in an office. My hair may not always be perfect, and the laundry does pile up from time to time, but by following these points, I’ve started to make the most of my flexible time. Try using a few of these tips to make your flexible hours work for you!
Alessia Troisi is an author, blogger, and freelance writer. She recently left her full-time job and is in the process of releasing her first novel. She is passionate about fiction, food, and helping other women overcome their fear and insecurities. Alessia lives in Berlin, Germany, with her husband. You can find her blog here: http://www.alessiatroisi.com.