Working From Home

For years and years I worked to a clock that was set by someone other than me.  Religiously, I got up before 6am, got to work just after 7am and focussed on what needed to be done to get through the day.  As an Early Years Leader I had to make sure that certain paper work was completed by certain points in the year, that end of year profile scores were submitted on time, organise and run department meetings, organise school trips, decide the content of parents information meetings oh and teach!  Every minute of my day was accounted for.  Every second was precious.  

Now I work from home. Just me, my computer, my phone and my timetable. Working from home isn’t for everyone.  I know lots of people who would be distracted by terrible telly, food, cleaning or just popping to the shops.  Don’t get me wrong, I too can be distracted by such things (well not the cleaning so much) but luckily years at the chalk face have left me with slightly OCD tendencies when it comes to certain things. Plus I’ve spoken to my Uncle who has worked from home for years and his advice has been extremely valuable.

If you are thinking of embarking on the world of self-employment and you have to work from home here is my guide to survival!

Have a Designated Work Space

This is vital.  For the first couple of months I was working from my lap top in the sitting room (admittedly our dining room was in the middle of being decorated so my work space was limited).  This was not good!  It is far too tempting to have the telly on while you have your lap top going.  Far too tempting to be distracted by a terrible yet compelling day time television programme.  Plus it is really, really bad for your posture and neck. I attend a chiropractor to keep my wayward neck and back in check so I know how to recognise the warning signs. My neck was sending very strong messages that it was not happy with the current arrangements! Plus there is nowhere to put all your stuff.  I had bits of paper and post-it notes everywhere. Although my partner and I are not the tidiest people, it was starting to drive us both mad! I was desperate for a work space of my own.

Choosing the right work space is important. We are lucky enough to live in a 3 bedroom flat which is more than big enough for the two of us. However, one of the spare rooms is already my partners work space. As a musician this is his creative hub – his man cave. His guitars, speakers, amps, computers and other musical wizardry equipment are kept there.  A tentative suggestion that I use a corner as my work space was vetoed in the nicest way possible.

This left the spare room which although big enough for a double bed is not awash with space for a home office.  The joy of creative thinkers is being able to see the possibilities despite this.  The middle of the night can be a very creative time and once again provided the solution for this problem.  The wardrobe (full of my partners clothes) was moved to his Man Cave leaving a whole corner available for me in the spare room.  My partner went off to work having helped me move the wardrobe and came back to find a home office set up. In one afternoon I had visited IKEA, bought a shelving unit, built it, filled it with my books, resources and files and moved a spare (well sort of) wooden table upstairs to be my desk.  And when my white board arrived the next day and was fixed to the wall, my home office was ready!

Organise Your Day

This probably seems obvious but it’s really important.  It took me a little while to get into a proper routine.  Initially, I would wake up, get a cup of tea, turn on the computer, do a bit of social media and then bang, it was 10.30 and I was still in my dressing gown!
Now I wake up at about 7.30 (this still seems like an incredible lie in compared to the years I spent waking before 6!), make a cup of tea and do 30 minutes of aerobics/exercise of some form.  
Then I shower and breakfast and make sure I am ready to go to the office for 9.00. By setting a time on it, it makes it feel professional.  The office is where I do business.  I no longer slouch in here in my dressing gown. I like to have the radio on during the day.  For one thing, it gives you the sense of being in an office with work mates around you.  For another, it breaks up the day into easily defined slots.
My stations of choice are 6 Music and Radio 2 and my day looks something like this (unless I have external appointments or storytelling sessions to deliver)
9.00-9.15 Select 6 Music and update social media including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.  Most of this is done via Hootsuite which is a fantastic business tool allowing you to update your social media accounts from one place and for days into the future.  I still do ‘live updates’ but the majority is done this way. It saves hours!

9.15-10.30 read and respond to emails.

10.30 – 10.45 Switch to Radio 2 for Popmaster and have a tea break while it’s on. 

10.45-12.00 Switch back to 6 music and complete jobs for the day. Every Friday afternoon I fill the white board with jobs for the next week. This may include contacting schools/community events/festivals, cold calling local authorities, or trying to discover funding
12.00 -2.00 Switch back to Radio 2 for Jeremy Vine. During these two hours, I make sure I have a proper lunch break. After years in school when I got indigestion every day from wolfing my food as quickly as possible before returning to the classroom this is quite a luxury.  I also use this time to check any comments that may have come through on Social Media.  But the main activity for this slot is my crafts.  I find it really therapeutic to know that every day I spend some time doing something I enjoy.  So while I listen to Jeremy Vine and occasionally shout at the radio, I make my vintage charms and greetings cards.  It also, and this is really important, gives my brain and eyes a much needed rest from the computer screen.

2.00-3.30 Back to 6 Music and back to the jobs.  Afternoons are often the time when I write as well. This will also be the time when I research stories or themes that are needed for storytelling workshops.

3.30-3.45 break time

3.45-5.30 Back to the jobs.

5.30 – 6.00 Check any comments for Social Media and turn off the computer

Now obviously, this is a rough timetable and it does change on a weekly basis depending on what is in the calendar. This week for example, I’ve got nearly 4 days worth of meetings so the timetable is a bit different.  Either way, I still think it’s good to have a rough lay out in your head.

I also try to stay out of the office once the end of the day comes.  Easier said than done sometimes. Especially as I find blogwriting on the tablet impossible so this is the only place to do it.  

I’m not going to lie and say this all fitted into place during my first week of self-employment.  Of course it didn’t!  After so long with a set routine, my body revelled in the fact that I didn’t have to get up.  I discovered that I actually enjoyed eating breakfast (a meal that had passed me by for years) and that sometimes a bit of trashy telly does you good.  But after a while, I craved routine.

With that routine came a sense of purpose and direction.  I now know (roughly) what each week will bring and how much of it will be spent in meetings, networking, cold calling, emailing, researching and writing.  As I said working from home isn’t for everyone but I am rapidly discovering it is definitely for me!

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