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The truth about Working from Home (and Rookie Mistakes to Avoid)

I’ve written posts in the past that have given home office ideas to readers, but I’m yet to share with you some of the harsh truths about actually working from home. Every time I tell someone that I work for myself from my home office, I’m always met with the exact same response; “Oh my God, you’re so lucky”.

Well, yes and no.

When I finally took the blog full time a few years back and started working from home, my partner would head off to his job in the morning and I would inevitably sit in my PJ’s for most of the day; writing a few blogs, surfing the net, replying to emails. At 5pm, I’d realised I hadn’t showered yet and that the place looked like a bomb had hit it. Cut to me racing around tidying up the house and showering moments before Gavin walked in the door.

This is not how you should work from home. In fact, now that I finally have my own office on the ground floor of my house, I think it’s timely I pass on a few lessons to you about my experience with working from home. And show you what not to do, too.

Working from Home: How to do it Right

Office Styling - Office Trestle Table with Laptop and Lamp

You need get ready and “go to work”

You have to set an alarm, you need to get in the shower, and you have to get dressed (properly). I eventually got into a groove where I was ready and at my desk by 8.30am, prepared to take on the world. If you don’t establish that routine early on, you’ll shlep to your desk at 10am after watching some TV and eventually get into the zone about 1pm. Not a great start to the day and not at all productive.

I was in shlep zone for a long time and discovered that by the end of the week, I hadn’t achieved anywhere near as much as I wanted to.

You have to write daily to-do lists

I got into the habit of putting a list together every day. It would contain the blog stuff I needed to work on, the emails I needed to reply to and sales pitches I needed to make to brands for the blog. I would tick something off once I did it, and I even went as far as breaking the time I had up into sections (9am to 11am for blogging, 11am to 4pm for design clients, and so on).

It was the only way I could ensure I got everything done before my finish time of 5pm. Which brings me onto my next point…

To Do List Stationery

You’ve got to establish set working hours

It is the trap every small business owner falls into (especially if your business is creative); you never have set hours. I get it, your work is more 24/7 than it is 9 to 5, but the groove I got into was establishing a start time for myself, a finish time and ensuring I took a lunch break every day. It can only be 30 minutes long, but you still need to have it.

And I don’t mean eating at your desk. I sit at my dining table or on the sofa. Sometimes I even get out for a 20 minute walk to get a coffee. You need a mental and visual break from the computer.

You have to shut down all Social Media

Facebook dings a lot in a day with new notifications. Twitter updates are happening around the clock, and the emails are always flooding in. When I was in a zone to write, I would shut down every other screen so that there were no social media distractions.

I would also put my phone on silent on pop on some Cafe Del Mar (or some other non-descript music) in the background. Lighting a candle is essential, too, for me anyway. Creating this time with no distractions allowed me to got a tonne of work done. You must try it.

Office Desk Styling featuring Dinosaur Planter

You must interact with people offline

Working from home is isolating. Eventually I found myself talking to my cats, which is not in itself totally crazy, but when you start bitching to them about why you’re getting press releases about products that don’t fit your blog’s genre, you know there’s an issue. In all seriousness, though, working alone can be tough.

Don’t fall into the trap. Ensure you phone people as often as you can (it can be so much quicker to get results out of people than emailing them!). Also, book meetings with clients, meet up with other people in your circle and occasionally set some time aside to see friends for lunch. If you don’t do this you’ll go mad.

What are your tips for working from home? Share some of them with me below!

Image Credits: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

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Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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Comments

17 Responses

  1. Haha I’m distracting myself by reading this blog. Because I live in Brisbane am also constantly distracted by the sunny days outside my window. Find I get more work done after sunset. I think there’s a limit to home office and after 3 years plan to rent small office outside. Figure increased productivity will more than make up for additional expenses

  2. Thank you Chris, great useful tips. I’ve just started working from home this year and yes some of those bad habits creep in, not getting ready for ‘work’, getting way too distracted with social media (it’s research isn’t it!!) and finding there is always housework or something else to do for the kids as well (a school day makes the day even shorter). I have started writing the dreaded daily ‘to do’ lists and this helps and trying to keep the work space tidy helps clear the mind too, although often easier said than done. Thanks for your inspiration, more things to work on for me to be more productive though I think eek! Even patting the cat can be a time waster haha.

    1. haha Anne I hear you! My cats were a constant distraction. Sometimes, I would go check on them lol. Clearly they don’t need checking on but any excuse will do! I hope your to-do lists are helping. They work for me.

    1. That’s great Belinda. The lists are really good for me. At least then, at the end of the day, I can feel like I achieved something. The lunch thing is a hard one to put into practice. I hope you get there 🙂

  3. Separating work and home I found really important, being clear about about non-negotiable boundaries. Otherwise I’d work instead of being present and attentive when my family needs me.
    I switch off the computer at a set time each evening so that I have time to wind down before sleep and there’s no work talk at the dinner table. I also let clients know 3-5pm is non-work time for me. I’ll call them back at 8pm once my kids are in bed (and often, theirs too).
    Having something other than work to talk about, keeping up other interests so when you do face the world you’re not just talking work stuff – how boring is that!
    If you don’t make the effort to stay connected by finding networking events with like-minded others, you’ll be a sad little munchkin. I didn’t have cats, but my local checkout chics copped a lot more chit-chat than they were used to.

    I nearly forgot – take advantage of the benefits! I have a siesta in the sun when I’m not super busy, take my family out when it suits us best, don’t book any meetings when it means peak hour traffic. I’ll work til 10pm one day then take the entire next day off with a yoga class and a new cafe for lunch.
    Nuff said. Great topic Chris, love the honesty in your post! and let me think… yes, I did shower today 🙂

    1. haha very glad to hear you showered today Claire (honestly, in the early days it was so easy not to!). You’re so right though; it’s all about setting boundaries and sticking to them, otherwise the lines get very blurred and you never shut off.

  4. I don’t work from home, but I did today (lies, all I did was two meetings over the phone and sort pictures :P). I’d say it’s important to get out at night, and take a break from the screens and go for a walk, sit outside for lunch.

    1. Haha love your honest there. it is SO easy to not do much during the day from home. Way too many distractions too, like the cats or the TV of Facebook. They’re all evil lol.

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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