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5 Ways to Not Totally Suck at Working From Home

 

A little over three years ago, I became a WAHM? A WOH(M/F/P)? A MWOHM?  A WWEIFTCOHBNLTYP*.

I stopped being able to keep up with the acronyms we’re all supposed to label ourselves with around the same time I first heard the acronyms we’re all supposed to label ourselves with. The day I realized I was a stay at home working out of the home married single attachment cry it out mother parent childcare technician household CEO was the day that I stopped giving a dingo’s kidney what people called me and just raised my freaking kids already.

However, three years ago I joined the ranks of the full-time employed by someone other than my children. Except, I did it from home, so for a lot of people, it didn’t really count. A lot of people including myself, I realize in hindsight.

For many years, I could always get one part of that equation right – work or home, but rarely both. I would work relentlessly, letting my kid forage for themselves from the darker areas of the pantry where all the HFCS lurks, letting them fill their brains with the likes of Discovery Kids and Popular Mechanics for Kids. Don’t you judge me, Canadian children’s programming is what it is. (What it is? Is excellent.) Naturally, I would then crash and burn out completely, barely able to will myself into opening outlook for days at a time, blaming a flu or the chicken pox oh, you know, Canada.

And then one sunny morning, I realized that I was just doing it all wrong. So I changed things, and since then, it’s been relatively smooth sailing on the seas of telecommuting. What did I change? Funny you should ask….


I started dressing the part.

Everyone I meet thinks it’s so great that I get to work in my pajamas all day super squee but the truth is, you can’t really work in your pajamas. The ritual of getting up, getting in the shower, putting some makeup and a bra on makes it feel more like work and less like home.

If I look the part, I act the part.

So every morning (ish) I make a point of being ready for work by 9am. I’m showered and shaved and in real people clothes that I would wear to an office if I were going to one. Sometimes I put on fancy necklaces and earrings, because why not? Necklaces are FUN. I never wear shoes, because I’m a rebel without a pedicure, but other than that, I am almost always business casual + by the time I sit down at my desk in my office.

I created an office for myself.

Here’s where I’d like to show you a picturesque corner office with a view, but the thing with a view is that it’s distracting. You watch the nanny across the street take the baby for a stroll enough times and you’ll start thinking back to when your kids were little, and how cute they were, and sheesh how much better strollers have gotten in the past five years and then you’re googling strollers and googling strollers only leads to googling how many times you have to ‘forget’ your pill before you have another baby because damn it if you don’t HAVE to have that space-aged looking orange contraption (it only has three! wheels!) and the next thing you know, you’re a week behind on that powerpoint and wishing you’d negotiated maternity leave into your contract.

Give yourself a nice, dark corner office with no view, just like you’d get in the real word. Soul-sucking florescent lights are optional. Stay in it for as much of the work day as possible so you can leave your work and go live your life when you are done. If you mix your home environment and your work environment, you won’t be very effective at maintaining either.

I maintain separation of Church and State.

Church, in this equation being ‘paying clients’ and state being ‘my mother in law and my blog comments’. I’ve asked every client to set me up an email address with their company, so that I don’t accidentally ever email Client A from my Mr Lady email address and let this cat of of the bag.

I embraced outlook and created client folders, so that each clients’ emails are automatically dropped into the appropriate folders, letting me focus on one client at a time and prioritize the order in which I address clients’ needs, without them all piling up in front of me and on my phone all. day. long.

I use Skype for my day-to-day communications with all of my clients, and because of this, I don’t use Skype for blog-related activities at all. As far as Mr Lady is concerned, there is no Skype. Only clients and close personal friends who know better than to bling me between 9am and 5pm have access to my Skype account, which is set up under my work email addresses only.

A time for every client under heaven. So it is written, so it shall be done.

Then I put everything together.

I never said that working from home was going to make a lick of sense, did I?

As nice as keeping my life tidy and compartmentalized is, it’s not really practical when I have myself, X clients, three children, two dogs and a home to take care of. I needed one place that was the Grand Repository of All Things and that one place is a Five Star Student Planner.

Everything goes in it. See exhibit A, personally-identifying material redacted to protect the innocent.

This book never leaves my side and is never done being adjusted and edited. Every dinner I need to cook, every blogger I need to help with plugins, every client who needs a newsletter or an email written, every blog post I’m grossly overdue on, it all goes into a daily box that I can cross of line-item by line-item. Few things, if any in life, feel as completely satisfying as slashing items off a to-do list.

I take the office out for corporate lunches.

The fact that I work from home means that I can grab a sleeve of saltines and work straight through lunch if I need to, and more often than not, that’s precisely what I do. This sucks. The single most soul-crushing aspect of working from home is the lack of human interaction, and I think this is why so many of my commute-impaired brethren and I are driven to open up Tweetdeck and lose ourselves in the matrix every day. Or buy dogs.

Instead of getting involved in either one of those time/self/carpet-destructive activities, I highly recommended treating yourself to lunch once, twice, three times a lady week. The money you save in gas, work shoes, parking and – well - lunches can justify to getting you out among the living a few times a week.

Essentially, I try to mimic the real-world work environment as much as possible, just with way better elevator music. That way it feels like work, so when I’m done with my day, home can feel like home.

How ’bout you?

*woman who earns income from the comfort of her bedroom not like that you perverts

 

 

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