the work-from-home “should list”

I just got back from a weekend in Savanah, Georgia, where I had a chance to celebrate the bachelorette party of one of my closest friends! It was so fun to have lots of girl time, and Savannah also happens to be one of my favorite places in the world. I couldn’t be more honored to be part of this wedding!

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After a whirlwind weekend, it’s always a little stressful to settle back into my everyday work routine, especially since I’m trying to catch up on “life stuff,” too! Since this is a pretty typical challenge of working from home (I feel like I can both be unpacking and answering all of my e-mails at the same time!), I thought I’d share more today about what I think it takes to really be successful outside of a standard office. I get questions about this a lot, and although I’m definitely not an expert yet, I do have some thoughts about what you “should” do to get the most out of the experience. Here are some of the things I’ve learned in my first few months:

  • You should be motivated and self-directed. When I first started telling people that I was leaving my 9-to-5 job to work from home as a freelancer, the first reaction I got from many of them was, “I could never do that because I couldn’t force myself to get things done. But you probably can.” I’ve always been pretty proactive, which is a total necessity in my new life. If you’re not someone who’s driven to get things accomplished on or ahead of a schedule — even when no one is reminding you and there’s no official risk of being fired — working from home could definitely be a stretch for you.
  • You should understand your ideal work habits. It’s pretty amazing what you can learn about your work habits when you get to explore them outside of a traditional office environment. For the first few weeks after I went freelance, I tried out different things — working in lots of coffee shops, sitting in my home office all the time — until I had a feel for what would be most efficient and effective. In the end, I’ve found that I work best when I spend the first half of the day with my things spread out on my coffee table and the second half at my desk. I think you have to be open to figuring out how to make the most of your work-from-home routine.
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My typical morning work environment.

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And the typical afternoon!

  • You should be flexible. Every day is different, and even though I tried to set some rules for myself when I first started working from home, I’ve learned that I’m more productive when I allow myself to be a little less rigid. When I allow myself to lean into the different routines of each day, everything works better.
  • You should be able to be patient and forgiving with yourself. Since every day is different, there are definitely days when I get more accomplished than others. This was true in my old job, too, but I think I’m more aware of it now because I put added pressure on myself to really come through and be successful (and because now, if I’m not focusing 100% on work, I can read a book or run some errands instead of just messing around on the internet, which somehow feels like cheating the system!). I still have to remember to be kind to myself on those days, and I can’t allow myself to discredit the work I’m doing by being my own worst critic.
  • You should be prepared to develop some workaholic tendencies. When your home is your office and your office is your home, all of the lines that separate your professional life from your personal life get pretty blurry. In my former life in corporate America, I didn’t even get my work e-mail on my phone. These days, I’m constantly connected to my e-mail, and I’m usually sending messages first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to sleep.
  • You probably shouldn’t enjoy being in your bed too much. While I definitely wish I was a better sleeper, I’m honestly kind of relieved that I’m not someone who likes to snooze until 10 in the morning or lounge in bed all day. There are moments when I feel tempted to snuggle in a little longer, but if that was more of a habit, I think that working out of my home would prove a much bigger challenge.
  • You should feel really confident about what you’re doing. Other people aren’t always going to understand your job. In my experience, they may not buy into the “work from home lifestyle” or give a whole lot of credibility to your work simply because you don’t report in to an office every day. I’ve learned to let these comments roll off my back — but, admittedly, that’s easier on the days when I’m feeling extra confident about my work and how I choose to do it. It’s important not to allow negative attitudes to throw you off your game!
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