When I first started working full-time from home, I had a very rigid, structured workday. As months and months passed, I let myself allow that schedule to become more fluid–partly out of necessity and partly out of a comfortableness that had developed between me and my work. Lately, work has been PILING on. In case you didn’t know, not only am I a novelist and author, but I also work as an administrator and chief editor for an awesome graphic design company called Maiedae. As Maiedae grows, so does my workload. This is a huge blessing, but it also means that I must be a better time-manager so that I can get all my personal writing work done and my Maiedae responsibilities each day.
In the beginning of the huge work-surge, I simply approached everything from a project//task viewpoint. This worked for a few weeks, but it soon became clear that I wasn’t efficiently working in a way that would allow me to accomplish all the things that needed to be done each day. This led to a bit of stress, I’ll admit. Then, my wonderful Philosopher took a look at the situation and recommended something brilliant: time accountability. This, for me, comes in the form of keeping a more formal time sheet and allotting specific, set amounts of time for certain tasks.
To give you an example, this is what my time sheet looked like yesterday:
|January 28, 2013:||10:40-11:30 (50 min.)
11:30-12:00 (30 min.)
1:00-3:00 (2 hours)
3:00-4:40 (1 hr. 40 min.)
4:40-5:08 (28 min.)
|Blog, Catch-Up, Marketing
GW: 100-114 (rewrites//write)
BTM: edited 133-136
Sent out a review submission
Not only did I keep track of exactly when I worked, but also exactly what I did during those hours and minutes. Some of you may not warm up to the idea of keeping such meticulous track of your work hours, but for me this has been a LIFE SAVER. Before the Philosopher recommended this strategy, I was already keeping a work log for each day listing exactly what I did, but I kept time strictly out of it–except for my Maiedae work, since I must keep track of hours for my payment at the end of each month.
When you’re a writer, you’re not getting paid for your hours. You’re getting paid for your product. This thought gave me the impression that I didn’t really need to worry about the time aspect in the beginning–except that I should try to work a normal 40 hour week (sometimes more) like a normal professional person. Over time, though, I came to realize that working from home opens you up to a variety of additional responsibilities and duties that a corporate worker usually doesn’t experience: you become the household errand runner.
Since you work from home, you do have the flexibility to leave the “office” during the morning or afternoon to run by the bank, post office, random doctor’s appointment, etc. Because of this, it can be difficult to work an average 8-5 day every single day of the week. My advice? Don’t sweat it too much. If you look at my time sheet above, you’ll notice that I worked somewhere between 5 and 6 hours yesterday. That’s because I had to go to physical therapy yesterday morning and then the grocery store afterwards. BUT! Last Friday, I didn’t get done with work-related activities until 9 PM. Other days last week, I worked late as well. If you’ve got a lot of errands one week that cut into your work time, make up for it another week. Try to make sure you’re getting your MINIMUM 40 hours in even if you have to work late a few nights every now and then.
Working from home on your dream career deserves attention all the time and long hours occasionally. But you know what? It’s WORTH IT. I adore my job. I adore working from home and being accountable for my own time. That’s just it, though. I’m accountable for my own time. At the end of the day, I want to know that I put in a terrific day’s work and keeping a precise log of my hours and activities helps me to do that. For you, it may look different. You may keep a more fluid schedule and STILL feel the same pride at the end of a productive workday. Whatever system works for you, go for it! Just be accountable for your time. If you’ve been struggling with this, I say try my time sheet method! Open up a Word document, create a table, and go to town. You may find it’s extremely helpful or not. At least you’ll have tried to be more accountable with your work hours!
Do you work full-time from home? If so, did you have a tough transitional period from a structured work environment to one of complete freedom? What methods did you use to become accountable for your time? I’d love to hear about your experiences!