One of the main reasons people choose to work from home is so that they can have more freedom and flexibility. They want a lifestyle with less restrictions, less schedule, and more free time...
The reality is that most people simply want to work less. Period. Having a flexible work schedule sounds ideal if you need to work around young children or need more free time to devote to other things in your life. The problem is that it becomes very easy to let those things cut into your necessary work hours...
It takes a lot of discipline and self-motivation to work at home successfully, and to manage your own work schedule. I have been working from home for 11 full years now, so I've experienced the struggles firsthand - but also the benefits.
The number one perk has been being able to stay home with my 2 children full-time. They are 11 & 16 now, but I started working from home when they were 5 months & 5 years (one on the hip, one on the hand I always say). As a single mother for 8 of those 11 years, I dont know how I would have made it otherwise.
I've had the opportunity to travel, spend quality time with my grandmother during her last 2 years, homeschool my children when my son was sick, get involved in local groups, and many other things I wouldnt have been able to do if I held a full-time job outside the home.
I've also had the opportunity to work more when I needed to and to work less when I wanted to, and to earn more money than I would have earned at any "job". Sounds great so far, doesnt it? It is
So then what's the downside, you ask?
Finding that perfect balance between flexible and productive. Dealing with the obvious home office distractions. Balancing work and parenting under the same roof. Investing the time to get to the point where you have plenty of both free time and money. And then spending each of those wisely, no doubt.
Finding that balance is a common struggle. Most people want to make the change overnight, or expect things will magically work out perfectly, but it takes time to achieve that balance - and that level of success in both your personal life and your business.
I've been through it myself, and am finally at a place in my life where I have things running smoothly. That's not to say I'm some perfect cross between Betty Crocker and Hillary Clinton. Actually, I'm not even the perfect ME (yet)...
And that's what it's all about, really - becoming the person you aspire to be.
Its easy to say things like "I want to lose weight" or "I want to double my income" or "I want to quit my job and work from home full time running an internet-based business." Its another story to actually DO those things.
And on a flexible easygoing schedule where things are running nicely, its not always easy to find the motivation or self-discipline to make major life changes like that. In fact, its easy to become complacent.
Over the years I have gone back and forth between the flexible schedule (go with the flow), and micro-managing my schedule hour for hour. I've tried day planners, desk calendars, Outlook reminders, task lists, charts, post-it notes, egg timers, time logs - you name it. The flexible schedule is much more pleasant, I assure you - but its not generally as productive.
Micro-managing your schedule and pushing yourself to the limits has its drawbacks too, of course. The two main issues (in my experience) being disappointment and discouragement. If you get the slightest bit off track, you end up with a load of negative feelings, which can be very counter-productive.
So what's the solution?
I've been pondering this quite a bit lately. Jeff Jones actually brought it up for discussion in our private group at the SSWT Forum. The timing couldnt have been better for that discussion because, like I said, this had been on my mind already.
Unfortunately, I didnt have the magic answer. The truth is - nobody does. Since we are all unique individuals with our own set of circumstances, what works for one person wont work at all for another. Its all about finding the schedule and environment where you work best.
But if I had to draw from my experience and offer some good general advice on the topic... I would suggest a cross between a flexible schedule and a strict one. To give you an example of what I mean, here are some of the things that have worked well for me over the years:
- Daily Schedule
My daily schedule is a good mix of structure and flexibility. I have specific tasks that I want to accomplish each day, and so I do those first before anything else. These tasks are required to manage and maintain my business, and generally take 1-2 hours a day at the most.
The rest of my work hours are more flexible, which leaves room for creative work and networking and other less structured tasks. This combination works out well for me because its less restrictive - and because it allows me to work as little as 5-10 hours a week when I need to run on a minimal schedule (such as when I'm sick, when I need to be away, or when the children are out of school for the summer).
- Seasonal Schedule
Over the years I've noticed some obvious trends, both with myself and with my business. There are certain times of the year that I need to be super-focused and super-productive. And there are certain times of the year that I'm simply not.
For example, seasonal marketing campaigns such as holiday related sales during Christmas require more preparation - beginning in August. Luckily the Fall tends to be a productive time for me personally, as the children have just returned to their school schedule. Summer is the slow season for much of my business, which works out well for me also because that's the season I like to spend more time doing things outdoors with the children.
It's simply not possible to maintain a highly structured schedule year-round, year after year. Its the recipe for burn-out. So monitor your trends as you go, and plan for seasonal downtime, and seasonal productivity - that works best for you.
Again, the goal is to find balance - which is a very personal objective.
The dream of having tons of freedom and flexibility comes at the price of investing tons of time and energy into changing your lifestyle completely. And maintaining that lifestyle requires (at least a little) structure and discipline.
As for me, its time to go back into super-production mode. I've got the itch to take things to the next level