This is a video from a Udemy course I created a few years ago to help people maximize their efficiency while working from remotely or from home. Instead of selling it as a paid course, I’m sharing the content here, for free. I hope you find it helpful. -Ron Stauffer
When you work from home, boundaries between work life and home life, and personal and professional start to blur, and it gets a little bit confusing.
Even if you’re self-employed like me, where you really don’t have a rigid schedule because you can kind of do whatever you want. I recommend, if at all possible, make a schedule for yourself. You might not have a boss that’s breathing down your neck, wondering where you are at 8:01 AM because work starts at 8:00 AM. But you should still have some sort of sense of “I’m going to start working at this time, and then I’m going to work for this many hours, and then I’m going to stop and have a lunch break, and then I’m going to do this, and then I’m going to be done with work.”
Why? It’s good for your mind, it’s good for your productivity, and it’s also good for the people around you if you have anybody who is at home with you. Technically since I’m self-employed, I can work whenever I want. Or I could not work whenever I want. But I’m really good about making sure that if I’m going to take a Tuesday off, for example, I let people know to some extent so that they’re not wondering where I am and why I’m not responding to emails.
Also, something I struggle with, but something that’s important is giving my clients an understanding of what time I start and end work. If you’re self-employed, or if you’re working from home, it’s easy to be checking your phone at 10:15 PM on a Friday night. And it’s easy for people who know that about you to expect you to respond.
If you don’t set a clear expectation of “Here’s when I start, here’s when I stop,” then people might send you an email at 5:45 in the morning and be irritated that you haven’t responded by 8:07. Or, towards the end of the day, it could be that somebody sends you an email at 9:30 PM and is wondering why you haven’t responded by midnight.
Working from home, as I’ve said, requires discipline, not only for yourself but also for holding that line. If you tell your clients, “I’m available, starting at 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM,” then you need to stick to that, so they respect that. But also it’s important for your own self because it’s so easy when you work from home… Those boundaries between work and life and home and personal and professional, they just start to blur, and it gets a little bit confusing. And then maybe your family wonders, “are you working? Are you not working?” Maybe you start to wonder, “I don’t know: am I working? Am I not working? Is it irresponsible for me to be watching a movie at 11:00 AM on a Tuesday morning?”
I don’t know, I can’t decide for you, but you need to decide what that is for yourself. What is your schedule? What time do you start? What time do you stop? One thing that I can promise you is being self-employed; if I tell people that I stop work at a certain time, they’ll respect that as long as I do.
Meaning if I’ve told them that I stopped work at 6:00 PM, but I actually respond to emails at 9:15 PM, they’ll start to get in the habit of thinking, well, he’s available at 9:15 PM because the last time I emailed him about this, he responded.
Set a schedule that you can respect, for your sake and for their sake. If you have a family, as I do, they probably already have their own schedule. And if you’re struggling to create a schedule that works for you and them, try to piggyback on their schedule as much as possible.
For example, where my kids wake up in the morning, and they start getting ready for school. That’s a great time for me to get up because the house is really loud. There are clanging pots and pans and dishes and kids yelling and hair brushing and door slamming and singing and all kinds of things that are totally distracting. And I can’t sleep through that. So even if I wanted to say, “Well, I’m self-employed, so I should be able to get up at a later hour.” That may be true, but it’s just not going to happen.
So I can use the time that they start in the morning as a good starting point for me because it’s already written in stone. They’re going to school at this time, which means they’re going to get up at this time, no matter what. I should use that to my advantage. I should use that as a cue. That’s a good time for me to make sure I’m already up and awake and working.
Similarly, if I know, for example, that my kids come home from school at 3:45 PM, and they always do, that’s a great time for me to know that I should do something else because when they come home, it’s going to be so loud! In my house, 3:45 PM is the craziest, most chaotic time of day. So I use that as my cue to be gone by 3:30 PM. I try to hit the gym; I try to take a walk, whatever it is I do. Sometimes I go to my coworking space just a couple of miles down the road… Whatever it is that I need to do to get out of the house, that’s the time to do it because I know, like clockwork, at 3:45, the house is going to be full of chaotic, crazy noise.
I also know that’s a terrible time for me to try to have phone calls or video conferences. So if a client says, “Hey, can you talk at 4:00 or can you talk at 3:45?” I have to be careful to say, “No, I can’t,” I don’t need to be very specific about the reason why, but I need to be honest about the fact that no, that’s a really terrible time for me.
“Can we do it at 4:30 or 5:00 or before then?” Typically for me, when I’m working with clients, I try to make sure that all my phone calls and video conferences can happen before 3:45. So whatever your family schedule is, or your house schedule with your roommates or housemates or your family members… whatever that natural schedule is that they already have, if you can fit your schedule around it, it will go well with you, and there will be less friction.
Did you find this helpful? Would you like to see information on a different topic? Do you have thoughts on anything at all that might make this website better or help you in your journey? Tell me below! – Ron
Ron Stauffer is a solopreneur and freelancer with over 14 years of experience running a small company. He’s extremely familiar with the loneliness, frustration, and challenges unique to freelance work and running a business of one. He started Free Soloing to help other people just like him.