Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Home is Where the - Ooo, shiny!

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  • Lilith __,

    My experience of working from home, particularly if you’re running your own business, is it’s a great idea to keep a log of the time you spend working, and how long your different tasks take. I think a lot of people working for themselves are really good at some things and useless/slow at others. If there’s something that’s taking a lot of your time and effort, would it make more sense to pay someone else to do it? Or can you find some way of doing it less? Can you focus more on your more lucrative clients and shed some of the others?

    It’s good to log your breaks and other activities, too, like how long you spend doing housework. It’s easy to spend potentially-productive time cleaning and tidying the house just because you’re in it. You might find it works better if you put off the menial tasks until later in the day when your brain is tired anyway.

    In any case if you have a log you can keep an eye on the big picture, and experiment with structuring your day in different ways.

    One thing I’ve never known how to deal with is phonecalls from family and friends when I’m attempting to get stuff done. I suppose ideally you’d let the answerphone take all calls and then call back at a more suitable time, but in practice it’s hard! It’s so nice to hear from people when you’re home alone.

    And likewise with emails. Answering email, even just work-related email, can be so disruptive. Perhaps you need to set certain blocks of time aside for doing email, has anyone out there managed to do that?

    ETA: what Russell says about exercise, and generally getting out of the house sometimes: +1

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3447 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Are you switching on your computer before your coffee machine?

    Both are very rarely switched off. It's not good for them, you know?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18888 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Islander,

    That link has made my day Josh!

    +1

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16667 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Chairs – absolutely right Russell.
    I had a Formway Life chair for nearly a decade, until the fabric back gave way & the moulded armrests cracked* – so I replaced it with an Aeron. The Aeron is guarenteed for a decade, was expensive but hey! I spend up to 12 hours a day sitting down…

    *Formway were absolutely marvellous when I asked if it could be repaired. Yes, no worries – you get it to a point where a freight company can pick it up, and we’ll do the rest. My lovely Life was renewed with a new back, new armrests, & a general tune-up. And here’s the kicker – neither the repairs nor the freight (from Whataroa to Auckland and back to Oamaru**) were charged for! Formway, I love you!

    **Oamaru? I spend quite a bit of time over the hill at my mother’s home, and the Life is now the computer chair there.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Lilith __,

    And likewise with emails. Answering email, even just work-related email, can be so disruptive. Perhaps you need to set certain blocks of time aside for doing email, has anyone out there managed to do that?

    A significant part of my work day is actually email-based, so I need to be checking it constantly throughout the day. What I do is only check my work emails, never my personal emails. I don't have a landline phone though (well, I do, but I never plug it in because the only people with that number are telemarketers) so i don't worry about personal calls-the majority of the calls I recieve during the day are work-related, and I can always pull the "I'm sorry, could you call the office line instead?" routine if it's taking up too much time.

    For context, I work from home as part of a team with a largely discrete amount of work each day that needs to be done, and with a virtual desktop that effectively lets me do the same things I do from my work PC. Obviously that makes my situation a little different from many other posters.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    Re. chairs, this got me thinking recently about my own workspace arrangements. I'm cycling less and less recently because of time, weather and health, so the more passive exercise I can get in, the better.

    Also, I just realized another salient fact about my abortive attempts to study at home - I had barely any internet then! No Facebook, no Twitter, and especially no PAS. I'd be totally doomed now.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Gregor Ronald,

    I worked from home for a year, and found it was hard to get started (do dishes, hang out washing, mow lawn, quick trip to supermarket) and even harder to stop - I'd keep thinking about a project and end up working on it after dinner. I was on my own all day, and ignoring my family in the evenings. It's good to be able to walk out of work and close the door behind you.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 72 posts Report Reply

  • barnaclebarnes,

    Protip for those working in the fringe suburbs. Generator has drop in rates that are $23/week. It is a really nice space and spending a couple of afternoons a week in there seems like a great plan. I'm currently only 1 day a week at home but spent a bunch of time in the last working from home. My thought pretty much echo what everyone else says:

    * Get a good chair (I've got a Aeron - 10 year warranty, super comfy)
    * Get out of the house - Just make sure you have at least one errand to run each day, even if it is just posting a letter.
    * Don't put off the work you really should be doing. Make those calls that you know you need to make.
    * Enjoy it.

    Glen

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • Sue,

    if it feels like work is taking over your life, time yourself, you may find you are working longer hours than you need to.

    fresh air even if life is giving you the shittiest day in the weather world, get outside even if you only walk round the house a couple of times

    sometimes people's best work is created and sparked by talking to others so make sure you do that, make sure you have 'water cooler' moments as scheduled coffees.

    find out ways to stay connected with the people you work with, online chat becomes your friend that way, so those questions you used to walk down to the other end of the office or over your computer to ask are easily done. Also those parts of the day where you asked people how their weekends/ projects were doing, online chat is good for that as well.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 479 posts Report Reply

  • Leopold,

    Get a dog. Take it for walk before you start work, and after you decide to finish work. In between bounce ideas off it. Gives you compulsory exercise and makes an ideal way to punctuate day's work; also provides work companion who's not going to be too challengiing conversation-wise

    Since Jan 2007 • 146 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Sue,

    make sure you have ‘water cooler’ moments as scheduled coffees

    For a while I had a flatmate who also worked from home. We were at opposite ends of the house, but we'd meet from time to time in the kitchen getting food and drinks for ourselves, and have a quick chat. It cheered us both up a lot!

    If you know anyone living nearby who works from home, see if you can get together sometimes. I've found the sense of isolation one of the hardest things about working at home. Email and internet chat are OK, but actually seeing people gives me more of a buzz.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3447 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to barnaclebarnes,

    Don’t put off the work you really should be doing. Make those calls that you know you need to make

    I used to really hate calling clients who hadn't paid their accounts on time and I would put off calling them, or not do it at all. Then one day I decided I was being silly, and I needed to treat it just like any other task, so I would make a list and sit down and do all those calls at once. And I made a point of never saying I really needed the money, even though I did. I would just say I was calling regarding my invoice dated -/- and it'd be nice to get that sorted out. And then I'd give them a week and repeat if they still hadn't paid. And I found calling was hugely more effective than posting reminders, which usually had no effect at all. I once had a client ring me, angry because I "hadn't said anything" about an unpaid bill gong back some months: in fact I had written three times.

    It's so easily to take these things personally, if people don't pay or don't treat you well, but it's pointless to get upset about it. The only thing to do is to get what you're owed, and it they go on being difficult, consider not dealing with them again.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3447 posts Report Reply

  • Sara Bee, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Is that the "Life" chair, or similar, Russell?

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 61 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I would like to nominate myself as The Least Productive Person To Ever Work From Home. I am easily distracted by pretty much everything, I have virtually no self-discipline, and at the moment I am additionally stymied by a miniscule work area which has absolutely no privacy. Basically, without having a strict deadline I will let a project languish in the ether until finishing it would be of no use to anyone. I have now instituted a ‘when do you want this done by?’ question rule for every single thing I’m given to do. My one saving grace is that once I eventually get down to doing something, I am reasonably speedy, and I can cobble stuff together well enough by any given deadline.

    I think, in other words, that I am The-Anti-Lucy’s-Husband. :)

    ETA: I wrote this post instead of searching for articles in a database. Heh.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3656 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    Every so often I consider doing some distance learning (both because many things I'm interested in are only offered that way and because most things don't fit neatly around kids' school hours) but, as someone who has never found the middle ground between total pissing around and absolute tunnel vision, I'm pretty sure it would all go horribly wrong in very short order.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 705 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    And whatever you do, do not spend too much time nyaning.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    YMMV but I've found kids invaluable for getting up in the morning, and knocking off in the evening. This is, however, because my wife and I have made a point of ensuring their lives are quite structured, especially concerning sleep time. So at 5pm, we eat together, that gets me out of the office.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8523 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    there's our family work-from-home secret

    Also helps to not worry too much about the staying sane thing, it is a thesis you are expected to lose touch with the real world.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3392 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to BenWilson,

    I don't know, kids seem like a pretty expensive alternative to an alarm clock.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    I don’t know, kids seem like a pretty expensive alternative to an alarm clock.

    And it's a bit of a crap-shoot as to whether you'll get ones whose body clocks suit your preferred work schedule or not.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 705 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Isabel Hitchings,

    And it's a bit of a crap-shoot as to whether you'll get ones whose body clocks suit your preferred work schedule or not.

    Yes, I'd be amazed if it continues like this into their teen years.

    I don't know, kids seem like a pretty expensive alternative to an alarm clock.

    Ironically, the only alarm clock used in the house is in their room. It's a "must not rise before x oclock" kind of alarm.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8523 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    I don’t know, kids seem like a pretty expensive alternative to an alarm clock.

    Unreliable too. My daughter would sleep until 10 every day if possible; my son gets up at 7, but he knows that if he wakes us his unencumbered computer time is over for the day.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Leopold,

    Alarm clock? Kids? Try a cat which is very insistent on being fed at 6 AM - will wake both you and the dog...

    Since Jan 2007 • 146 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I was rather more surprised that I probably out to have been to discover that when night owls breed the result is more night owls. Ask me how hideous school mornings are around here.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 705 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew G, in reply to Danielle,

    I'm exactly like you in this respect, Danielle. If i don't have a deadline it doesn't get done; if I do it gets done really close to the deadline.
    I read a book a couple of years ago by Tom Hodgkinson called "How to be idle" and I've not looked back. The wierd thing is though, despite myself, I seem to somehow get stuff done and keep things ticking over.

    Napier • Since Mar 2007 • 47 posts Report Reply

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