Let’s face it, working at home is a tough gig. It’s tough no matter what field you’re in, but if you’re still struggling to make money at home, whether it’s writing or art or another creative endeavor, you may have the added burden of guilt over carving out time to pursue your goals. Remember, office hours aren’t just for people who already have an established career, but also for people trying to jumpstart one. If you’re serious about your goals, you need dedicated time.
One of the best things about working at home is the flexibility we have, but along with that we have the responsibility to discipline ourselves to get the job done. If we have families, especially younger kids, we need to factor that into the rotation of spinning plates. Before I launch into how to set office hours at home, here are a few reasons why they matter.
Office hours at home:
- Define boundaries between work and family
- Help you carve out dedicated time to get your job done
- Allow you to close the door and walk away when you’re hours are over
- Establish respect for the job you do
For all those reasons—and I’m sure there are more I haven’t thought of—carving out office hours will make a difference in the work you’re able to produce, and in the quality of your life outside of work. Thinking that you can multitask all day, produce high-quality work AND have a thriving personal life is a stretch. You might achieve that for a while, but burnout will eventually catch up with you. But by establishing office hours, you can work when it’s time to work, and play when it’s time to play.
How to Establish Office Hours at Home
Though the particulars of everyone’s situations are different, more than likely we all have challenges to overcome as we try to either work at home or pursue our goals. There’s no one easy path. First, let’s help you figure out the best time for you to dedicate to your work.
Chart the Course of Your Day
For a few days you need to keep track of your daily routines. Some routines are scheduled down to fifteen to thirty minute blocks like mine, and some are more flexible…a.k.a. eat breakfast before noon then get dressed before 2:00. It could even be that there’s not much of a discernible pattern at all—but even that is helpful to know.
Analyze the Patterns
Look for the predictable parts of the day. For example, I know that on weekdays my kids will always, always, always be working independently in the afternoon. If you have a point in the day that you know you have down time, make a note. Also note times where you absolutely cannot have a focused moment to yourself. Even if each day of the week is different, you will start to notice the ebb and flow.
Decide what needs to be tweaked before you block off your office hours based on what you discovered during your analysis. Consider activities that need to be cut or if time outside the home needs to be reduced. You may also consider what areas of your schedule need to be delegated or outsourced by hiring or trading for help.
Plan Your Office Hours
Once you’ve found the blocks of time you need, write it in your schedule and post it for your family or other relevant people to see. Ask for their support and cooperation, reminding them why it’s important that you are able to work uninterrupted from home.
General Tips for Office Hours at Home
- You may have one long block of time to work each day, or you may have several smaller ones
- Office hours may include evenings and/or late nights
- Weekends are not off limits
If you’re looking for more details on establishing office hours, check out my 25-page PDF guide, Time Management for Writers where you’ll discover how to reclaim massive quantities of time. Office hours are essential, but are only one part of the equation when you’re looking to find more time to pursue your goals.
Do you have office hours?