Imagine a working day like this.
You routinely get into the office early every morning, aware that you need to be seen to be at work earlier than anyone else. Despite the fact that you are dead on your feet owing to the fact that you didn’t leave the office before midnight last night, you send a few emails to show that you are up and ‘on it’.
You write a list of the urgent things. This never gets any shorter because you are adding things to it all the time and some actions have been postponed more than once.
You sit in one place for hour after hour. You are nervous of leaving your post in case that’s the moment when the boss wants something done. There is no lunch break in this office, and heaven forbid that you nip out to get a sandwich. That important call might come in.
You don’t admit that you feel under the weather. The boss has a habit of docking your wages on sick days. Which brings us onto the subject of employee rights. There are none in this office. You’re only as good as your last job and the Boss is incredibly demanding. So much so, that you doubt you’ll ever match up to the Boss’s expectations. And the salary? Don’t even start me on that.
Sound familiar? You are probably wondering why anyone would put up with that kind of treatment.
But what if that draconian Boss is you?
We independent types are still guilty of presenteeism. Our fragile egos lead us onto that treadmill of our own making. If work is coming in, then we feel guilty for taking any time away from the project. If it isn’t, any time not ‘working’ is equally bad because it should be spent prospecting or doing the annual home spring clean. Shouldn’t it?
When you work for yourself, and you are based at home, you can, in theory, sleep all day and work only two hours starting at midnight, as long as you meet deadlines.
But it’s still a good idea to have a working routine, at least most of the time. For one thing, your working hours should respect your personal productivity rhythm. Some of us are night owls and some at their most productive at 6am.
If you don’t have regular working hours, you are far more likely to be open to a phone call with a friend during the day, or losing yourself on Facebook or Twitter.
Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate.
Here are some of the tips and tools that we’ve found useful.
- Take a good look at what you are really doing on that PC! Rescue Time is a super tool that will expose what your ‘working day’ really is and help you be more productive.
- Back to that list. We use Wunderlist and Remember the Milk but there are others. The best piece of advice we’ve ever heard about lists is that if you haven’t done it by the due date, don’t keep moving the due date. Remove the action as it clearly isn’t that important.
- Sounds obvious, but have a schedule. Build in meetings out of the home office environment if possible. We promise it will be time more productively spent than going around in a circle.
- Eat well and get some exercise – whatever floats your boat. It does so much more than make you look good. It relieves depression, anxiety and stops you loading up with biscuits at the desk. If you aren’t ready for the military fitness regime, perhaps during one of your non-productive parts of the day you can go for a brisk walk. To get you moving, here’s Johanna with some quick yoga moves for freelancers. And Emily Fawell, our friendly nutritionist with some advice on healthy eating when working at home.
- Don’t work with clients that sap your creative energy. There’s no point. Honestly, the energy that you regain will help you find clients that appreciate you.
- Outsource the work that doesn’t feed your soul, or think about getting a virtual assistant, like Moneypenny who can release valuable time that you can spend with those that make you feel good. There are lots of companies and individuals just like you that will provide that service. We even came across someone who looks after you business so you can go on holiday!
Oh. And go on. Give yourself a day or two off!
(This post is dedicated to Carole Ann Rice, who persuaded us to give KindredHQ employees better working conditions!)