Your Home Office--Lengthen That Commute!
by Matt McGovern
Are you self-employed and working at home? I am. And if you're like me, you wouldn't work anywhere else. The advantages to working at home are great--there's no commuting, you get to spend more time with family, you can tend to household chores when they arise, and the tax breaks can be significant.
But working at home also presents unique challenges, one of which is how can you be more "at work" when you need to be? The lack of a commute can be a double-edged sword. It's wonderful not to have to battle traffic, bad weather and surging gas prices. But it's also tough to create the distance that's sometimes necessary for you to focus on work while you're at home.
When I first started working at home, I often asked myself, "How do I mentally and physically disconnect from being at home so that I actually feel like I am at work, so that I'm not tempted to simply knock-off when it's two in the afternoon and the golf clubs are singing their siren song or the kids want me to go on a bike ride with them?"
For a time, I experimented with "dressing" the part--complete with button up shirt and business-casual pants--but felt somewhat "silly" sitting in my office, resplendent in my business attire, with nary a client to see me (I do all of my work by email or phone). I soon found the absurdity of my garb to be more distracting than the issue I was trying to solve!
CREATE WORK-LIKE ROUTINES
My solution has been to develop simple and flexible morning, midday, and afternoon routines that mimic a typical work day--but retain all the benefits of my being at home:
* My morning routine involves rising at roughly 7:30 a.m., eating breakfast with my family, and then after showering, shaving and brushing the ivories, I "commute" to work. Only I don't commute by car. I commute to my office via a short hike up the stairs to my office on the second floor--a hike that symbolizes what for me used to be a 20-mile drive. I then launch into my day with a check of email and phone messages, and then sequester myself in my office until midday, emerging only for coffee and the inevitable mid-morning bathroom break.
* By midday, when creative juices begin to wane, I break for lunch. This usually includes a casual walk to the mailbox and a light meal with my family. We get to visit and chat, which never could have happened if I was working out of the house. Then it's back to my office and back to work for the remainder of the day--replenished and energized.
* By 5:30 p.m. I usually pack it in, but not before engaging in some outdoor activity either solo or with my wife and kids. Usually it's a walk or bike ride, chipping golf balls from a practice tee, visiting the vegetable garden, or anything that helps me wind down and make a smooth transition from "work" to "home"--something that my lengthy return commute used to accomplish.
"BE AT WORK" IN YOUR HOME OFFICE
My office space is a 10-foot by 13-foot converted spare bedroom on the second floor of my house, with an attached 3-foot by 6-foot storage closet--ample room for a desk and chair, computer, and storage space. Sound-deadening board in the walls, plus a heavy six-panel solid wood door--complete with lock and key--make it a physically distinct space, which helps me "be at work" when I need to be.
I have no distractions unless I allow distractions.
To create an even more physically distinct space, I expect to relocate my office to a spot atop an attached garage that I plan to build in the next couple of years. This new office is certain to have many of the same features of my current space--which will revert to a spare bedroom for guests--plus the added nuance of being more physically removed from the rest of the house. I plan an entrance that is only accessible through the garage, which will certainly make for a "commute" that's much lengthier than the one I now enjoy--affording me more time to "wind up" in the morning and to "wind down" at night.
A physically distinct space coupled with the discipline to distinguish "being at work" from "being at home" will help you make the most of your work-at-home situation. The advantages to working at home are great, and the challenges of succeeding even greater. You can help stack the deck in your favor by creating daily work-like routines that instill the discipline necessary for you to "commute" to your home office in body, mind and spirit--while you still retain proximity and access to what matters most: your family, your home and the time and flexibility you need to enjoy them.
Copyright (c) 2004 by Matt McGovern--All rights reserved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matt McGovern combines a rare blend of creative and technical know-how with years of management experience and a balanced and purposeful approach to life. He has authored and edited numerous books, e-books and e-zines. Get "Know-How" his free e-newsletter at http://www.700acres.com/pages/ad_archive.html or explore ageless wisdom with his novel, "CURRENTS," at http://www.MattMcGovern.com/books.html.
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