When I made the decision to leave my day job to finally launch Craft & Cluster, I had a lot of concerns: from existential thoughts, such as, “Who do I even think I am to run my own business?” to petty concerns like, “What font should I use on my website?” However, I felt like most of my worries could be alleviated by answering the following question, “How am I going to adjust to working from home after having worked a day job most of my life?”
This may not be something you even think about. Isn’t it the dream of every person who has ever had a lame coworker or an hour-long commute to be able to work from home, for oneself? Often the excitement of starting your own business will block out the reality of suddenly being isolated with your own thoughts and insecurities and nary a colleague to confide in.
Woah. That just got heavy.
Let me bring you back into the exciting side of things. I wanted to share some ways I have been coping with this life-changing situation.
Know Yourself: The important thing with all of this is to know yourself and your strengths (and weaknesses).
- What is your Tendency? I highly recommend taking the Four Tendencies Quiz by Gretchen Rubin (of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin Podcast and one of my favorite authors). This will give you valuable insight into how you handle inner and outer expectations. I’ll talk more about this in a later blog post, but if you are, say, an ‘Obliger,’ then you may need some form of outer accountability to help you work from home more effectively.
- I, myself, am a ‘Questioner’ which means that I need to have a good reason to do something… it also means that I am prone to analysis paralysis, so if I need to make a decision about something, I tend to do exhaustive research before committing. Because I know this about myself, I am able to set up systems for myself which help me push out of that analysis paralysis and actually make things happen around here.
- Are you a lark or an owl? Some people are naturally early risers (larks) and some of us, myself included, are more energetic in the evenings (owls). I am not my most creative or motivated in the mornings, so I know to schedule all of my creative endeavors in the afternoon/evening and all of my mindless work in the mornings. My sister, on the other hand, is much more motivated in the mornings and tends to be dragging towards the end of the day, so she would do better to do all of her creative work in the A.M. To each their own.
Create a ‘Commute’: I’ve had commutes of various duration my whole working life. From 5 minutes to one hour, I generally used that time to get myself in the working mindset. I would listen to a book or music to help calm myself if I had a big meeting, a podcast if I needed a little motivation, or sometimes I would spend the drive in silence, contemplating the day ahead of me. So, when I started working from home, I wanted to recreate that commute in some way; I wanted some way to separate the “I’m at home” mindset from the “I am at work” mindset. To do this, I decided I would “walk to work.” Every morning, after eating breakfast and getting dressed, I leash my dogs up and we walk around the neighborhood. Some mornings, if the weather is poor or I am eager to start the day, we only walk around the block. But other mornings, if the weather is nice, the boys are having too good a time, or if I simply need more time to get my head in the right place, we will walk longer.
Create a Schedule: Sometimes when going from a job where you had someone else managing you and your time, it can seem a bit daunting to have to manage yourself. I find that it helps if I create specific tasks for myself throughout the week. Monday is my planning/strategy day; I start by going through my emails and Google Calendar to see if I have any big events, meetings, or photoshoots I need to plan around. If I have photo editing to do, I schedule that. If I need to deliver photos to a client, I schedule that as well. Then I decide what needs to be done to grow my business, including calling potential clients and posting on social media. I even go so far as to schedule time to answer emails. Scheduling your time this way can help keep you focused on work, which leads me to my next tip:
Create ‘Working Hours’: This was a big thing for me when beginning to work for myself. I was worried that the line between work time and personal time would get blurred and I would end up answering work related emails on my personal time or doing housework when I should be editing photos. So I established “Working Hours.” From 9:00 AM-5:00 PM (cue Dolly Parton), without fail, I am working. I’ll occasionally adjust those hours a bit, especially if I am REALLY excited about delivering photos to a client, but for the most part if it is after 5, I refuse to answer work related emails, phone calls, texts, etc. and likewise, I am not allowed to do any personal stuff during working hours, unless I am on a work break.
By creating working hours for myself, my husband knows not to expect me to, say, do the dishes just because I am technically at home, and my clients know that they will have to wait until the next working day to get a response from me if they email or call me “after hours.” Creating these boundaries will help keep you from work overload or from wasting working hours on personal tasks.
**UPDATE** This one is a constant struggle for me. I am still figuring it out and definitely let my lines blur too often. Just know that if you are struggling with this, you aren’t alone!
Schedule Socializing Time: One of the hardest things for me to get used to when I began working for myself was the lack of colleagues to interact with throughout the day. I didn’t realize I needed this until my second week of working for myself. My first week I had spent out and about, getting my business license, opening my bank account, and going on photoshoots, so I had plenty of human interaction to keep me happy. However, my second week was pretty lonely. I didn’t have photoshoots, client meetings, or even phone calls to bring me out of my own head and by Wednesday I was going stir-crazy. I didn’t realize what was wrong until my friend asked if I would meet her for a quick taste of wine on Thursday. I went out and the second I saw her, I felt so much better.
I consider myself an ambivert (I derive energy both from socializing and from being alone) so some days I am absolutely happy being alone with my thoughts and photos; but other days I really, really miss having interactions with people. So, if it looks like I don’t have any photoshoots or meetings on the horizon, I now schedule socializing time. This sometimes means that I am scheduling a lunch date with my husband or it means I am getting a coffee down the street and talking with the barista.
I’m not saying that every person who works from home needs this. You may be psyched to be on your own! But for those of us who need some form of socialization, even if only occasionally, scheduling time to interact with humans can help keep you from losing your mind.
Bonus! Chunk Your Time Down: This one has been HUGE for me. When I feel myself getting really distracted, or I know I have too much to do and am feeling the early signs of overwhelm, I set a timer for 20 minutes and bust. things. out.
You can do anything in 20 minutes!
How I use this strategy: I look at my schedule, figure out what the priority is, set my timer and work for 20 minutes. During that time, I am not allowed to do anything but the task. Once the timer goes off, I give myself ten minutes to chill, hang out with the dogs & chickens, or get a glass of water… whatever. Then I set another 20 minute timer and do whatever task is next.
Heather Daenitz is the founder and photographer of Craft & Cluster, a wine & beer photography and social media marketing company based in Santa Barbara County, California.
When she isn't photographing and assisting wineries and breweries with their social media, Heather can be found hanging out with her husband, two dogs, and three chickens in their backyard garden.