Working at home is not for the faint of heart—nor for the easily distracted.
I have worked at home for over fifteen years and I know a lot about distractions. While I no longer have small children or teenagers in the house, the distractions dangled before my eyes by the rest of my life are countless.
Know your direction
Facebook is fascinating, blogs are brilliant, and email is endless, but if spending time on any of these will not result in my business success, I will have wasted precious time looking at them. In order to avoid distractions it is vital that you know what your goals are for your work.
I will be the first to admit that it’s not easy to stop and ask yourself if what you’re about to do will contribute to your goals, but once you get in the habit, I think you’ll find that your productivity will increase, and most likely your bottom line, too.
The Internet is a fun toy, so if you remind yourself that cat videos and knitting blogs are for off-work times, you won’t feel deprived of those enjoyments, and you will get a lot more done.
Give your brain a break
For creative people and dedicated individuals, putting your head down and working straight through can happen without you realizing that hours have passed. I tend to write or work on art or websites only to look up and realize that it’s already 4:00 PM and I’ve hardly left my desk for hours.
A good way to avoid this is to set a timer to ring after fifty minutes of work. When it goes off, get up, walk around, breathe deeply, stretch, and adjust your gaze to something far away out your window. This is good for your brain, your circulation, and your eyesight.
Move it, baby
This brings me to my final point in this series. Be sure to build breaks into your day that include going outside and getting some fresh air. Go weed your garden for ten minutes, take a brisk walk to the mailbox or the corner store, or just walk around the block. It’s not healthy to sit for hours at a time.
It’s also important to have human contact, so if you work alone all day, be sure to factor in a trip to the library, or a networking event so that you get out of the house. Working at home can be lonely and isolating, even if you’re an introvert and love your own company.
Get up, move around, see people, and do something fun. You will have more success if you balance your work life with lots of other activities and you’ll enjoy it all more, too.
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Working at home can mean your ultimate success or your worst nightmare.
You’ve kicked the 9-5 job to the curb and have joined the ranks of those blessed few who get to work at home. You crawl out of bed your first morning of freedom and are at your desk bright and early.
You may already have your time planned but it you don’t, it’s a good idea to put some schedules and systems into place. Trying to accomplish things with a loosy-goosey day plan (which is no plan) isn’t going to contribute to your success.
Without structure inherent in a job environment, it’s up to you to impose structure on your own time. The easiest way to do this is to write a daily schedule. Start by listing your main goals, and then break those out into a task list. By assigning “appointment” times, or duration times, to each task, you can stay on track without getting lost in the many choices you may have.
A great way to accomplish a lot in an efficient manner is to batch similar work together. For example, if you have appointments out of your home office, arrange for them all to be done on the same day, thereby saving travel time.
You can also look after social media posts of all kinds in one session, say from 9:00 until 10:00. This not only focuses your attention on the task at hand, but it eliminates some of the temptation to click over to Facebook or Twitter to check out what your friends are saying several times a day.
Keep work in the work space
Regardless of what type of work you do, whether sitting at a computer, or sanding cabinets in your shop, it helps to separate home life from work by keeping work in the space meant for it. Believe me, if your work gets spread all over the house and your kids are moving your papers or tools, you’re opening the door to lots of family conflict.
Don’t eat at your desk, and don’t sleep in your office or workshop. Stop trying to do more than one thing at a time.
Beyond that, it’s a good idea to make it clear in your own mind when you are “at work” and when you’re home. While people often believe that the temptation is to do too little work when you work at home, for entrepreneurs the opposite is generally the case. It’s far too easy to work all the time, especially when you love what you do.
In Part 3, we’ll discuss those pesky distractions and how to rise above the din.
You’ve achieved the dream, dumped the job, and are working at home. Now what?
Many people have the dream of getting out of the corporate rat race, leaving the stressful commute behind, and starting a business working from home. If you’ve managed to make that happen, Yay, you!
So now that your commute is down the hall instead of down the freeway, how do you structure your days so that you succeed? I’ve been working from home for over fifteen years and I’ve developed some essential strategies to make things work.
Okay, this sounds too simplistic. Of course, you’re going to get up. But let me tell you, the temptation to lie in bed late can be strong if you’re not naturally a morning person. But remember, you’re still getting up and going to work so lazing in bed in the morning isn’t an option.
If you’re like me and live on the west coast, those folks on the east coast who may be your clients have already been up and working for three hours before your eyes open.
One of the perks of working at home is that you can work in your pyjamas. Who’s to know, right?
However, there is a certain mindset that goes with being in your nightclothes and that is that you’re still on leisure hours. Besides, how you do one thing is how you do everything so sloppy is as sloppy does.
If you conduct business via Skype, or Zoom, where people will see you, it is doubly important that you look presentable and professional. Fix yourself up as though you’re going to the office, because you are.
While we’re on the subject of sprucing up, it’s also a good idea to make your work space presentable. One reason for this is because of visual calls online; the other reason is that a neat work space makes doing your job easier.
Besides being a writer, I’m a visual artist, and like most visual people, I’m happier when I can see what I need. But honestly, it gets away on me frequently. The “I’ll just put that here for now” method of dealing with incoming materials means it doesn’t take long until I’m overwhelmed with messes.
I’m not saying that you have to constantly be cleaning up, just regularly tidy up your space. The best way to stay on top of that is with systems, which we’ll look at in the next article in this three-part series.
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1. Appreciate something
Looking for the negative is an easy, and bad, habit. To change how you habitually think, you have to…change your thoughts. A good way to begin to do this is to choose to appreciate the good things you already have.
Did you have a good sleep last night in a comfortable bed?
Do you have someone with whom to share your breakfast?
Do you know at least one person who loves you?
Is the sun shining through your windows?
Do you have friends to talk to?
When you begin to look for them, you will see myriad ways to appreciate the good things in your life. Doing so will raise your level of happiness.
2. Relax about life
Most of us stress out about a lot of things that don’t really matter. If your spouse doesn’t load the dishwasher in just theperfect way, come on, the world won’t come to and end. Other drivers can up your stress levels, but only if you let them. Don’t think about or judge them and you will be a more relaxed driver.
Have you ever seen water on a duck’s back? Nope. It rolls right off. For that matter, have you ever seen a duck wracked by stress? I thought not.
3. Do something kind for someone else
Kindness is good for the soul—yours and someone else’s. There is something about getting over yourself that makes us all more stable human being, and happier ones. Whenever you have the chance to do a kindness for someone, take it. That will make two people happy at the same time.
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I work with a lot of writers and I have taught art classes, led writing workshops, and tutored both artists and writers.
Sometimes people ask me if they should take a class or a course, either online or locally, in person. Here is my answer:
It depends what your goal is.
Yes, you should take a class, or some kind of instruction if you want to improve your work. This can be done in a myriad of ways. When I began exploring watercolours my first step was to borrow books from my local library and study what different artists recommended.
I learned early on that there are many different approaches even in this one medium. Since my goal was to increase my skill level, i.e. become more professional, I enrolled in a studio class that I continued to attend for a couple of years. In that class I learned many techniques how to use the medium to produce work that reflected my own style.
(Coincidentally, in the studio next door, another class leader taught all the students to copy the style of the instructor.)
During that same period I also decided I wanted to develop my writing skills. I followed the same pattern. First, library books, and then writing classes. Both were beneficial.
All this took place before the advent of the Internet and online courses. Now, I’m a big fan of classes online. They are easy and quick to access and you can start almost immediately after you’ve made the decision. You can generally work at your own pace without leaving home.
Among the disadvantages of courses online is that you will likely be working alone and unless you’re self-motivated, you may find that life gets in the way of finishing what you started. However, a well-done course or leaders will usually also offer follow up, a forum, or Facebook group so you stay engaged and motivated until the end.
A local class or course offers the benefit of social contact but requires you to show up at a specific time. It is fun to get together with others who share your interest and to learn as a group. The downside can be heading out on a dark and stormy night may put you off getting to the class.
So, here is my question:
If you wanted to pursue either a writing course, or an art course, which would you prefer: online or in person?
Please leave your answer as a comment below as your choice will help me to develop some programs that I have in mind. Thanks.
“I might forgive but I’ll never forget.”
Forgiving someone who has wronged or hurt you is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make. This might surprise you, but you don’t have to forget. What you want to do is take the pain out of that memory. However, if you don’t forgive, you will be the one who keeps on suffering.
Someone has wronged you.
The important thing to remember is that forgiving doesn’t mean that you have not been wronged. On the contrary, if you believe that you have been wronged you are going to feel it. You will know if you feel hurt, insulted, or rejected. What that person did may have been entirely unintentional. Or it may not have.
Acknowledge to yourself that you believe you have been wronged. What that means is that you believe that someone owed you something and did not deliver. It can be that you are owed respect, but were treated disrespectfully. You may feel that you were owed kindness or understanding, and received cruelty or meanness instead.
The reasons for being wronged vary from the simple, such as a snippy comeback, to the horrific, such as physical or emotional abuse. It might surprise you to realize that it doesn’t matter the intensity or character of the wrong. What matters is your response to it.
Bitterness takes root.
Unforgiveness begins like a tiny seed that sprouts into anger, resentment, and offense. If allowed to grow it puts down roots and those roots are bitterness. When bitterness takes over your soul, it grows its friends, hostility, cynicism, scorn, contempt, and all manner of negative visitors. This is where the danger lies.
Science is only just beginning to admit what your grandma probably told you years ago—that negative emotions have a direct impact on your health and happiness. You see, not forgiving someone who has hurt you prolongs the pain for you long after the perpetrator has forgotten all about it. For the sake of your own health and peace you must forgive.
How do you let it go?
Try this method of forgiving:
(You understand that if someone has also broken the law, the appropriate action must be taken.)
The Bible says that vengeance belongs to God, not to us. By forgiving others, we free ourselves from the sentence of suffering for someone else’s wrongdoing.
Our western society is a culture of striving. The prevailing attitude is that if you’re not knocking yourself out striving toward a goal, you’re wasting time and taking up space.
While I agree that it’s important to know where you want to go and what you want to do to make your life feel worthwhile, too many of us are striving at breakneck speed toward the unknown. Believe it our not, there is a word for this: coddiwomple. It means to travel purposefully toward a vague destination.
When I first read that word, I had to stop and ask myself if that’s what I’m doing. And surprisingly, the answer is, at least in some areas, yes. I’m busy working, striving, and reaching for a destination that’s kind of blurry.
How does this happen?
I believe that we’re products of our environment to such an extent that we simply flow in the direction of everyone else. (There is a reason Jesus compared us to sheep.)
But what would happen if you stopped? If we each took time to look carefully at all the “things” we are chasing, would we still want them?
To find that out, two things are necessary.
1) We must know what we truly value.
2) We must seek peace in our lives and live in that place where peace resides.
Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it?
In my program, The Wish Plan, which I wrote and teach, the very first exercise assists you in determining what you truly value. I can’t put enough emphasis on the importance of knowing this.
It’s easy to spend precious hours, days, and years of our lives striving for something that we don’t really, in our hearts, even want. That’s not a good way to spend a life.
So, if you decide for even a day to stop striving for whatever you’re reaching for, and simply pay attention to what is right in front of you, how would that feel?
Sometimes when we stop, take a rest, and listen to our hearts, the answers come. So does the peace.
This is a question that people have asked me about writing fiction. Where do my ideas come from? The answer to that is simple: They are everywhere.
If you look at situations and people as subjects for a romance novel or novella, it’s not hard to imagine stories around them, once you get in the habit of doing so. Keep your notebook handy.
Here is an example: Recently a distant relative of mine got married in Hawaii. I saw the photos on Facebook, looked at the beautiful bride, and enjoyed the romantic, tropical setting. I don’t know these people personally so I don’t know their actual story. What I can do is use their photos as a jumping off point for creating a romantic plot.
The first step to coming up with a romance plot is to ask, what if?
If you have ever spent time in an airport waiting for your flight to be called, you’ve had lots of time to watch people and make up stories about them. The tired-looking woman in the business suit—see her over there, texting—perhaps she has spent so much time on the road that her boyfriend is losing interest. What does she have to do to keep her relationship alive? Or, perhaps she is never in on place long enough to have a relationship but she longs for a romance and a family.
A man wearing climbing gear sits next to the window reading a newspaper. Where has he come from and where is he going? Is there a woman in the city wishing he loved her more than he loves the mountains? You have enough conflict there to create a dynamic plot.
The young adults playing volleyball on the beach all look so happy and carefree. But what if that girl with the brown ponytail looks longingly at the tall, blonde guy who never seems to notice her? What is their story?
The choice, of course, is yours. You can make up any tale you like about anyone you like. Put them in a setting that appeals to you, and in a situation that is difficult. Give them an attraction for each other, but lots of obstacles that they have to overcome before getting together.
When you figure out those basics, voilà! You have a romantic plot.
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Remember those summer days when you played outside until long after the sun went down and came in smiling and worn out? After you mom made you wash and get into your summer pyjamas you flopped into bed and instantly fell asleep between crisp cotton sheets. You woke when the sun came in your window and hit the ground ready for another fun day.
That was then, you say, and this is now.
Stay with me for a moment. What happened along the way that robbed us of the delicious experience of a good night’s sleep? Our date books are crammed with commitments; we’re on call for everyone and the dog, and after another exhausting day, we fall into bed only to be wakened by snoring mates, full bladders, or the thought of tomorrow’s schedules.
We really need to re-learn the art of the wonderful sleep. For sleeps to be luscious and satisfying, we need to put aside the cares of the day early in the evening. If the cares of the day are so numerous that it is not possible to retire them early, then perhaps it is time to re-think how much we are trying to cram into our days.
Not long ago, I felt caught in the constant swirling cycle of too many things to do and not enough time to do them all. I stayed up too late, woke in the night and lay awake thinking about important every detail I must remember to circumvent some crisis. Eventually falling asleep just before dawn, I then spent my days like a flag at half-mast. I was neither awake nor asleep but dragged through my days too foggy to accomplish much at all. Anxiety and fluctuating hormones were ruining my life. Finally, I went to see my doctor. He prescribed a rather benign drug whose side-effect is that it makes you sleepy. I re-entered the world of the childlike sleep.
Once I began sleeping well again, I had the clarity required to see what needed to change to make my life simpler and less stressful. I realized that there are some things that I will not be able to do, that I must choose one main course in life and focus on it. My evenings have become quieter and calmer. I spend more time with my husband. And I look forward to going to bed, sliding between my pale yellow sheets and reading, or snuggling into my puffy pillow and drifting off.
Sleeping luxuriously means giving your whole self to the process.
It may not seem easy to go back to those delicious sleeps of childhood, but it is possible to improve your sleep life. By endeavouring to make the experience a luscious one, you improve your chances of being well-slept.
Celebrate often and laugh lots
Most of what we think is a big deal is really no big deal. Holidays and family events are obvious reasons to celebrate, but can sometimes also be exhausting if you are trying to live up to traditional standards or other people’s ideas about how a celebration should happen. Instead, why not pick your own reasons and ways to celebrate?
Celebrate a perfect hair day by taking yourself out for iced coffee. The fact that your bathroom got cleaned is cause for celebration, especially if someone else did it. How about celebrating a good night’s sleep? What about the first daffodil bloom in your garden or the first hummingbird at your feeder? Life is full of special and ordinary moments so why not just pick some and make them a celebration?
While you are at it, choose fun people with whom to celebrate. Choose to spend as much time as possible with people who make you laugh. It has been known for ages that laughter is good for you. The Bible says that a happy heart is as good as medicine. Plus it’s also a lot cheaper and far more fun than drugs and surgery!
Here are some ideas of how to celebrate and laugh:
Simply adding more laughter and fun to your life can not only improve your life, but prolong it as well. Laughter is a spirit lifter and the best antidote for depression. It is also known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, elevate mood, boost immune system, improve brain functioning, protect the heart, connect you to others, foster instant relaxation, make you feel good. There are so many reasons to laugh, it is really important to find more laughter in your life.
I know that it is not always easy to avoid people who get you down, but you can do things to offset their effect on you. By finding more reasons to laugh, you counteract the dampening affect of the negative influences with which you come into contact. Your light-hearted approach to life may even turn those grumpy folks into happier people, too.
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Surround yourself with beauty
One day I sat down to make a list of some of the things that make my life feel rich and full. There were very few things on the list that I didn’t already have and appreciate. But one item on my list was to buy fresh flowers regularly. For me, buying flowers had fallen into the category of money frittered away since flowers soon die leaving nothing to show for the money spent.
So buying flowers and having them around my home is a sign to me of my prosperity and luscious living, a sign that I have enough money that I don’t have to concern myself with such a small expense. With that exercise, I realized how very little is often required to feel rich and prosperous. Very often the problem lies in not identifying what gives us that delightful sense of joy, because we can be too busy to look.
If you were to create your own list of delights, it may not include buying flowers. Beautiful music, pleasing colours, pretty things give most of us a lot of pleasure, and surrounding ourselves with these delights makes life so much more lovely.
Our surrounding have a powerful impact on how we relate to other things in life. So it is important to fill our surroundings with objects that lift the spirit and soothe the soul.
Surrounding yourself with beautiful things is an act of self-care. When you treat yourself well, you are acknowledging that how important you are. You are one of a kind and very special. Take the time and care to add more beauty to your life to give your own soul delight.
Ask yourself if your home gives you pleasure to be in? Is your bedroom an expression of your beautiful self? If not, then take the time to identify those things that need to be removed, replaced, or revitalized. Adding beauty to your surroundings it can be as simple as placing a violet on your kitchen windowsill, to as elaborate as redecorating your whole house.
Whatever you choose, remember that our souls are nourished by beauty, so if you want a well-nourished and satisfied soul, be sure to surround yourself with more of it.
Believe you are beautiful
Recently I attended an event for women in business. It was a banquet with a cruise theme and there were more than two hundred women present. I marveled at how beautiful all the women were with their great hair, striking eyes, nice clothes, and lovely smiles.
We are all beautiful yet are often so hard on ourselves. When we look in a mirror, instead of seeing our own loveliness, our eyes are often drawn to every little imperfection.
Interesting word, isn’t it – ‘imperfection’? Who are the arbiters of perfection deciding that we are flawed, who insist that we compare and find ourselves wanting? Can we afford to have these people in the offices of advertisers dictating this much of our lives? I think not.
We need to appreciate our own bodies and ourselves. We can begin by wearing clothes that make us feel happy. Choose your style to please yourself.
Choose to stop living by the concept that anything old thing is good enough for you. If what you are wearing doesn’t make you feel or look fabulous, get rid of it and replace it with something that does.
When I shop I try to only buy things that I absolutely love. If it doesn’t make me feel great to be wearing it, I don’t want it. Imagine how delightful life is when you always feel wonderful in your clothes.
Take good care of yourself. Love your beautiful and wonderfully made body. Eat great, healthy food. Get the junk out of your diet. You want your body to last a long time so it is important to look after it well. Beauty is not just about your outside appearance. It is also about the inner workings of the beautifully crafted body that you live in.
The images of beauty that the media presents to us are just that–images. Often those images have been so digitally changed that there is no way that figure exists in real life.
We should never consider a fashion model a role model for physical beauty. We need to look at our own beauty and appreciate it. Do you have kind eyes, nice hair, strong hands, a smooth walk, or great taste in clothes?
Does your body come through for you when you need to climb stairs, cook a meal, or swim a length of the neighbourhood pool? When you dress up for an evening out, admit it, you look lovely. When you step from the shower and towel dry, look at that woman in the mirror and tell her she is beautiful, because it is true.
Know that you are beautiful in whatever shape or size or form you come in. Know that you are beautiful because God created you and sees you as beautiful.
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