I have been my own “boss” most of my life. It is such a privilege to set my own work schedule, to discern whom it is I work with and for, and when I work. To work independently has also been my greatest challenge, for in the freedom that self-employment brings, there are also potential pitfalls. At times my office has been in my home. The worse case scenario was a desk in the corner of the kids’ playroom/laundry room. Horrors! Other times it has been in a more professional setting, my favorite being an upper room in an old Victorian house that had been beautifully transformed into offices.
The convenience of having my office in my home was wonderful, yet, I must admit, I haven’t always fared well with balancing home and work responsibilities. With the playroom/laundry room office, it was just too tempting to forego making business calls for throwing in a load of laundry, or sitting on the floor to do a puzzle with one of my kids.
The office away from home had its disadvantages, too. For one, the kids loved to go to “mom’s office.” I didn’t always get a lot of work done when this was the case. They would bring their favorite toys, playing patiently while waiting for the special time we’d spread a picnic blanket on the floor and have our lunch together. I even bought big pillows so my youngest could nap there when needed.
What I learned by being self-employed and having to maintain an office in a variety of settings was invaluable. These learning’s have definitely contributed to my earning power as a writer and public speaker. Here are a few of them for your consideration. Here’s to your success!
1. Set specific office hours.
It’s truly tempting to throw schedules to the wind and fly by the seat of your pants, putting in office hours here and there, when you are self-employed. To stay on track with your business goals, select specific days and times when you will be at your desk. My creativity is highest in the morning so it has been best for me to claim that time as office time. Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. worked for me, and fit in well with my children’s school schedules. Determine your high energy times and build a workable (but flexible) schedule around them.
2. Take at least half a day a week for self-organization.
Despite the fact that you may work alone, it’s amazing how much mess one person can create! Stay on top of filing and take time each week to organize. Mile high stacks of paper can overwhelm and de-energize you. Clutter can also be a source of great stress; frustration grows when you can’t put your hands on what you need immediately. It helps me to keep the current “hot” files in a decorative holder right on my desk so I can access them quickly and easily.
3. Make your office a “feel good” place.
Even if you are operating your office on a shoestring budget, you can still decorate to give it ambience. Your desktop can be the ideal place to showcase a few special items that help you feel good. Right now, a small shamrock plant (for good luck), two pictures of my children, a small votive candleholder that boasts “Peace,” and an inspirational card someone sent grace my desktop. Minimalist decorating, to be sure, but it makes my desk a more enjoyable place to be. Select pictures and objects for shelves and walls that speak to you of motivation, fun, success—items that convey a message that says, “Yes, going to work is a good thing!”
4. Make time for daily self-motivation.
When you work alone, it is easy to become discouraged or uninspired. With no one but you around to keep the creative juices flowing, it can take some doing to raise the energy level from procrastinate to productive. Take time, either first thing in the morning or at a mid-morning coffee break to get back in touch with your goals and dreams. Read inspirational literature, listen to a motivational program on your ipod, or simply take quiet time to reflect or meditate. Listen to soothing music. Burn a candle or incense to release any tension that might be accumulating. Go outside for a brisk, five-minute walk. These are simple, but powerful, strategies for re-centering.
One of my personal favorites for quick and easy inspiration is to peruse the self-help classic, As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen. (There is also an updated, woman-friendly version titled, As a Woman Thinketh by Dorothy Hulst.) This little book reminds me that, “A woman is literally what she thinks—her character being the complete sum of all her thoughts.” I know that, as a self-employed person, if my spirit dives, my business will also, and that is something I do not want to make manifest.
5. Reward yourself—regularly!
When self-employment is the name of the game it is oh, so tempting to work around the clock, including evenings and weekends. We’ve all heard the adage: All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl. It’s true. Work and play must go hand in hand for a well-balanced life. I advocate rewarding yourself for a week “well worked.” Choose an activity that nurtures you and gift it to yourself at the end of the week, along with a hearty pat on the back for maintaining the discipline and courage that’s required to be your own boss. Treat yourself and enjoy it! Regular rewards keep your energy level high and your motivation strong so you can continue to move toward your career goals and create the life of your dreams.