Home. Office. It’s a bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong, there are many blessings associated with a home office. I have worked out of the home, away from my kids for several years, so the opportunity to work at home is not lost on me. It is a gift. However, that doesn’t mean it comes without its own challenges.
Many people believe self-discipline is the most important quality when working from home. While I do agree self-discipline is necessary, I hold that it’s only part of the equation. There will always be distractions – chores to do, hungry kids to feed, laundry to finish, errands to run, dinner to make, and dishes to clean. Those things exist whether you work in or out of the home. I think the problem, for me at least, is much deeper than self-discipline.
Here’s the thing….I’ve found that I don’t take myself, or my work-at-home-job, seriously enough. I had to acknowledge this out loud to help initiate internal change. I also had to admit that I am a much better employee than I am a business owner. Why?? I am an Enneagram 3 – I LOVE to work! This self-revelation deeply bothered me as I have always considered myself a very disciplined and diligent worker. I would say my business goals were important, but my actions spoke louder than my words.
It boils down to the fact that like many other women, specifically moms, I am a gluttonous people-pleaser. We tend to place our needs and wants behind everyone else, and the home is the place we do this most. It is easier to compartmentalize the needs of others, at least during working hours, when your office is out of the home. However, while working IN the home, I am always moving and “busy”, but I am not always working on things that will move my business forward. I tend to the squeaky wheel, the thing that produces immediate results…the thing that will give me a quick-dopamine-check-that-off-the-list-hit, rather than invest my time into long-term projects that facilitate real growth.
This seemingly “selfless” mindset can quickly become unhealthy and “selfish”. I have personally used it to make excuses or to shower blame on others if I don’t accomplish my goals.
In the end, every person has the same 24 hours each day and their own set of challenges. The way I respond to my challenges is 100% my responsibility.
Being a people pleaser isn’t a terrible thing. Yes, it can be a weakness, but if used properly, it can be a great strength. I believe God wired most mothers this way, because little peoples’ lives are literally dependent upon us. Focusing on others is not something I want to change but I do want to be more responsible for my actions. Recognizing these strengths and weaknesses, how do I then create healthy boundaries?
Well, here are a few things I am working on right now, and I hope they can help you too!
- Create office hours and stick to them. This is such an obvious rule, but one that’s also easy to break. Use that ever-important self-discipline to stay true to this rule.
- Create a realistic schedule that works with the natural rhythm of your unique home life. For example, Mondays are the one full day I can work on my home business because my kids are in school and/or at my mother in law’s house from about 9 am to 6 pm. Therefore, I use it for things that require the most brain power, i.e. writing meal plans, recipes, or blog posts. I home-school my kids on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I intentionally do not work on my business those days. I reserve these days for brainless chores, such as laundry or house cleaning so I am mentally and physically available to my kids. I’ve had to admit that I am a terrible multi-tasker and cannot tend to both well.
- Stop working after hours (usually after kids’ bedtime) to “catch up”. Very seldom do I create work with real meaning any time past 9 pm. I have made excuses saying, “I can do it tonight”, because it somehow made me feel better about shirking my business goals that day. But I have found that it’s best to stop, re-work your priorities for the next day, and make those office hours matter. (This reinforces rule 1.)
- Lastly – this is something that I am working on – instead of creating a huge “to-do” list, write down ONE MEANINGFUL thing you can accomplish each week that will move your business forward. After years and years of living and dying by a to-do list, I realized that I favor checking off the small tasks that give instant gratification. Like a hamster in a wheel, I was “busy”, but not doing anything that created a long-term benefit. I was left with zero time for the important tasks that no one (but me) was asking me to do.
Home Office. It is FOR SURE an oxymoron, but can be such a blessing. Recognize that your goals are important and in the end, they will benefit your family, too! At 40, I am FINALLY learning how to channel those precious hours at home to best serve me and those I love.
What about you? Can you relate to the challenges listed above, and if so, what things help you create a profitable, productive home office? Or do you have other challenges? I love learning from others out there, so please share any tips and techniques that have helped you along the way!