This post comes from Judy Heminsley, founder of Work From Home Wisdom.
One of the greatest joys of becoming self-employed and working from home is your ability to work when and where you want. I’m sure anyone who’s spent any time in the traditional workplace has been through the agonies of trying to look busy in office hours, not because you’re work-shy, but one of the greatest joys of becoming self-employed and working from home is your ability to work when and where you want. I’m sure anyone who’s spent any time in the traditional workplace has been through the agonies of trying to look busy in office hours, not because you’re work-shy, but because the muse just wasn’t with you. It would have been much more sensible to admit defeat and leave for the day, but how many employers and managers are that tolerant?
But now you no longer have to conform to someone else’s expectations of when you ought to be productive. You can go with the flow, using your own natural rhythms to work when the time is right, and dedicate the rest of the time to other commitments, shopping, exercise and so on.
If you haven’t had the freedom to work outside conventional office hours you may not know when your best times are, but don’t worry, there are plenty of clues once you start to think about it. Remember a time when you found a project easy to get into, when you got lost in it and it all just flowed, when you were surprised to find how much time had passed when you finished.
What time of day was it? Some people like to get up early to take advantage of the quiet morning hours before they’re disturbed by phone calls and emails. Others take longer to get going and don’t hit their stride till later. Some like to burn the midnight oil and work into the early hours.
I was an early bird when I ran my cleaning business, because I had to go and check offices had been cleaned properly before my clients started arriving for work. So I was surprised when I started this very different business that I couldn’t seem to get going until later. Now I find mornings are good for routine work and research, and my creative juices flow best in the afternoon and evening.
What has been happening in the background at the times when you were most productive? Was there silence, some music playing quietly, or was the radio tuned to a talk show? Some people need peace and quiet so they can focus, others find it distracting. On home worker I spoke to said she plays the radio at a volume low enough so she can’t catch what is being said, but sufficiently high that the house doesn’t feel empty.
And where were you working when you produced your best work? At your desk, on the sofa, in a cafe? Lots of home workers sit at their desk for routine admin, and for creative work move elsewhere such as their favourite armchair, or outside if weather permits.
My partner Andy and I lived on the coast of SW England for seven years and noticed we had our most productive business meetings on the beach. Recently I discovered a new word that explains why – a ‘liminal’ space is somewhere that’s neither here nor there, a threshold. The beach is at the edge of both land and sea, and away from business and domestic worries.
Similarly my mind always ranges free on a train journey. I might start out by doing something quite routine like drafting replies to emails, but somehow my brain turns easily to generating ideas and I end up jotting down notes for future projects and articles.
Coffee shops are good for allowing your mind to wander too. I like to leave my laptop at home and take a notebook and pen so I can jot down thoughts as they come to me, but not feel as though I’m working.
Have fun experimenting with working at different times and in different places, where it’s quiet and where there is bustle. The variety adds richness to your life and you may well find it also improves the quality and quantity of your output. Where have you been most creative, or most engrossed? Did it surprise you? Have you been able to repeat the experience?
Judy Heminsley is the founder of Work from Home Wisdom, the blog that provides advice and inspiration for home workers. On her galleries you can see many of the places home workers have chosen to set up workspaces.