Image Source: Celeste Twikler

Over the past few weeks a few people have asked how I manage to stay motivated as a self-employed individual, working from home. Usually the question is phrased as: "I don't know how you stay focused at home; I would just watch Ellen."

Fair enough! My short answer is that I stay motivated because people are giving me money to supply them with a product, and I have to deliver. I'm also motivated because I enjoy the challenge I've set for myself. I enjoy my work-from-home setup, and also, I want to earn as much as I can.

With that explanation out of the way, the rest of this post is for those who are in a similar position, that is, self-employed and working from home.

If you find your work interesting, it's easy to stay motivated

Working from home isn't like being forced to sit in a chair and write a school essay! That would definitely be torture. If you enjoy your work, you just get up and do it, because you want to. I'm not working from home because I'm a lazy homebody; I work from home because the work I'm doing motivates me, and the job I was doing in the office, didn't.

If you're working from home and you find yourself distracted by daytime TV, maybe you're in the wrong game. Working from home isn't right for everyone.

My home job isn't all fun! There are mundane parts to my business, but that's where these next two points come in...

When you're responsible for your income, it's easy to stay focused

For the four years while my business was just a side hustle, the money I made was merely a bonus on top of my regular wage. Now that I'm fully self-employed, I'm responsible for how much or little I can earn. That's not something you take lightly! The phrase 'time is money' becomes important, and it's naturally easy to stay on track. It's not all about money, though. When I switched to self-employment I set myself a pretty big challenge, and I'm motivated to achieve my goals.

When customers rely on you, you have to focus

I take payments in exchange for my product, so slacking off isn't an option. It's easy for me to stay on task because I have contact with customers on a daily basis.

I place high value on good customer service. Part of that is getting back to my customers as soon as possible. I find that my customers are responsive and happy when I get back to them promptly (thus, more likely to want to work with me!). Providing great service makes me feel happy, and is a reward in itself.

Getting organised, and setting up your systems, is key

Getting organised is the most important thing you can do for your business. You have to take the time to establish a system.

Filing system

Since my business employs a staff of 1 (me), I'm the manager of Marketing, Communications, Accounting, Legal, Product Development, Photography, Dispatch and Procurement. I have a well-organised hard drive, with folders for every 'department'. My well-organised folders contain well-organised sub-folders. Not going to lie, it's a thing of beauty.

Work is much more enjoyable when you're not surrounded by chaos. I liken this to baking. Over the weekend I baked a couple of semi-extravagant birthday cakes. For the first cake, at some stages (the past-my-bedtime stage) there was buttercream on every surface of the kitchen, cake batter splattered over my clothes, and chocolate shavings on the kitchen floor. Not so fun. For the second cake, I cleaned up as I went, regularly wiped down my work surface, and lined up everything I needed. Much more enjoyable!

Chaos is stressful. When you have a good system, work is enjoyable - things just flow, allowing you to work at your peak. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Image Source: Letterfolk
De-clutter and plan

Since deciding to expand my business, the ante has been upped. Beforehand, product development and marketing were just floaty ideas in my head - now I have to take them seriously.

The first few days after leaving my full-time office job my head was spinning with everything I had to do. My brain was crammed with all the ideas that had been bubbling away for YEARS that I hadn't had time to pursue. I didn't know where to start.

I wanted to get creative with my product development, but I knew that it was more important to hit pause and make a plan.

BUT FIRST: I allowed myself the time to catch up on 'life admin' - those little jobs, paperwork, and odds and ends that pile up over time. The purpose was to de-clutter my workspace and clear my plate so I could focus on my work.

Create a master planner and set a schedule

Once I had de-cluttered, the next crucial step was to make a mind map of all the tasks that I needed to action. Once mapped out, I devised a way to categorise the work and divide it up into focus tasks over a week. I then made myself a planner in Excel (with pretty pastel colours, of course).

My planner covers both business work, and 'life work', by which I mean housework, washing, grocery shopping, gymming, processing bills, etc. I include my 'life work' in my planner so that 1) the sheets get washed and 2) crossing things off a list delivers a nice shot of dopamine.

In terms of business work, my planner covers both daily office tasks (the stuff I have to do every day - checking email, etc.) and a focus task for each day of the week. My focus tasks at the moment include social media education, product development and website development. So for example, my focus task on Tuesday will be education. On Thursday I will work on the website.

My planner also includes tasks that only occur once a month, such as checking my product supplies, and following up with customers about the next month's orders.

It was crucial for me to map out this plan, as it ensures I'm covering all bases. I didn't want to work on the website for two months while completely ignoring product development. My plan ensures that everything is ticking along. It has the added benefits of 1) providing variety 2) reminding me that I have PLENTY to do, and that there is no time for Ellen!

Image Source: UrbanHeartHomes

Using tools and tech to manage your plan and stay accountable

Setting the plan is one thing - the next part is gathering some tools to keep yourself accountable.

My master weekly planner is my guide, but in reality, my schedule varies depending on how many orders I have to fill, my personal appointments, workshops or expos, and errands I need to run. For that reason, I just use my master planner as a guide to create a tailored plan for each week.

I create my plan for the week first thing every Monday morning. I use this A3 weekly planner pad from Typo to map out my week. It's fifteen minutes spent on Monday morning that gets the week off to a flying start.

Another tool that I love is Wunderlist - an online to-do list. I use this to keep track of my ideas and non-urgent tasks. You can create however many different categories you like, and within these categories, you add your tasks. I have lists for 'life admin' (update passport, prepare tax return - that type of thing), lists for product ideas, marketing ideas, ideas for blog posts, etc.

I review my Wunderlist every Monday morning. I cross off anything I've done, and then I try to incorporate a couple of awaiting tasks into my plan for the week.

The long and the short of it

Amidst filling orders and building a business, there's not a lot of downtime. I usually start my workday earlier than I would start at the office, and finish a little later, often because I'm engrossed in a task (other times because I have a deadline). I take a lunch break when I'm hungry, and I'll either sit outside in the sun, or zone out with the TV while I eat. Working from home means I have flexibility, and it means that if it's a sunny day, I can step outside for a bit, or have a cup of tea with my Mum. This is part of the reason why I wanted to try working from home. It doesn't mean I'm a lady of leisure (don't call me that - I'll bop your head) - I work hard.

I hope this provides a bit of insight into the mysterious world of working from home, and can be helpful for those who are also self-employed. Let me know in the comments if you have any tips of your own, or want to share your challenges or triumphs of working from home.

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