T Nation

Scheduling Work from Home


#1

Does anyone here work from home either independently or for an employer? How do you schedule your work? Do you work the schedule around your social life and hobbies or the inverse?

It's occurred to me that in order to keep myself accountable to a certain threshold of work performance at home, I'll need to adhere to a fairly loose schedule until I get the momentum I need. I work full days MWF but am free to do what I want for the remainder of the week as I have no classes right now. The main objective at this stage is simply to build my client base and portfolio. I want to be fully self-employed by no later than the summer.


#2

What do you do?


#3

Software development (specifically mobile for the time being).


#4

Pick the time of day you're most productive and schedule most of your work then. If you're a night owl, you may need to allow some time during the day during normal work hours to schedule phone calls, return email, etc.

Schedule working out as you would any other appointment.

If you're at a desk for a prolonged period, use an app like Pomodoro to schedule frequent, short breaks. Keep a foam roller by your desk, invest in a good, adjustable desk chair. An attachment that would allow you to work standing would be a great help as well.

I usually work 6:30 - 10:30 AM, taking a break every hour for 2-3 minutes to foam roll, refill my coffee, and pee. From 10:30 - 11:15, I'm responding to my AM emails, making calls, and taking care of personal business. At 11:30, I'm in the gym, then back at my desk at 1:00 - 4:00. From 4:00 - 5:00 I'm taking care of anything I need to clean up from the day.

Recently, my schedule has gotten a bit wonky because of kid duties, but the above worked well for me for about 15 years.

Lather, rinse, repeat.


#5

It depends on your working style, if you're working with other people (client or consultants), work load, and relationship status.

I like to dive into a project early and spend more time up front and let it taper off over time. This is part enthusiasm and part getting a better idea of how much time I'll need to allocate. Likewise, I tend to turn around projects faster for new clients to help establish the trust.

I don't mind working weekends, so I'll spend 2-6 hours on work stuff pretty much every day. With any given client, I usually have a few loose ends hanging around, so when things start slowing down, I'll shoot them an email to remind them I'm still waiting on their action to proceed on X.

If I'm working with another consultant that is just moonlighting, more of my work tends to get done late or on weekends. Most of it is done w/ folks on the west coast; I'm in the east, so I pretty much always have the mornings to myself. Some folks want to involve you in every little meeting; I'll go to them with newer clients for relationship building, but I can normally find out what I need to do from a brief email.

Once you build up the relationship, you can get open contracts that they'll either send you a project out of the blue or you can hit them up for some work. My "scope of work" basically just says "project support," and they trust me not to run up the hours, which I don't.

I think you're in the DC area, right? If so, a lot of the organizations around there begin getting their contracts and have their budgets set between feb. and april, so it makes sense to start now, before all the summer interns infest the place.


#6

Thanks for the feedback and tips, guys.

Yes, I live in downtown DC.


#7

I've worked from home as both a salary employee and independent consultant working in a Business Analyst role supporting large-scale ERP software.

In my experience, the key difference between those two situations is the specific times you are expected to be working. As a salary professional, I was expected to be at my desk as if I were in the office during office hours. In practice, there was little difference between working at my office and working from home.

As a consultant, there is generally much more leeway.

Assuming that you are fully able to meet your deliverables remotely, the real challenge in working from home is not technical in nature. The challenge lies in properly managing the expectations of your customers and building good business relationships. Cultivating these relationships is much more difficult when you do not have face time. Being a guy on the other end of an email or instant messenger conversation is not the same as being a guy who will hang up the phone and walk over to a person's office to get a problem sorted out face-to-face. When you are face-to-face with someone you are in a better position to read that person and they are in a better position to read you. This is especially important when delivering bad news.

It is because of this relationship-building handicap that I believe you must be very diligent in managing the expectations of your customers and putting the extra effort in to build good business relationships when you are doing remote work. Establish trust with solid performance and good communication. Do not leave your clients guessing about what you are up to, especially when setbacks occur.

You are a good writer, so be sure to write well and communicate with language appropriate to your audience.

I'm sure you will do well!


#8

I make a to do list each day or two and just work off getting stuff done and crossing off what I need to do. This also includes non "reactive" stuff like plan for new business, marketing etc. I usually work it around my regular non work life. If I want to lift at 3, I work from lunch until then and schedule it like anything else in the day. I do keep an office and sometimes putting on a tie, leaving the house and banging out a solid 6-8 hours is a good break to really get stuff done. Especially the things I procrastinate on like writing. It's also good to see other working people or I don't shave and start to look like a homeless guy.


#9

Thanks again, guys.

I appreciate that!


#10

Yes.

I don't. I log onto the university website and see how much work I've got at the beginning of the week then I just start working on it the following morning and keep working at a certain rate with lots of interruptions to eat, exercise, go for a drive, post on T-Nation etc. until I finish the work. I was studying as well but I've had to defer my studies due to injury.

Social life? Oh that. Yeah, sometimes I go to the pub and drink beer with people - some friends; most not. And I sometimes go fishing or camping with an old friend.

Sounds like you've got a big workload. I've not really had too much trouble organising because things have always been relatively simple except when I'm working and studying at the same time. For example, when I was working up to 70 hours a week in an office it wasn't hard to keep organised. Just show up each day. Then when I started working from home in 2010 I just did as above - I just started my work as soon as it came in and usually finished it with a few days to spare to have a weekend free. Then when I started studying again for the first time in about eight years it started to get a bit hectic and I started to feel under pressure and I was pushing to get my assignments in on time. Then I had an injury in January last year, recovered partially, tried to go back to studying for the second semester but chronic pain has forced me to defer my studies. I'm worried about how I'm going to deal with work too if the pain remains or gets worse. Yes, chronic pain can make life quite a struggle.


#11

I've tried a few different strategies but I've fallen into the habit of just working to deadline, with no real set hours. Some days I work every hour I'm awake, but then I don't sweat it when I have a few days with not much coming in. I've been doing that for a couple of years now though and am feeling the need for more regular hours and work-life balance.

So in short, I keep my hours flexible but maintain a couple of constants:

I'm always available to answer emails and calls for clients during their working hours. All of my clients are one hour ahead so this tends to be 8am to 6pm.

I get 80% of my work done before lunch. This isn't intentional but I just seem to be more productive in the morning. If I don't have deadlines pending for the next day I'll often call it quits not long after lunch but remain "on call".

Other tips off the top of my head:

I often use the pomodoro timer technique to make sure I'm working while I'm at work. Google it: there's a version that runs in your browser.

Have a shower and get dressed! While working in your boxers is indeed real freedom and one of the perks of being self-employed, putting some decent clothes on gets me in the right mindset.

When I was in your position and preparing to make the transition to self-employed, I made it my priority and put in some very long hours. I was working a 9-5, and then building up to the equivalent extra work from my freelancing. After a few months where my freelancing income exceeded that from my 9-5, I made the jump.


#12

I forgot to mention this. When my girl leaves for the day also has a big impact on my schedule. Sometimes I ask her to leave for both of our benefits.

If you have a SO, roommates, or kids, you'll have to take this into account. I have a friend that can crank out work in a coffee shop; I, on the other hand, don't work so well in public due to a couple reasons:
-slower internet than at home
-only one monitor and laptop mouse
-security issues (more so hassling people to authorize a new IP than anything)
-the amount of food I eat in a day doesn't lend itself to eating out regularly


#13

I've been working from home for almost 10 years now (software development).

It's a mixed blessing-- potential for a lot of distraction depending on what's going on in your home. I do it with wife, 3 kids (one is 4yo), and a dog.

I can keep myself on task, but the distractions add up during the day, especially on school days off when everyone is home, dog barking, or 4 year old (and wife) wanting this or that. It's only stressful when there is a rukus or if I have phone calls scheduled. Can't account for a teenage girl yelling "WHO TOOK MY SHIRT??!" down the hallway. Or, a tired 4 year old suddenly screaming because of some dumb shit. Or dog barking at UPS guy.

My hours vary, but I'm generally "online" from 8-ish till 430-5ish. My company (and the last couple I've worked for) are linked with Lync or Skype or similar. I travel when I need to for customers, and I have the option to go into our office about 1hr from my house (usually on kid days off or "playdate" day).

In reality, my productivity comes in spurts. Maybe early, late morning, or at night. I'm "online" to support my colleagues, but sometimes I defer my productivity to times when I know no one is around or everyone is asleep. Option for 2 hour lunch or so is awesome, and I make time up in the evenings. I don't really punch a time card, but have projects that take months or years, so it's really about meeting deadlines.

I use a standing workstation. Life changing. If you're a software developer and a weightlifter (assuming you lift weights hanging out on TN), I highly recommend. Your hips an back will thank you. Standing fatigue mat optional. I stand, I'll alternate elevating feet during the day (I have one foot on a box right now). I'll alternate days shoes on/off. I roll my foot on softball or lacrosse ball etc. Nothing structured, I just kind of unconsciously do these things.

The refridgerator being 20 feet away is also a blessing and a curse.........


#14

Pay attention to the family space and make sure the whole house doesn't become an office. I tend to take over everything and my wife starts feeling crowded out like she lives in an office. I don't mind distractions and work through them, but my wife and boy sometimes wonder why I'm "absent" and not listening when they are talking. For me the hardest part about working at home isn't finding time to get things done or staying on task, its finding time to quit and keep work separate from home life. If you are single this isn't as big an issue, but be aware that having "work" and "home" in the same place can blur lines in ways you don't expect.


#15

Do you have a dedicated office space?

That seemed to help me. I also close my office door to try and separate personal and life. Working at home can definitely consume your entire life with work.


#16

working from home = living the dream


#17

I haven't figured it out yet.

Work and home life blend. Sometimes work takes over; sometimes it goes on the back burner. Communication is problematic, due to timezones and difficulties building relationships at a distance. Time spent networking is time taken away from getting work done, but without the right relationships, it's hard to know if the right work is getting done. Deadlines are easier, since it's clear what needs to be done, when and how, but I'm have trouble navigating the vagueness.

Good questions though.

As far as the schedule, I wake up, check email and group chat histories, and then work on and off for the next 10 hours or so. We have a 15 minute video status meeting mid-day, but everything else is done over text chat, with occasional email. I take breaks to get ready in the morning (I start working pretty much immediately after getting out of bed), to eat, to run to the gym, and when I just need a mental refresher.

Even though I get what I need to get done, and I have time for this and that, I'm not happy with it yet. It'll probably take another couple months before I find the right balance.


#18

I have to schedule my time at least 48 hours in advance and if I miss more than 10% of what I sign up for, that's it.


#19

I don't know about living the dream, but, nooners with Wifee is a perq.


#20

Yes. Much better than Internet porn at the office