We shouldn’t get distracted by others when we are working as writers from home. It’s not fair to us or our family.
Working from home can be one of the most rewarding ways to earn a living. However, working from home as a writer can pose some serious challenges. I want us to look at some of these challenges together.
We don’t get the same respect as a typical nine-to-fiver. When a nine-to-fiver is at work they are considered gone and cannot be reached. When they are at work they are considered unavailable. How many times have we accepted a family member missing an event or holiday because they had to work?
Writers who work from home know all too often that when we are working on our stories, our friends and family assume we are playing and thus available. They do not give us the same respect. Try telling your family your skipping Thanksgiving because you have to work on your story and see how far that flies. Our work isn’t considered as important as those who are more traditionally employed.
A Visit From My Nieces
I work from home. I love and enjoy my life. My brother works in a warehouse. On the day in question, my brother’s sitter was unavailable to watch his kids and both him and his wife had to go to work. Since they know I work from home, they naturally assumed that I was not busy.
My brother called me on the phone and asked, “Hey bro, I am in a real bind. Our sitter called in sick and we both have to go to work. Can I drop off the girls to you?”
I told him, “I”m sorry to hear that. I would love to help you out. But I have some deadlines to meet and I need to spend my day working as well.”
He said, “Come on, man. You’re working from your house. You can just let them watch TV or something. They won’t be a problem. You can watch the kids while you write.”
Not wanting to be the bad guy I said, “Okay, but you need to get a backup sitter for days like this.”
He responded with a chuckle, “You are the backup sitter.”
Watching a five-year-old and a two-year-old is not an easy assignment. It’s not one that can be combined with working. It’s one or the other, but not both at the same time.
One of the kids always needs my attention. They require direct supervision. They get into everything if I don’t pay attention to them.
At one point I was able to get both of them settled down in front of the TV. I grabbed my laptop and sat on the couch with them. However, trying to write while cartoons were playing and the kids were jumping up and down, excited, and singing along to the show was distracting. Watching kids and writing are not conducive.
As you have probably already figured out, I didn’t get any work done that day. Barely any words made it down onto the page. I did enjoy seeing my nieces and spending the day with them. But I need to write to make a living so I would prefer to take them out for ice cream on the weekend.
Those of us who work from home need to set boundaries. For our own sanity and for others to respect us. Believe it or not, our friends and family don’t want to intrude on us, but they don’t understand what working from home is like. It’s our job to tell them.
Setting Office Hours
Setting office hours is a good solid boundary. By telling people you are in your office and unavailable between certain times, people will get used to you not answering the phone and not returning calls during those times. They will come to respect your time more.
If you get resistance from someone, stress to them that working from home is how you make a living. Unless they want to take care of you they need to respect your office hours.
This also means that we need to respect our office hours. The boundary applies to us as well. We shouldn’t use our office time to run errands or take a trip to the movies to get inspiration. If our friends and family see us online or if we call them up for a chit chat during office hours, they will assume that the office hours we set weren’t important. It’s imperative that we respect our own office hours.
By sticking to the office hours we will also be more productive. We will write more and get more done. It just takes discipline. When we know we have an allotted amount of time to get something done, we will rise to the occasion and get it done. That means deadlines will be met, whether self-imposed or given to us by a publisher.
Working our normal office hours will eliminate distractions and make us more productive. This is one of the best things you can do for your writing when working from home.
Turning Off Distractions
Turning off distractions during office hours is crucial. This means silencing our phones and turning off social media notifications. Leave the phone in the other room. Turn off the Internet on our computer.
As others see we’re not online, and unavailable to take their calls they will start to respect our time and our writing profession.
If people see that we are willing and available to take their call, they will continue to call. If they see us on social media they will continue to socialize with us.
If we get frustrated with them, it’s not their fault but ours. We must set the boundaries and stick to them. Saying no to anything that is not conducive to writing more words down on the page. This doesn’t matter if we’re writing blog posts, writing newsletters, or working on our novel.
Now that we have figured out how to turn off distractions and setting boundaries we should understand that those who have “real” jobs get to take breaks. They usually get either a ten or fifteen-minute break twice a day plus their lunch break. We should be taking those breaks as well. If we don’t, we can suffer from burnout.
On your break or lunch, feel free to go on social media, call and text your friends, or do whatever it is you like to unwind. Take this time and do not feel guilty about it. By scheduling your free time you will be more productive when it’s time to write.
These are just some of the things I have learned from working from home over the last ten years. It has been a struggle, but working from home is such a blessing. Even though I get frustrated at times, I came to understand that my frustrations were brought on by my own actions. When I realized that my problems are my own, it became easier to fix them.