Freelancer Tip: How to Have Self-Discipline When Working at Home

By Robert Half September 16, 2015 at 2:00pm

Freelancing from home offers both pros and cons. Here's a freelancer tip or two to help you remain as productive as possible.

If you manage your freelance creative business from a home office, you know all the benefits of working from home: you can work in your pajamas, you can grab a snack from the fridge if you want to, you can do laundry when you need to, you can keep up with client emails right before you go to bed. 

If you manage your freelance creative business from a home office, you know all the pitfalls of working from home: you can work in your pajamas, you can grab a snack from the fridge if you want to, you can do laundry when you need to, you can keep up with client emails right before you go to bed.

Huh?

Turns out, the benefits and pitfalls of freelancing from home are the same. But without a bit of mindfulness, the freedom to wear whatever you want, work whenever you want, take a break whenever you feel like it, and raid the fridge at will become sloppiness, burning the midnight oil, distraction and, well, a few too many cookies.

Here are some strategies for managing the temptations, so working from home is productive and healthy.

Freelancer tip: Start your day, end your day 

When your workplace and home are the same, it's easy to find yourself working all the time. Instead, be disciplined about managing your workday (even if your "day" starts at 4 p.m.). Get up, have coffee, get dressed (seriously: pajamas aren't conducive to purposeful work), sit down at your desk and begin your daily routine. When you're done, shut down your computer, close your office door, and leave work behind.

Freelancer tip: Set work boundaries 

From Day Zero of any client relationship, be mindful of how quickly you respond to email and how available you are by phone. Clients will come to expect you to jump if that's what they experience from you initially. If you don't want to answer emails after business hours, then don't check your email. Simple as that. Train your clients to expect that you're not available 24/7. Managing your time when you work from home requires that you have discipline and set respectful boundaries with your clients.

Freelancer tip: Eat mindfully 

Proximity to the pantry is an occupational hazard for work-at-home freelancers. As a freelance writer who specializes in food, wellness and design, I spend plenty of time in my kitchen testing recipes; I have to be careful about not eating all of my work. I'm passionate about encouraging a healthy approach to food; here are some tips I keep in mind:

  • Have breakfast, preferably a blend of fiber and protein to keep you fueled through the morning. Check out this healthy breakfast idea.
  • Know that what you eat affects your creative output. For example, research has shown that diets high in saturated fat reduce cognitive ability, and that high-fructose corn syrup can affect memory and learning.
  • Snack sensibly. Half an apple with some natural peanut butter, 1/4 cup of roasted almonds, fruit-and-nut trail mix, whole-grain crackers, low-fat cheese and Greek yogurt are all good mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack options.
  • Eat a smart lunch. Here are a few make-ahead lunch recipes that are great for freelancers.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water is vital to body and brain; a study conducted by the USDA with Tufts University and the U.S. Army found that even slight dehydration results in negative mood, fatigue and confusion ­– not the mindset you need when you're doing creative work. If you feel hungry or tired, drink a big (12-ounce) glass of water first.

Freelancer tip: Take purposeful breaks 

If you need to throw in a load of laundry while you're working at home, do it during a block of time you've dedicated to administrative tasks. If the dog needs a walk, take her out during your lunch break so you can both stretch your legs. Loosely schedule a short (15-minute) break in the morning and afternoon, and be sure to give yourself at least 30 minutes at mid-day. Get up from your desk, move around, do a quick household chore if you need to. But be mindful about your break time.

Sure, you took the freelance leap because you want to call your own shots. Just don't let all that freedom go to your head. Create smart practices around your schedule, your diet and your time, and working from home will be all benefits, no pitfalls.

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