Self-employment: scheduling, finding motivation, and being productive

i was so surprised by your response to this post about my day job! i thought i was just going to clear up any confusion (like i said in the post, i've received a lot of questions about what i "do"), but i seem to have opened a can of curious worms! i received so many great questions regarding getting started, staying motivated, growing your business, and everything else. instead of just responding to the asker, i wanted to dedicate a new series to addressing all of these things. 

let me start by saying that i am no expert in small-business, self-employment, or anything of the like. i didn't set out for this career path, it was never even on my radar to do what i do. however, after over 5 years of doing it, to say that i've learned a few things would be the understatement of the century. i've learned a lifetimes' worth of tough lessons, like that you should keep your receipts because you will need them come tax time. and, oh by the way, you shouldn't wait until 4 days before Tax Day to file. (more on that in another post). and i've learned a ton of wonderful things, too, like the unique sense of pride that you feel when someone tells you that they love that thing you just made. every journey is unique, and every experience different. i'll be sharing from my experience. what works for me, what doesn't work for me. 

so, let's just get into it, yes?

scheduling my day

every day is different for me. that's one of my favorite things about having my own business and working from home. i like flexibility and the freedom to sort of do what i want, when i want. i've become a morning person, with my most productive hours being between about 7am to noon. i like to get up and get right to work. i usually start with fulfilling any outstanding orders, and then responding to emails and Etsy messages. after that, it's whatever the day requires - making product, shooting new product, filling Dearly Boxes, etc. i'm typically done with work by 5pm. some days i take a lunch break, where i'll watch an episode of a show or catch up on social media. other days, i'll work right through lunch. i try to go to the gym in the afternoon, right around the time i start wanting to take a nap, which allows me to take a mental break and rejuvenate myself for the last couple hours of the workday. on days when Christina (my assistant) comes, she's typically here from 10-5, so i work right alongside her. i typically work monday-friday, and sometimes put in extra hours on the weekend. if i know i'll be traveling during business hours, i work a bit overtime before i leave, and always have my iPad with me to respond to emails and manage things from afar. some people would be better suited to have set "office hours", but keeping a flexible schedule is what works best for me.

finding motivation

this is always a funny question to me because my answer is simple: money. if i don't work, i don't make money. i need to make money, so i need to work. that's all there is to it. 

certainly, there are days when i'd like to do about 7493 other things than sit at my desk and work, and sometimes i do those other things and resolve to work extra hours the next day. but, most days i wake up and look forward to getting to work. i'm a list-maker, so there's nothing better to me than being able to cross things off. you can't cross things off if you don't work. 

i like to set goals for the day, and for the week. i keep a planner (i use this one and love it), so i make a note on each day of things that i want/need to get done. that helps to keep me on track and to meet any deadlines i have. i also stick post-it notes onto my desktop to remind me to do certain things. and let me tell you, it feels darn good to rip that note off and throw it in the trash, once i've completed my task.

what it really comes down to is that i'm a self-motivated person. i don't need other people around me to get stuff done. in fact, i work a lot better and a lot harder when i'm alone, so being self-employed and working from home works well for me. if you're the opposite and you're looking to work from home or start your own business, look into shared workspaces (like this) or find a public place that you can work from, like your favorite coffee shop or a public library. if it's the alone time that gets to you, plan things during your workday to get out and socialize. attend a class at the gym in the morning, go out to grab lunch, listen to podcasts or have the tv playing in the background. find what works for you and do it.

i like to "get ready" for the day, even if that just means putting on a different pair of leggings and throwing my hair in a bun. it helps to distinguish between relax time and work time, and always leads to a more productive and intentional work day.

being productive

whenever i tell people that i work from home (for myself), it's almost always followed with, "ohhhh man, i would love to work from my bed all day" or "i wish i could wear my pajamas to work!". i hate to be the one to shatter the dream, but that's not how it is. do i wear sweats/workout clothes/pajamas to work sometimes? yep. have i worked from bed? yep. do i wear pajamas and work from bed every day? nope. the flexibility of being able to wear what i want, do what i want, and work where i want is wonderful, i can't deny that. but it can also be hard. i get distracted by things. i clean the apartment, i reorganize my closet, i watch an extra 30 minutes of that show because "nobody is telling me i have to get back to work". the temptation to do other things is there, and somedays it's strong. somedays i have to fight it, somedays i give in because i know that i will be way more productive tomorrow, if i take a couple hours off today.

it comes down to finding a workspace and an environment that you know you can thrive in. i've found mine. for the first 5 years, i worked from my bedroom. so, the temptation to take a nap was literally constant, as my bed was approximately 4 feet from me at all times. since moving into my current apartment in September, i've had a separate workspace (in our dining room) and it has transformed how i work. i have a designated space that i go to when i'm in work mode. and then i get to retire to my bedroom when i'm in relax mode. they're finally separate, which means i'm able to focus and get things done in my office, and i'm able to relax and not be tempted to work (all the time) when i'm in my room. not to mention, i needed a ton of extra space to store all of my inventory, shipping materials, supplies, and the like, so having a separate workspace was required. and it makes days when Christina comes over a lot less awkward. umm, hey, just hop up on my bed and get to work.

i promise, i'm like 10% professional sometimes.

what other things would you like to know about? what questions do you have regarding being self-employed, starting a business, working from home, or anything else? 

23 comments

  1. This is a great post! I just started working from home in my day job, and am looking to grow my own business writing/blogging/freelancing - I'd love to hear more about how you grew your business to where it is today! I totally agree having a designated workspace makes a huge difference, too!

    Kim

    http://trendkeeper.me .. Touring London!

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    1. Thanks, Kim! I'll definitely talk more about growing the business in an upcoming post. Good luck with yours!

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    2. I second this! Would love to hear your tips and tricks to growing your business. Love your ideas on making working at home work for the individual.

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  2. Amazing post!! I'm so glad you did this.

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    1. Thanks, Kerri! I love sharing my experience and (hopefully) encouraging others.

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  3. I've wanted to do something similar for a long time! You're inspiring me post by post! Thank you for sharing!

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  4. Thanks for your kind words, Paula! They're so appreciated.

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  5. Can't wait for the tax story! Taxes freak me out!

    Sara | Lipstick, Lattes & Lunges

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  6. Great post! It takes a special kind of personality to work from home successfully. My husband has a more 'driven' type of personality and runs a successful home business. He stays focused. I on the other hand get all willy nilly and don't stay on track enough to work from home. Some people just need supervising and unfortunately I would be one of those people. LOL Great post!

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    1. Haha I totally understand that! There are certainly days when I want to do anything but work, but I can usually put myself back on track!

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  7. I love your helpful tidbits! Although, my struggle now is the addition of a baby! So a toddler & newborn have totally wrecked my motivation & ability to carve out specific work time! And lets just tell it like it is, money motivates me but my bed motivates me more after a long day of parenting ;)

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    1. Lol totally understandable! I would feel the same way if I were in your shoes!

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  8. This is awesome advice! I am inspired by you!
    xoxo, Julia
    www.littlepieceofchic.com

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  9. Great post! Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us!

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  10. This is a great post! There is something about hearing how other people operate that completely fascinates me, and this was no exception. Love content like this - keep up the good work!

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    1. Thanks, Vanessa! I totally agree - it's interesting for me to hear how other people do things.

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  11. Great post! I would love to be self employed someday. It's great to hear your experience.

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  12. Greetings Lauren - Great post! I work at home 2 days a week and appreciate the flexibility it offers, especially given some of the hours needed for my job. I get some of the same reactions you do, including "Wow, it must be great to have all that time off!" Um, what! Finally, Hitha from Hitha on the Go posted something a few days ago on "How to Be Productive" - looks like a beginning of the year theme is going on :-) Cheers - Jennifer

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  13. Hypnotherapy works by making use of hypnotic relaxation to elicit the abilities of the unconscious to influence behavior modification and habit development. Motivational Stories

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