Last January I joined my husband working from home and converted his office into a co-work space. Truthfully, I was a little nervous.
I was leaving a really good (although career limited) job with colleagues that I truly enjoyed working with to take on an exciting but contract-based position.
It turned out to be the best year ever for my career!
And even better, it has been amazing for our family.
I’m sharing a peek into my first year working from home to encourage you to be loyal to yourself first when it comes to your career path. It is worth it!
Trust your instincts. Take that out of the box opportunity.
What I Learned My First Year Working from Home
By far the best thing I learned my first year working from home is how fantastic the flexibility and freedom is that comes with working from home.
I start my day at 5:30am (sometimes 5:00am) and work until its time to get my daughter up and off to school around 9am. (You can read more about my morning routine here.)
I start my day that early because I want to.
I love that I don’t have to stress when my preschooler is moving as slow as molasses.
And it turns out those early morning hours of work are some of my most productive.
The days of stressing and wasting time sitting through an aggravating commute – trying to get to work on time – are over.
I don’t end up eating doughnuts that a well-meaning colleague brought in and I don’t get distracted by office drama.
I DO work from my back porch when the weather is nice (which happened a lot this year!)
I DO attend speaker series events in the middle of the day. I get to pick the topics that interest me without having to justify to anyone if the topic relates to my job responsibilities.
I DO take a walk or go to the gym in the middle of the day and I don’t have to change back into business clothes.
But most importantly I DO get compensated for my specialized knowledge and skills.
Working from Home Isn’t Perfect
Now, working from home isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. This year has also included some learning curves.
I discovered that the work from home lifestyle requires a need to manage my time in a new way.
When you work from home you can’t escape all of the things that need to be done around your home.
There is always a clean laundry pile that needs folding, a toilet that keeps running and the guilt that you should be cooking your family more nutritious meals because you are home.
And when you work for yourself there are business tasks that must be kept up with including bookkeeping, goal planning and lead generation and nurturing.
Bookkeeping and FreshBooks
For me, bookkeeping meant putting on my big girl pants. I was always *that employee* the one who never turned expense reports in on time.
Early on I discover FreshBooks. Then through trial and error, my husband and I found a simplified system to manage both sets of our business expenses.
For example, we each have a single credit card for business purchase and a monthly accordion file for all paper receipts or back up materials we might need at tax time.
But the real game changer was FreshBooks! FreshBooks is super simple to use and doesn’t expect you to have any previous knowledge or be a fan of spreadsheets. (I HATE spreadsheets!)
I talk more about my love of FreshBooks and how we set up our bookkeeping in another post so I’ll limit my FreshBooks love fest here.
Time Management and Goal Setting
Just like it took some trial and error to figure out our bookkeeping system it was the same for my time management and goal setting systems.
I kept looking at all the beautiful paper Planners with their pretty covers and promise of streamlined organization. I even bought and tired the Living Well Planner.
While I failed at keeping up with the Living Well Planner its comprehensive system taught me what I did want and need to be successful with my Mompreneur time management system and goal setting.
I discovered that the only way to balance my work and family Must Do lists was to do something I didn’t see anyone talking about. I blended them.
I created for myself a Simplified Weekly Planner Sheet to keep track of my most important Must Do’s.
For me, these Must Do’s tend to be items that I am procrastinating for no good reason or that keep falling through the cracks.
For some reason, I have a mental block about sending in the check for my car registration on time! Am I the only one?
And there is also that pesky quarterly tax bill that needs to be mailed and I need to remember to sign my daughter up for the next session of soccer – excuse me while I make a note about soccer on my Simplified Weekly Planner Sheet right now!
I also like to use my Simplified Weekly Planner Sheet at night to write down things I didn’t accomplish that day that I want to make sure to do first thing the next morning. My brain relaxes, and I sleep better once I’ve written them down.
By having all of my Must Do’s for the week in one place, and only having enough space for the really important Must Do’s, I have been getting them done.
My husband will even add tasks he knows I’ve been procrastinating to the list. Oil change anyone?
Leaving My Goal Setting Rebel Streak Behind
Setting Goals was a giant learning curve for me this year. As someone else’s employee, I was a goal setting rebel! I always protested writing up my yearly goals at work and had never done them for myself.
But as my own boss, the responsibilities to my family to maintain and grow our income meant it was time to learn about goal setting.
This summer I finally accepted it was time to learn about goal setting. I decided to break the last 2 quarters of the year into manageable parts.
I picked a very broad theme for Quarter 3 (July, August & September) and then broke my goal down even farther into monthly sized bites. I allowed myself only three goals for each month.
By September I was just starting to get the hang of monthly goal setting and decided to stick with it for Q4 (October, November December).
I’m glad I did because this fall two things happened that cured me of my goal setting rebellion. I tried anew to me free web-based productivity tool called Trello and I discovered the SMART Goal formula.
Trello was a GAME CHANGER. Three months later I am still using Trello every day. I don’t know of anything else, besides my Gmail calendars that I can say that about. The checklists on the Boards and the ability to upload random ideas and easily organize them are a perfect match for my work style.
I still write down my Quarterly and Monthly business and personal goals. There is something about putting pen to paper that makes them more real. And by using the SMART Goal Formula I feel like they are goals that will stretch me but will also allow me to celebrate some wins.
Tools and Products I Discovered
In addition to Trello and FreshBooks, working from home this year I had the mental energy and time flexibility to try new things.
My preschooler and I grew my first ever successful veggie garden, I discovered the world of podcasts (how did I now know about these before!) and I learned about the amazing functionality of GSuite.
One of the most exciting discoveries for our family weekend time was discovering Target Drive Up. Target Drive up is one of those time AND money saving convinces that I can’t believe I waited this long to try.
Late this summer a colleague gave me the push I needed to give it a try and now I use it ALL THE TIME.
I no longer spend precious free time, with a preschooler in tow, roaming the aisles at Target putting items in my basket that we don’t need. (You can read more about my love of Target Drive-up here and what to know before you use it the first time.)
I also discovered Frixon erasable pens. I must have been living under a rock! I love pretty color pens and the fact that these pens are erasable make them even better.
Facebook Groups have been an unexpected highlight to my work at home life. I never realized how great opportunity was for women (or anyone really) to connect in these private communities
I participate regularly in a couple of Facebook groups and they are the perfect motivation to get my work done so I can check in on everyone when I take a break.
When I look back over my first year working from home the things that stand out the most has been the freedom to be present with my while still growing my career.
I’ve also learned about apps and business productivity tools that I had no idea existed. And I’ve been exposed to entrepreneurs and online businesses owners creating exciting and successful businesses in today’s online world.
Through trial and error, I discovered how to manage my time as my own boss and how to create and achieve goals.
And now that I have built the foundation for my mompreneur journey I can’t wait to see what year two brings!
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