Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Things I Learned While Working From Home

My work desk at home
Back in 2009, I got hired to be part of a marketing team of a certain online company. I was hesitant at first since it's not the usual office job that I know of. They allowed me to work from home, on my own flexible time and on my own computer. To be honest, it was too good to be true. So, I had doubts and questions on my mind. But, I still went for it anyway.

Fast forward to today, I am now leading the Online Marketing Team of Staff.com and I have been working with mostly the same people for around 4 years already. If at first I had doubts, today I must say that I am comfortable and happy with the work that I do.

The path I took with my career is not as easy as it seems though. Along the way, I learned some important lessons that helped me last long and feel comfortable in this online industry. I will be sharing them so the people who are just starting out doing online work (or those who are just curious about what we do) could learn some valuable things too.

1. Discipline

This is probably the most essential skill to have when you are working from home. In an office setting, you can be bound by the rules of your boss or your employer. But, when you are at home you have control over all the stuff going on. You have to be able to discipline yourself to focus on work and do all the necessary stuff without getting distracted.

Since you are working at home, it is important to kind of isolate yourself from all the things that make you feel right at home (household chores, TV, etc). In my case, I have set up my own home office at a small corner in my room. When I am in here, I close the door and everyone in this house knows that they cannot disturb me.

This is actually easier said than done. I still kind of struggle with this sometimes. But, I am doing my best to keep myself focused all the time.

2. Time Management

When you have established discipline with yourself, time management follows naturally. I work on my own flexible time. I do not follow the 9 to 5 rule in an office setting. So, I need to schedule my own tasks daily or else things will get cluttered and I will end up not doing anything really productive throughout the day.

Wrist watchWhat helped me a lot was using a number of productivity apps to help me schedule my activities. A simple Calendar and Reminders list will do. You can go for a more dedicated app. But, both those stock iOS apps work fine for me.

I always schedule my work week in advance and I keep a list of the daily tasks that I need to accomplish. I list down every single task that I need to do. That doesn't just end with work. I also list down the personal stuff that need my time (appointments, going out with friends, date nights, etc). I've learned that listing them down really helps keep me focused. Without a schedule or a list, I tend to mix up my priorities and sometimes work could eat up a lot of the important personal time that I also need to attend to.

3. Work/Life Balance

When I started working from home, I got too excited with the idea of being able to work in my computer at my own home on my own flexible working time. It was the most ideal setup for work. So, I immersed myself with work. I took on a number of part time online jobs that allowed me to earn extra income. After all, I have a lot of time here at home. I do not commute. Instead of watching TV at night, why not devote it to work?

Later on, I realized that what I was not doing was not really healthy. I got burnout with work and I needed a 'life.' Although I was sitting at home all day and making money, I found myself missing my friends and the people around me. So, I slowly got rid of the extra stuff I have been doing and focused back on the work that I started with.

From then on, I tried to keep that balance between 'life' and work. I regularly go out and have fun with my girlfriend, I travel, I spend time with my family and I've kept that time doing some of the things I love the most (e.g I am a musician leading the worship team at church). I always find time to do these important things other than work. These are the things that keep me sane and happy.

It is indeed exciting to be in this kind of industry where I get to work virtually anywhere. My friends tell me I am lucky enough to have a job like this. I think so too. But, it is not fair enough to think that just because I work this way, I live an easy and high paying career. That is not necessarily true and I believe  everyone who works online will agree with me on that one. That is a common misconception.

Just like every other occupation, it takes a lot of hard work and investment to survive and get comfortable with this industry. I learned those lessons the hard way. But, that was what it took to help me get to where I am right now.

Carlo Borja is the Head of Online Marketing for Time Doctor, a time tracking software for remote teams. He is a full-time telecommuter, a digital nomad and a coffee junkie.

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Contact Details
Carlo Borja
Cagayan de Oro, Philippines