There is a lot of resistance to the idea that working at home makes you lazy. I’d heartily agree that stereotypes are generally unfounded among successful business people who choose to work from home, but I’d also offer up the argument that having worked in a few places in corporate America, people are lazy workers at times no matter where they are stationed for the job. Sadly that includes many of us would-be highly efficient writer folk.
Wasting Time, Wasting Money
I’m going to be bold and suggest that working from home does in fact make you waste time - a lot of it, in fact. To illustrate this fact, I’ll point a finger back in my own direction. I was home this summer with time to work during the day. Hours stretched ahead of me with only a few projects to actually accomplish before bedtime that night.
So I “worked” by reading some favorite blogs. Then I jotted down some notes for an article. Then I realized I hadn’t checks stats on a campaign yet, so I pulled that up for a bit. Looking at stats made me realize I hadn’t checked the bank account balances for the day either. So I checked those as well. Then I wrote down a few more notes. I was like a mouse with a cookie, but without the actual treats.
Of course the kids interrupted all of this “work”, so I had to get up and do something totally different for a few hours. Then I returned to the computer to “finish up” only to realize that I had done about fifteen minutes of work in my first three hours. I was ahead, however, in the news and politics, as I then spent an extra hour reading the comments on two prominent newspapers out of New York before finally getting to work.
The Reality of Billable Hours
The truth of the matter is when given too much time, I am not productive. Since high school I’ve known that I’m most productive and efficient when I have just a bit too much to fit easily into my schedule. I thrive on volume. Taking eight hours of empty time means I’ll likely be wasting seven and working for one. I’d hope you’re not as extreme as this – and I only did this sort of thing for a week before I realized what a tool I’d become and made a quick fix.
As a freelancer, our time is valuable. As a freelancing mother my time is doubly valued. If I’m not making money to support the household, I should be spending that precious time in ways to enrich the home and lives of the kiddos I created. While politics is like a train wreck, spending an hour reading rants from both sides is sheer wasted time since I never get to write about them. The same can be said for virtually all social media, email and apparently, in my case at least, banking websites.
Maximizing Billable Hours
With such a premium on my hours – I don’t bill them out cheaply, mind you – I realized that something needed to change. Not only was I wasting time I could be doing other things I enjoy or need to do, I was feeling very unaccomplished at the end of a day. And nothing feels worse than feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything important in a day.
To correct the problem, I spent some time stewing about my work schedule. Since I only write part-time by choice, my schedule is fixed by my school hours. I don’t have days of lazy summer hours to waste anymore, but I still have hours of evening time ticking away if I’m not forcing myself to be productive.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
I decided to reevaluate the numbers of this career and come up with a solution rather than keep stressing about wasting time without actually doing anything about it. I realized that with my hourly rate and the amount of income I choose to earn by writing, I only really needed to work twelve hours over four days per week. I was already working these same twelve hours, but they had spread out across six days, padded by waste. I condensed the work days to four.
My new working mom schedule includes teaching all five days of the week. But I only write in the evenings on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday through Saturday evenings belong solely to me.
I can use that new free time for hobbies – should I choose to develop some – or for previewing film and reading the books I need to prepare for British Literature classes. I might take some much needed mental downtime and watch brain candy like Glee and Big Bang Theory. I might go to bed at eight o’clock. I might even read random comments on news sites for three hours straight.
Best of all I can enjoy that time totally guilt-free. I work my tail off, which is what is most productive and efficient for me personally, the first days of the week when I’m best rested. Then I’ll relax at the end of the week when I’m most exhausted. And If I want to be horribly lazy, I’ll have earned it and can actually enjoy the break.