This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

In Charge Of Your Own Hours? Here's How To Make Them Count

Make sure you get out of the (home) office on time.
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For many office workers, the idea of working from home seems to be the stuff of dreams. You can set your own hours! Work in your pajamas! Avoid awkward water cooler conversation! The advantages, it seems, are endless.

Except ask anyone who actually does work from home and they might tell you differently -- especially on the hours front.

Not having established in-office hours, at-home distractions and an expectation to 'be flexible' can often result in home workers pulling significant amounts of extra time each day. After all, if you never actually physically get to leave the office, how do you switch off?


Buy a planner

"First up, a great planner is your best friend," Deb Hann, founder of Hann's On Enterprises, told The Huffington Post Australia. "I don't mean a diary. I mean a planner.

"We all have diaries to schedule our meetings or whatever else but using a planner, you can really set out your daily, weekly and even quarterly goals.

"Colour code your planner. Block out times that represent domestic, professional and personal times, and commit to that as best as you possibly can.

"You do have to be disciplined and focused around it. It comes down to honouring your blocked out times -- domestic time, family time -- whatever you decide to label it, make sure you treat each time with respect and honour what each represents."

Make a space

"Something else that's really important is having a dedicated space at home," Hann said. "Home is meant to be our sanctuary, so you want to make a specific space that's just for work.

"Whether you have the capacity to have a dedicated room to be a home office or if you just dedicate a particular space to your work -- and that might be as simple as a corner of the table or a corner of the house you don't normally use -- it's a good idea to carve out an area that you know you use specifically to work in."

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Your home workspace doesn't have to be big. It just has to be yours.

Create rituals that work for you

According to Hann, where many home-workers run into trouble is when they don't have a set of routines or rituals in place.

"Create rituals to support you," Hann advised. "Maybe you take the kids to school and then you come home and that's when you start work. What you want to avoid is the situation where you take the kids to school, come home and say 'oh I'll just have a cup of coffee,' and before you know it, it's one o'clock.

"One of my clients for example, gets up and gets dressed as if he is going to the office, gets in his car, drives around the block -- he doesn't go anywhere -- but returns home and starts his work. It's his funny little ritual to signal to his brain he is at work and the professional part of his day has started. While that might be a bit extreme, it works for him.

"So my advice would definitely be to create little rituals that support you and your goals and your personal community."

Regularly review your practices

"While it's important to make your own rules and rituals, it's equally important to review them regularly, in order to be able to adapt and honour them," Hann said.

"The types of rules you set will of course depend on your circumstances. For instance, if you're a mum, you might have set your working day to work around the kids' schedules. If you're a single freelancer, your set of rules might look completely different, but the important thing is they work for you.

"Things change -- seasons change, our conditions change, kids' sleeping patterns change -- so you have to put yourself in the position where you are able to adapt. Reviewing your rules on a regular basis will help you to evaluate what's working and what's not working, so you can more easily honour the goals you've set for yourself."

Review your work rituals regularly to make sure they are still working for you.
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Review your work rituals regularly to make sure they are still working for you.

Set activity-based goals

"The other thing I would say about goals is we tend to get really caught up in having goals centered around dollars and cents and outcomes," Hann said. "The truth is, our goals need to be around activity.

"In other words, if you do the work, you get the reward. Make them more based around how many meetings you're going to have or phone calls you are going to make.

"Off the back of that activity, you should still get the measurable results and outcomes."

Be social

"One of the biggest factors that can really impact people who work from home is that sense of loneliness, isolation and disconnect," Hann said. "To avoid this, it might be an idea to commit to one or two days -- this could be per week or month, as long as it's on a semi-regular basis -- where you go into a shared office space to get that sense of a working community.

"It's also worthwhile to schedule regular networking events or meetings to make sure you're going out and interacting with people.

"Going back to the goals you set for yourself, you want to continually challenge yourself, so you don't become a sloth at home working in your trakkies or your PJs all day long."

Remember to get out and about from time to time.
Ezra Bailey
Remember to get out and about from time to time.

Look after yourself

"Just as we can get caught up coming home from the office and not feeling like cooking dinner or running out of time, this can easily happen working from home," Hann said. "You can get so caught up in something, you suddenly go 'oh my God it's 7 o'clock and I still have to feed the tribe but I have nothing prepared", so you end up ordering pizza and not looking after yourself.

"Prior preparation is key to ensure your nourishment and self care as well.

"This can also come back to honouring your blocked out time. If your allocated time for work is over, well turn off the laptop and put the lid down.

"It is about turning stuff off. It's just as important to take your breaks as it is to put your head down.

"You still need to challenge yourself to have that personal time."

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