How To Overcome The Challenges Of Working From Home

Do you work from home? If you do, then you know it’s not without its challenges. I’ve worked from home for 10+ years. If you know me well at all, you know that I do this with a 3 year old and 1 year old at home with me all day. Without a doubt, one of the questions I’m asked most often is ‘how do you do it?’ So today I’ve explained how to make it work for you…

Set Boundaries

My home office has NO door. You can come and go as you please. Because of this, my family knows my schedule each week. They know which times it’s okay to come talk to me and which times I’m not to be distracted. The critical component here is to have your family support you. If your spouse thinks that just because you’re home during the day you can take out the trash and vacuum all day then you’re going to have problems. Your spouse has to be on board.

Set Schedule

Set a schedule and stick to it. Start on time and finish on time. Not only that, but you have to let your family know your schedule. Your schedule is also very important because without it you’ll find yourself working every now and then without accomplishing anything. It’s true that when working from home you don’t have to do a 9-5 shift. But you DO have to work!

Set Expectations

Because I do a large amount of consulting and coaching, I spend a lot of time on the phone. I let all of my clients know that I run a lifestyle business and work from home. I prepare them to expect to hear kids in the background. The noise my kids make is never an issue. And trust me, it’s not because my kids are quiet! (This is also where spousal support becomes important. When I’m on a call, webinar, or whatever…my wife makes sure the kids don’t kill each other or come into my office screaming. She probably deserves a raise but don’t tell her I said that.)

Set Priorities

You have to know which tasks are your top priorities and get those done at all costs. My to-do list is never-ending. There’s always something to do. BUT if I’ve finished my 3-5 top priority tasks for the day and my kids want to come in and play with me then I welcome that distraction. After all, THAT is why I’m working from home…to be with them as much as possible! The better you manage your priorities, the more successful you’ll be working from home.

Set Environment

You must have a dedicated space in your house to work. The dining room table isn’t going to cut it unless you turn the entire room into your office. You need a space that inspires you and where you can set yourself up for success. Do not underestimate the importance of your work environment. It plays a huge role in your productivity.

I’m not sure that working from home is right for everyone. As I’ve mentioned, it comes with a lot of responsibility and challenges. But for me, I was able to watch both of my kids take their first steps. I was able to hear them speak their first words. I get to spend a lot of time with them and my wife every single day. These are the benefits that make the challenges worth it.

The key is commit yourself to making it work. Then create an environment and routine that works for your business and family. And most of all, enjoy it and never take it for granted. It sure beats the heck out of sitting in a cubicle smaller than a prison cell.

Photo by me…of my daughter Ava

  • SuzanneGerety

    Hi John, fun post…you said a lot of what always goes through my mind when people say, “how on earth do you get anything done when you work from home?!?!”.

    The answer is always, somehow I can accomplish more in 3 hours working from home than I can in an 8 or 10 hour day when I’m on-site. You have to be masterful at managing your time and schedule. While interruptions happen – for example I get a stretch break by going to get my son off the bus….or a little ‘art’ break when the kids want to show me their coloring projects. My office at our dance studio is much more distracting than when I work from home…

    While it’s not for everyone, the combination of a supportive spouse, a great group of babysitters, time management that doesn’t fall into the 9-5 trap – but rather looks at the day as 24 hrs is what’s worked for me. My ‘office’ is essentially wherever I can find a good place to plug in my Mac book. :-)

  • Leah Mackey

    All great points. I worked from home for 3 years and faced the same challenges! This includes often never changing out of my pajamas or turning into a recluse that never left the house for weeks on end.

    Now, if I could just get some tips for overcoming the challenges of working in an office environment. I am consistently bombarded with meetings about meetings, emails, meetings, calls, meetings, IMs, meetings, and visitors stopping by for one-offs, oh, and did I say meetings?

  • Janice Mobsby
  • SimonKerr

    Awesome post, I have worked at home before and it is difficult. Now my kids are full time at school which is awesome except my wife teaches Violin at home to little kids and the only room I got left is the living room with my big screen tv and before long my finger magically all by itself hits the power button on the remote and I get stuck watching pawn stars and american pickers all day. So I got myself a nice quiet office that no one knows where I am so that is great. Figured out if I dont put a sign up no one can find me. It’s less than 2mins from my house so I go home for lunch and leave early just in time for my kids arrive home and leave the house after they have left in the morning.

  • ChadMillerBlog

    I took advantage of the opportunity to work at home for a short time. It was definitely challenging, but I was able to accomplish my priorities the majority of the time.
    I had one response when asked about working from home, “If you are distractible in an office environment, don’t do it.” The distractions in the home can be unlimited as you realize the opportunities you have to get done those things you have been putting off… fix the post on the front porch, mow the lawn because you really want to be outside, watch that movie on Netflix that you’ve been wanting to see…
    Great list of advice, John.

  • spencer shaw

    Being in the same boat as you working from home with kids has it’s rewards and challenges. You nailed it by saying there’s a never ending list of to-do’s but if you accomplish the top few priorities the day is a winner. Besides my environment I also have to notice how my body reacts and use that to my strength – for example I’m unstoppable in the morning but if you try and get me to use my work talents in the evening I’m brain dead in most cases. I also use a lot of productivity hacks to make my work go smoother and automated so that I don’t have to use my willpower on mundane tasks so I use a lot of apps, SaaS tools, and internal systems to make things flow. Lastly, I think one of the biggest challenges for working at home (for me at least) is being in isolation. Sure, some people enjoy it and that’s cool but for me I need my peeps. I need to be able to think on my feet, bounce ideas off other people. For some weird reason explaining a project to my 6 year old or 4 year old asking for creative input usually leaves me hearing about boogers. I’ve found being on Skype or the phone to make up for the lack of human presence when I’m isolated.

  • John Morgan

    I love that Suzanne! You manage the working from home so well. I remember us having a few conversations about it in the past.

  • John Morgan

    Wait, I’m supposed to leave the house?

    The challenges of working in an office numerous and you just named some great ones. It’s not easy to be productive with all of those distractions!

  • John Morgan

    Simon you and I are cut from the same cloth. I could literrally watch Pawn Stars and American Pickers ALL day!

  • John Morgan

    Great points Chad!

  • John Morgan

    There’s no doubt that being an entrepreneur is a lonely profession. Especially when we work from home. I’m thankful I’ve got people like you that I can always call or email when needed. Even when it’s just to talk about nothing!

  • SimonKerr

    I’m lucky – also get Canadian pickers and pawnathon canada cajun pawn stars is also awesome tuesday night dad owns the tv from 8 till midnight my wife and kids can’t stand it but that’s the deal they get all week to watch all their shows LOL having kids is awesome though I can get up saturday early and watch cartoons all morn without feeling weird nothin like spongebob at 630 Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
    Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

  • keithnerdin

    Not only is there the difference between those who work from home and those who work in the office, but there’s the other variable of whether you’re a W2 employee who is telecommuting or completely self-employed. I’ve worked from home in both scenarios and doing so while being self-employed really gives you the freedom to indulge in distraction! At least as an employee you likely still have a boss who is pestering you to get stuff done. Not only do I work from home being self-employed, but I’m also going to school full-time (graduating Spring ’13–woohoo!). It’s crucial to instill your own structure and routine. A couple things I also do, I try to go walk around a few blocks before I start working. It sort of feels like I’m “going to work” and helps clear my head and helps me focus. I also try and eat my lunches away from my desk (outside if possible). Not only is this SUPER important for unplugging for a bit and connecting with others in the home, but I tend to have my best ideas or accidentally solve big problems when I forcefully take a moment to chill. Your words have been very helpful. I wonder how many people will be forwarding this to their spouse to help create a plan together. I know I did. You’ve provided great tips on some things that I continue to struggle with. Thanks for the post!

  • John Morgan

    Keith, I love the idea of walking outside before starting your day! And you’re spot on about eating away from your desk. When you take a break, you’ve got to get away from the computer completely.

  • Paul Cooley

    Great post John! I can relate with each one of these topics. I had to learn each one the hard way. Haha.. ah the memories. I can truly say, despite the frustration I experienced figuring out how to set the right boundaries and so on, it has been an absolute blessing to be home and not miss out on watching my babies grow up. I would have missed out on so many cool memories, if I had not been working from home.

    I know for me, one of the biggest obstacles I had to face was with my spouse and getting both of us on the same page with the business. That one took a while! :)

    But it is all worth it! Keep up the great work John!

  • John Morgan

    Good for you Paul! You’re so right about it being worth it. Glad to hear you got it rocking!

  • DJ Waldow

    John – Turns out we have a quite a bit in common. I also work from home – have for 3+ years now. I also have two little ones – 2.5 years old and 4 months old. Our 2.5 year old is named Eva (pronounced A-vah). Ha!

    For the past few months, we’ve had a live-in nanny meaning my kiddos are home for a portion of the day. I love that you don’t have a door on your home office – not what I expected you to say.

    As far as setting the environment, I’ve never been good at this. I actually enjoy moving around. Sometimes I work from the kitchen table, other times from the couch, other times from my chair hammock. Lately, I’ve been spending more time in my “office” (aka, the guest bedroom that has a desk and nice chair. The more time I spend in the “office” the more I think I like it as my true work space – the place I’ll spend most of my time.

    Finally, I love (LOVE) this part of your post:

    There’s always something to do. BUT if I’ve finished my 3-5 top priority tasks for the day and my kids want to come in and play with me then I welcome that distraction. After all, THAT is why I’m working from home…to be with them as much as possible!

    That’s also one of the main reasons I work from home.

    Thanks for writing this. Looking forward to seeing you in Iowa in a few weeks!

  • John Morgan

    DJ, we sure do have a lot in common! I’m looking forward to seeing you in Iowa as well. Thanks for the kind words about this post!

  • Devesh

    Right on, John! Can’t agree more on the ‘set schedule’, when I first started working from home, I did 12-14 hours work days simply because I didn’t have a set schedule and although it was fun and motivating in the beginning over time, it just consumed my social and personal life. It took me months to get out of that ‘work anytime and all the time’ habit and put myself on a schedule but I feel more productive and enjoy work and life a lot more than i was working 12-14 hours of random hours.

    A quick tip I’d like to add here is find your most productive work hours and set it aside from all distractions, not just personal distractions like home and kids but every possible distractions like email, phone, social media, meetings etc. For example, I’m my best between 9am-12pm so I try to do all my writing & creative work during those 3 hours and not take any meetings, calls, social media etc in those hours. It’s surprising how much one can get done in his productive hours with no distractions at all.

  • John Morgan

    Excellent advice Devesh. You’re spot on. We have to find the times when we can get in the “zone” and do our best work. As you pointed out, we MUST eliminate distractions.