How Not to Work From Home

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The fact that I wrote the title for this post this morning, stared blankly at it for a while before getting up to make myself a cup of tea and returning 10 hours later, sums up my work from home style perfectly.

I have a vague recollection of meeting people at parties who worked from home and struggled to click with them on the grounds that I was immensely jealous and wanted their life. I thought that working from home was a cushy number packed full of impromptu naps, leisurely lunches, online shopping and perhaps a couple of emails here and there to show willing. Despite now knowing this not to be true for most stay at home workers, it bears an uncanny resemblance to my working day.

I get up when my conscience forces me to do so. Head out for a coffee, I tell myself this is a necessary part of my working day and will have me firing on all cylinders when I return. Unfortunately I tend to over indulge, three coffees later and I feel like I’ve had my drink spiked by a vindictive barista and I’m completely incapable of work on account of the fact that I’m physically shaking. Not to worry it’s nearly lunch time, I can’t work on an empty stomach can I?


I will scour every nook and cranny of the internet for a recipe that grabs me, there’s no telling how long that could take, before popping out to get the necessary bits and bobs. Appetite suitably appeased I glance at the clock and shift effortlessly into panic/guilt mode. I have three hours left to justify my claim to work from home by actually doing some work.

I make myself comfy at my desk, open a host of none work related internet pages and the moment things get tricky I transport myself to a place less mentally taxing; this place usually comes with cats that play the piano, shoes I can’t afford and holidays I’ll never go on. Perhaps some exercise will put me in the zone, all those happy little endorphins will surely equate to some good old fashioned graft? Unfortunately endorphins don’t respond to sitting by a pool reading a book.


Back home and I find myself looking around the house for possible chores to do, that’s when you really know you aren’t cut out for this kind of work. I even tell myself “if I was to do some hoovering perhaps that would reduce the feeling of guilt I’m experiencing and actually make me feel a sense of achievement?” I try it and it doesn’t work.

Usually around this time Anna gets home and makes enquiries about my day; what I got up to, whether it was productive, why there’s a video of a cat playing the piano on the computer, that sort of thing.


Working from home is really hard work when you lack self control and will power in equal measures. Have you ever worked from home? Have you got any tips for a rank amateur?

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  • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me

    So I’m no expert, I’ve only been doing it for 3 years or so but the key is to turn off social media, the radio and get stuck in. It’s that simple. Write a very basic to-do list, things that you are able to cross off as you go to give you some sense of accomplishment. Treat it as if you were ‘at’ work, so give yourself a 20 minute lunch break, although make sure you hang out washing also otherwise you’ll get to 3pm and it won’t dry! As I write this I’m about to write a to-do list, it will include 18 newspaper feature editorials, 200 words each, ALL due by Friday midday. Answer questions to a blogger who wants to feature me, quite a big deal so should make the time, write a sponsored post, (so maybe I should bump that above the questions, yes must do that), then buy present for friend, take DVD back, pay Telstra bill, use online voucher I won three months ago (and keeps getting postponed because is at the bottom of my list) You catch my long-winded, boring drift. IT’S TOUGH! But it means more precious hours with my babies and a few luxuries in life.
    Good luck, you can do it! If not, fake it til you make it! Em x

    • daddownunder

      I don’t know how you squeeze everything in Em. “18 newspaper feature editorials, 200 words each, ALL due by Friday midday” – that alone would have me hyperventilating, let alone how much of a busy blogger I know you to be. . I had a feeling lists would be a useful tip. And you’re right social media is the enemy

      • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me

        The 200-word advertorials are easy, I could write them in my sleep. I could sell ice to Eskimos! I can smash ’em out, because there are formulas and style guides (News Limited) to adhere to. Lists are GOLD :)

  • ClaireyHewitt

    It really is much easier to work at work. I never do any housework at all when I work at home. I tidy the room I am working in and leave the rest of it. And I never go out, no cafe’s etc until I have completed the worst task on the list.

    • daddownunder

      I suppose I need to start with a list Claire to have something at the bottom of it ; ) I might adopt that one though, it’s all down hill after the coffee

  • Neets

    Ha ha ha I can so relate. Self motivation is what I struggle with a lot all the time. Can we blame this beaut Melbourne weather for all of our distractions Matt? I like Em’s tips below, sounds like she’s got it sorted. A to do list is always on my to do list in the mornings. I just don’t seem to get to it. :)

    • daddownunder

      We can blame the weather Neets because blaming things other than ourselves is what people like us do best ; ) Safety in numbers, you’re not alone

      • Neets

        So true :)

  • Ida

    I’ve also been working from home for about three years (I design and sew handbags), and start my day by reading my blog list during breakfast. Then I check my emails, write a basic to-do list for the day, make phone calls if I need to, and then get away from the computer (social media kills my work vibe! I’d still be on facebook three hours later if I didn’t close the laptop), switch on my record player, pick an lp depending on my mood and just start sewing / cutting / cleaning / whatever needs to be done according to my list. the most dangerous time is after lunch, when I, again, check emails and then stumble upon interesting blog posts and get a little tired after my meal. coffee helps, but only one mug at a time, otherwise I am too shaky for work! 😉

    • daddownunder

      What’s your website Ida? I’d love to see what you get up to. For some reason I think sewing would be quite therapeutic?

      • Ida

        You are right, it can be! I love that I get to work with beautiful fabrics and that I can develop my own patterns. But very often it is quite tricky. The website is, let me know what you think! :)

  • Mel

    I work from home with the two kids (3.5yrs and 1 yrs) and definitely resent it sometimes.. I do it slightly differently I guess in that I’m not overly productive during the day.. I figure that’s my stay-at-home-parent hat time. And of course playing with the kids, trying to teach them stuff, eating, cooking, cleaning, groceries etc will fill the day anyway.. I duck into the office here and there to respond to anything really important.. even if only with a quick email to say – speak soon.. Then once they’ve gone to bed I charge thru as much as I possibly can before bed and a quick 15 mins on the kindle to unwind. It does mean I’ve not watched any telly at night (actually maybe 2 nights a month) for about 3 years.. But on the plus side I get awesome days with the kids (checking out the resident elephant seal at the beach the other day), and successfully run the business. I think there are two keys for me.. One is to provide realistic expectations to clients straight up.. that I work daily but at odd hours.. and two is to be SUPER efficient. I need to charge thru in the time I have.. NO toilet breaks, no tea breaks.. no modem.. Then I can have a breather and check out what you posted today :-).. The only other thing I try to remember that “f***ing around” only costs our family money, and me time away from the kids (or even relaxing on the lawn in the sun) and nothing is worth procrastinating more than that!!!

    • daddownunder

      All very true Mel, it sound shectic but you’re right the reality is more down time to enjoy the important things in life

  • Liz Broomfield

    I set up a list of homeworker’s commandments when I started working from home part time and they have stood me in good stead for keeping my work-life balance sorted. Apart from that, love your work and write to-do lists are my two main recommendations!

    • daddownunder

      Lists keep popping up Liz, I’m not usually a list kin of a guy but I think it’s time to start

  • Richard Farrar

    Get yourself one of these?

  • Aaron

    My wife and I both work from home. The key is to have a separate part of the house that is specifically for work. We still ‘go to work’ (although that is just upstairs) and have regular breaks. I try to juggle this with looking after our son, so I don’t often get a whole lot done.
    There are pitfalls, though. My wife didn’t finish work until 2 a.m. this morning…

    • daddownunder

      2am finishes are not happening here Aaron, 2pm finishes happen quite regularly ; )

  • Veggie Mama

    Can’t help a bit! I’m totally flying by the seat of my pants at the mo. Two toddlers mean I rarely get to the computer during the day. But on day care day – I do THESE:

    • daddownunder

      That’s the sort of thing I needed to read, I will endeavour to put most of these into practice starting from……now.

  • Zanni Louise

    I work from home Matt, and yes, I am easily distracted. But I turn my wi-fi connection off, turning it back on to reward myself for reaching small milestones, such as finishing a chapter. I always have a decadent breaky, break for coffee/lunch, and resume until the end of the day. I have a bottle of water at my side, and only get up for toilet breaks. My main vice is stupid FB, so I really have to practice restraint there. It does get easier. Be realistic about what you can do in one sitting, and give yourself reasonable breaks.

    • Zanni Louise

      Oh and I always make work days exercise days.

      • daddownunder

        Your days sound like a pleasure; exercise, decadent brekkies/lunch – I need to take a leaf out of your book. Mine have an air of headless chook about them

    • daddownunder

      Stupid FB indeed, a necessary evil.

  • Sonia from Sonia Styling

    Lists and rewards, my friend. Write a to do list at the beginning of each day (including any chores/errands). Get the crappy/difficult tasks out of the way as early as possible and then reward yourself with a coffee/trip to the shops/social media. Leave the tasks that require very little brain capacity for the second half of the day. Ta da! (says the girl who has never worked from home)

    • daddownunder

      You sound like you’ve been doing it your whole life Sonia, lists and rewards, I’ll have to give it a go.

  • Ellie Scarf

    The only thing that kept me going when I worked from home was that pay as a consultant was about 3 times the amount I earned as an employee. So I could work 1/3 as much. And I did. Not for me unfortunately as I crave conversation…

    • daddownunder

      It is quite isolating working form home, I think that’s why I linger at the coffee shop to get some adult chat

  • Cam

    Heeehee read that and can so totally relate. I too procrastinate all day avoiding the task I really need to do. It’s hard to keep focus when there’s so many things that easily distracts us.

    Something I tried recently that I hadn’t done in years is go to the local library. Even better if there’s no wifi, given you don’t need it. Just grab your laptop (or book) and just put your head down and … work.

    Also I read somewhere best way to complete something and to keep concentration is to do a task for an hour then stop and move on to another task and do that for an hour and so on.

    • daddownunder

      Wise words Cam, trouble is I only make it to 10 minutes per task and then have to move on to the next bit. Library could be a good idea

  • Sarah

    I work half the week in the office, half at home…and I actually prefer being at home…I love the peace and quiet, or being able to my fav 80s tunes playing! I don’t get constantly interrupted by people coming into my office wanting this…complaining about that! At home, i can ignore emails until I am ready to deal with them…and I can get much more done…but it is important to get into a routine….and not get distracted…which I sometimes am by writing for my blog! Making a list is my best thing…start at the top & work my way through..then allow myself some me time! :)

  • Lisa @ Random Acts Of Zen

    It’s lovely, but can be so easy to get distracted also!
    After school drop-off I hang out washing that I put on before I left, then get stuck in.
    I find I’m much more productive if I stop at the beach on the way home for a walk, exercise seems to get those creative thoughts spinning.
    Lists are a must!

  • Renee at Mummy, Wife, Me

    Ahh you make me laugh. I love the par ‘Usually around this time Anna gets home and makes enquiries about my
    day; what I got up to, whether it was productive, why there’s a video of
    a cat playing the piano on the computer, that sort of thing.’ When I was a freelance writer I found it VERY hard to not be distracted at the start, then I quickly worked out that if I don’t write, I don’t get paid, and we won’t have food on the table. Quite a strong incentive to switch off the net :)

  • Cor@DownUnder the Rabbit Hole

    Your working from home sounds a lot like mine! As a teacher, I tend to have a lot of work that needs to be done after hours (marking, prep, etc) and I always get it out with the best of intentions and then get completely sidetracked from the task I should be doing. I found it easiest to work in the least distracting room of the house — I set myself up at the dining room table and try to work in solid half hour blocks, then get up and get food/tea/play with the cats and dogs, etc before settling back down. Some days it works (usually when I know I have to hand marking back or a deadline is fast approaching), some days it doesn’t.

    Good luck finding a routine that works for you!

  • Emily

    My top tips: Open every internet page you need to do whatever you’re doing, then unplug the wifi. Put the phone where you can’t see it/reach it, write a list BUT then set yourself a single task off your to-do list, and do not shift your butt until that task is done. Then do something else (toilet/get a drink/stretch), then do TWO things off the list, and so on.
    That’s how I do it, anyway. Probably sounds like I’m organised and efficient, but it’s because I’m NOT usually those things that I have developed this system!

  • Sonia@ LIfe Love and Hiccups

    I have worked from home now for going on 6 years and my only advice is – DO NOT GET ADDICTED TO THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL!!!! x

  • Cherie Anne

    Ha! Oh man … the RELATE!

    I work from home f/t with Max (3) & Frankie (9 months), so … it’s safe to say that sweet FA gets done during the day!

    At night, I work from 7pm’ish till’ whenever’ish I get everything done (sometimes, that’s the wee hours of the morning).

    And when I click on at 7pm, I turn OFF social media & every little thing that can distract me, & just get it done, … otherwise it’s heart palpitation kinda stress the next day!

    It’s hard. And yep! I am no longer even REMOTELY jealous of the people who work-from-home, because I am that person, & while I know I am BLESSED, it’s FLIPPING hard work 😉

    x x x