I believe this to be an extremely controversial topic. I'm starting to debate whether I want to work full time at a company or as a freelancer for a few years, I feel the importance of speaking about this subject.
I love waking up, getting dressed and going to work. Being surrounded by creative people. Discussing ideas. Have gossipy lunch breaks. And bonding with people from the office over drinks after a long week. This being said, I also love being able to choose my own working hours, projects, background noise and all the perks that come with working from home / being a freelancer.
It is a sensitive topic as not everyone can always manage working from home - including me!
When I was at university, I interned with a lovely company for 7 months as their PR assistant. This was a great opportunity for me. Since at the time I had very little experience, especially in PR or marketing. My role was pretty standard: sending, replying to emails; preparing press releases; send pitches to magazines; find new contacts, etc...
I took this internship as at the time I felt it was the right opportunity for me. Not only was I getting a lot of experience. Considering the brand is quite small, resulted in me doing a range of different roles. But also, I could work from home. Enjoy my holiday and summer break. And all I had to do was present my work once a week on a face to face meeting. It was perfect!
In the beginning of the internship, I felt that I had had a laid-back boss would be great. I could work whenever it was most convenient for me. All she needed was me to achieve a certain amount of goals per week. And don't get me wrong I really got on so well with my boss, which made me so excited to carry on. Due to this relationship, I also got to work on extra tasks that were not part of the originally agreed strategy.
However, at the end of my internship, I found that although I had tried new things and had worked quite a bit for this company I hadn't been challenged enough. This was mostly due to me having no set structure. Which made me lack on the amount of work I could do on an 8 hour day.
Since then, I have definitely learned how to use my time in a much more productive way. These tips didn't just fall into my lap. It took me a lot of 'trial and error' to find the ways that worked better for me and my work. Most of these I am still today trying to adjust and perfect. But some I found very useful during the time I was doing my final major project.
As for this project I was assigned to do create and do a project for 3 months. This project was done completely from home except for a 15 minutes meeting with my tutor once a week (or more if I felt the need for it). Since I knew that my grade really depended on it I had to try my best to organise my time and myself.
I really can't stress how much to-do lists have helped me stay on track!
For me having one main goal is very distracting and confusing. So, I started splitting them into small tasks that would help me accomplish these main goals. From there I created to-do lists for each week/month of the project. Finally, at the end of the day, I always tried to make a realistic list for the following day. Sometimes I would even split it by morning and afternoon tasks, other times I would put it in my calendar and create time slots for each task.
Do what feels best for you, just keep it real. If you are unsure if the list is going to overfill your day or leave you with nothing to do after lunch, add a few tasks under "maybe?". These are tasks you can do if you have extra time on your hands. I used to assign easy tasks or the start of a bigger task to this section.
Work Realistic Times
Whether you are working as a freelancer, working from home or doing a university project, I truly believe you should take it as seriously as if you were at the office.This will not only ensure the highest quality on your project but also the best use of your time.
I always used to set myself realistic working timetables of 7 to 8 hours, depending on whether I had my part-time that day or not. During those hours my focus was 100% on my work. A lot of it came from the location choice, which really allowed me to be as productive as I could.
Choose The Right Background Noise
The environment that you choose to work in is so important. Simply due to procrastination.
As I worked on my final major project, I found that although I was following the tips I shared above my productivity was ridiculously dropping. It was all due to location. As in the beginning of the project I was working from my room. I had a slow start but still productive. I believe it was mostly due to the hype of working on a brand new project. But soon I realised that my room was not the best solution. Especially when I was working for long consecutive days inside to then have my breaks in my room as well. It was exhausting.
So, I started to explore my options. I worked in my kitchen for a while. But living in a shared student house there would always be people coming in and out. And since I was friends with all my housemates there would always be small talk. I also thought about being outside in the parks. It was the beginning of spring and "it could be nice". But I quickly wiped that idea out as I reminded myself how unstable the weather is in England.
Luckily my university also had a range of rooms I could use depending on my preference. So, I explored all of them until I found the perfect spot for myself. In the first semester, I remembered really enjoying working on the library's first floor. It was perfect. Quiet and cosy enough to keep me warm but not sleepy as I typed my dissertation away. However, for the project I was doing, I needed a creative boost. That was when I rediscovered the basement.
The basement was the library spot for fashion students. All the books were right there for you, with access to small group tables and macs to work on the visuals. I also found that the fact that it wasn't completely silent made it feel like an office. I started going every day. I would work my 7 to 8 hours a day and go home. Although it was a university project, I took it as seriously as if it was my real job. A few friends of mine would join me and sit at the table which really made me feel as if I was working at an office, that for me was the best solution.
Going to an outside place to work allowed me to split it from leisure. As after that I would just get home and relax. Or even go out and forget all about my "adult" responsibilities.
Now, this might seem like the perfect solution for you or even like your worst nightmare. Different people work better in different environments. I need my environment to be productive. And my room was definitely not it! At the moment every time I have to work from home I use my dining room or kitchen, where I can sit straight at a desk. Just never in the room.
But you might find that working outside or at a coffee shop is what is best for you. Just make sure you are being 100% productive and not fake productive - which is very easy to fall into.