I was reading this post on Thought Catalogue about how your lifestyle is designed by your working practices and this sentence jumped out at me:
the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours
When I think back to my days at the BBC in open-plan, busy broadcasting offices, I think that was probably true for me. Offices provide endless opportunities for distractions: chatting with co-workers, coffee/cigarette/extended lunch breaks and the timesink of the internet.
This got me thinking: now that I'm self employed, do I get more work done?
I don't have to think hard about that. Definitely, yes. On any usual working day, I will easily, devotedly and earnestly work for at least 8 hours. According to the Thought Catalogue post, that's 5 hours more per day than I did in a big-company office environment. Here's why:
My workspace works for me
For the past year-and-a-bit, I've had my own studio, outside of my own home.
From the start of my business, it was very important to me to have my own workplace that was separate from my home. Firstly, I have a tendency to work all day, every day, and separating my physical work space helps with my work/life balance. Secondly, my partner is also self-employed, so works at home a lot, and I know I work better alone.
In a networking group I used to belong to, the founder said that one of the aspects of self-employment that had worried her, prior to making the leap, was that she thought she was going to be alone all day.
In my self-employed days so far, working alone has never, ever bothered me. I love working by myself. I enjoy working collaboratively, but all of my best work is done by myself.
If you're working for yourself, you'd better get used to being okay with your own company to some extent, but you can choose the type of work space that suits you.
Co-working spaces like B.HIVE, Central Working and TechHub offer you an office-like environment, while still allowing you your own business space. If you need a permanent creative space, many designers, photographers and other creative types share spaces that range from separate studios to large open-plan warehouse areas. Many self-employedites I know like using their favourite cafe (or pub) to work in for a few hours each day, to take them out of their home office and connect them with the world.
I have no problem being self motivated
Self-motivation is essential when you're self-employed. There's no boss nagging you to meet deadlines and aside from fulfilling clients' requirements, there's no one to force you to keep developing your business, keep pushing your products, keep increasing and striving and achieving.
Self-motivation, like the best habits, can be learned. I know I've always been self-motivated to some extent, I've managed to study for and pass school, university & professional exams, for example, but it's been my personal goals that have really taught me about self-motivation.
In the past 10 years I have moved my life to the other side of the world, on a 1-way ticket and the vague promise of a couch to crash on. I've trained for and run a marathon in 3 hours 38 minutes. I've gained British citizenship. These are all goals I am proud to have achieved. When the going gets tough running my business, I think back to what made me keep saving, keep training, keep studying for the Life in the UK test and I harness that to keep me going.
I allow distractions
In my office of one, I have my odd moments of distraction. Usually it's an indication my work/life balance has become askew and my body or brain is asking me for a break. I know there's no point in forcing myself to work when all I really want to do is take a walk, have a nap, read a book or just remove myself from the world for a while.
I'm most productive when I'm feeling calm, centred and relaxed. I know from experience that the 3 hours of distracted, frustrated work that I force out of myself when I feel I "should be working" but really, really don't want to, will probably have to be redone the next day, and could be done in just 1 hour when I'm feeling focussed again. Knowing this, I would rather spend those other 2 hours getting myself in the right frame of mind.
I enjoy what I do
This is the heart of it all. Yes, I don't enjoy every single task that I do as part of running my business (tax returns, anyone?) but most of the work I do, I really enjoy. I'd rather be doing this than anything else. Which makes all the rest of it - self-motivation, working by myself, accepting distractions - come that much easier.
I often hear friends complain about their jobs. I'm sure you've heard these excuses too: "It's not what I really want to do, but I need the salary to cover the mortgage/child care/my hobbies"...." I can't change jobs at the moment because I need to work at this level for a while if I want to move up in the future..."
In making the decision to go self employed, you are saying "I want to do this". If working for you really isn't working for you, ask yourself: "do I enjoy this?"
If you don't enjoy what you do, no amount of workspace tips is going to make you significantly productive. Maybe if this is the case, the type of environment where you can work 3 hours a day and get paid for 8 would be best. Until you figure out what you really want to do.