Work Smarter, Not Harder

November 14, 2012

Its been almost 8 months since I started working from home/ random cities and airports. I love it so far. Then again I may have a fetish for airplanes and airports so I don’t know if I’m normal. Working for yourself (from home) is fantastic because it provides a certain type of freedom that working in a corporate cultural can’t. For example, I am writing this sitting in a coffeeshop in Boston waiting to meet a friend for breakfast.

I don’t know many people who wouldn’t want to work at home and enjoy the freedom that it offers. The problem for most people is that they still need to contend with working a full time job and handling all of their other responsibilities. That is why, for most people, living the work at home dream is something that will always be out of their reach, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

I want to start off by saying that not everyone can and should put all their eggs in one basket like I did. I walked away from a great position in a company and industry that I just wasn’t passionate about. I’m 28 years old, and felt like I need to take a leap, and that this would be the best time to do it. I don’t have kids, and I made enough with my side-business to have all of my bills paid covered without struggling.

It took me 2 years to build my network here, and by build I mean hardcore networking, volunteering for Regional Committees, sitting on Boards for Non-profits and for Profit companies, organizing events etc. It took a lot of my free time, but it also gave me insight into things that I loved doing and the things that I couldn’t be paid enough to do. As time when on I got to a position where I could pick and choose the things I liked and walk away from the things that stopped being appealing.

I also learned to value and hone the skills that are in demand and outsource the tasks that I don’t enjoy or take up too much of my time.

Here are some of my tips:

Have Ā a schedule. Block out times for everything.There have been weeks where I put sleep, gym, eat etc in my calendar so I don’t forget to do them. Knowing that you have 2 hours to finish a task makes it easier to be focused.

Do a time audit for different tasks every 2-3 months.I look at how much time I spent answering emails. What questions keep popping up? Are they from the same people or different ones. Doing a deep dive helps me understand where I need to clarify better, and what gaps need to be addressed quickly.

Have and create time for yourself and your family.There is no ‘normal’ and more, so you have to create your template of that a ‘typical’ day looks like.

Invest in self improvement.This could be reading a new book a month, or go to a conference or a networking event. Make sure its part of your budget.

Automate everything that doesn’t need human interaction or conversation.There are a ton of apps that can help with this depending on what type of work you do.

Ask for help.I have a VA who saves my life almost everyday. Know that you can’t do everything yourself, and building a company needs more than just you.

Set Goals.I have daily, weekly, and monthly goals. This helps me and my team accountable. And I celebrate the little wins.


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  • Budget & the Beach November 14, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I agree it takes a certain discipline to work for yourself and/or at home. I had to learn to turn down day plans with people, even if I didn’t have actual work to do, because there was always something I could be doing to GET more work.

    • Marissa November 14, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      I know! I have lost days going out with friends for “lunch”.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules November 14, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Great tips! I took the plunge about six months ago and couldn’t agree more. My wife had been running the business for the previous two years and just got to a point where there needed to be more than just her handling the business. I like good problems like that! šŸ™‚ Being disciplined and being wise with your time is essential, otherwise it’s easy to just go nowhere.

    • Marissa November 14, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      Congrats on taking the plunge!

  • The College Investor November 14, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Good tips. I recently hired a VA to help me with some of the time consuming tasks that are necessary but don’t really do it for me.

    • Marissa November 14, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      VA are the greatest thing (people) ever!

  • femmefrugality November 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Awesome tips! I’m in love with the idea of it, but I don’t know if I could give up the 9-5 for life. Health insurance costs in particular would kill me. I’ve heard so many places that the biggest problem for work at homers is time management. You don’t have anyone there to be accountable to, so you just don’t work. Thanks for addressing the issue so thoroughly, in case I ever am brave enough to make the plunge!

    • Marissa November 14, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      Its a bit easier in Canada because we have universal health care. And good luck with the scholarship!

  • Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals November 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I’ve worked from home for the past two years, and although I love the freedom it offers me, it is WAY harder because now my two kids are underfoot constantly (instead of at daycare, as they were when I worked outside the home). More than anything, I miss the relative “peace” and “quiet” of my old office – although I don’t miss the drama or politicking!

    • Marissa November 14, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      I have trouble working at home when my brother is over, I can’t begin to imagine having kids around.

  • Jason @ WorkSaveLive November 14, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Great stuff! I work from home and it definitely takes somebody that’s goal-oriented and disciplined to do it. I enjoy it though and dread ever having to go back to a normal 8-5 job!

    • Marissa November 14, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      It does take a certain type of person to do that.

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses November 14, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Great tips! It sure does sound nice to work for yourself, though I don’t know if I could make the plunge myself, at least yet. Cheers šŸ™‚

    • Marissa November 14, 2012 at 10:17 pm

      Its not a great as I make it out to be. It gets lonely really quickly, but the freedom makes up for it.

  • American Debt Project November 14, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    What do you use your VA for? I am definitely spending all of my free time working on my own projects and it’s tough but I like it. However, when our business launches, I will still have an office. I think 1-2 days a week working together in person with my core team keeps me accountable. I like the idea of having somewhere separate from home. I know a home office works, but I like the separation for now. Plus I get more tempted to be lazy if I am at home or on the road. It’s easy to put off the admin tasks that have to get done!

    • Marissa November 14, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      My VA does a lot my repetitive tasks that take up a bunch of time. Best investment ever.

  • Andy Hough November 14, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I loved working for myself, but definitely could have benefited from utilizing your tips. Once I have gained some experience at my current job I plan to return to self employment.

    • Marissa November 14, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      I’m excited about the ops headed your way!

  • Canadian Budget Binder November 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Some great tips, thanks for sharing. Blogging and everything about working from home takes up alot of time some days I don’t know how I fit everything in with my full-time job and a wife. I know that my saving grace is my schedule and I do my best to stick to it. It doesn’t always work out but I balance my life with my blog and it works out. I can only hope that the blog continues to grow like it has and I too can have other options on my plate. Mr.CBB

    • Marissa November 14, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      I’m sure your site is going to be huge soon, although it already is doing well.

  • fabulouslyfrugirl November 14, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    I’m not sure if I will ever work from home but I will definitely keep these tips in mind when I do! I still think it’s pretty scary working for myself, but I really admire people like you who go out and make it happen!

    • Marissa November 14, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      I’m sure you’d do great if you worked from home.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar November 14, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    I certainly need to schedule my time more. At my day job, I live by a schedule, which is good and bad. I have a harder time at home. It’s like I’m rebelling or something, but I’m not sure who I am rebelling against.

    • Marissa November 14, 2012 at 10:20 pm

      My calendar rules my life. I feel lost without it.

  • Jordann @ My Alternate Life November 15, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I’m not sure I could rely completely on myself for my income, that seems a little scary. These tips are great reminders for my blog productivity though. Thanks!

    • Marissa November 15, 2012 at 11:30 am

      It works just as well with blogging šŸ™‚

  • AverageJoe November 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    The time audit is a huge win. I always avoid it because it feels like such a PITA at the time. BUT I see where the time goes, which is important.

    I’m with ADP: I’d love to hear more about what the repetitive tasks are that you use the VA for, if you don’t mind sharing. If they’re secret, that’s fine, too.

    • Marissa November 15, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      You just gave me an idea for a post šŸ™‚

  • Marie at Family Money Values November 15, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Networking from home is definitely harder!

    • Marissa November 17, 2012 at 11:14 am

      Sure, unless you do it via social media.

  • Lauryn Doll November 16, 2012 at 3:18 am

    Amazing post. (This is my first time here.)

    I’m going to begin blocking out time and doing time audits for everything in December. I should start now, but, well, I don’t know. Actually, maybe I should start now.

    I do know one thing – I spend too much time on Facebook sometimes.

    • Marissa November 17, 2012 at 11:13 am

      Facebook is my kryptonite!

  • Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom November 16, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Great post. I share your unusual love for airports. Working from home is a great option for the disciplined. I’m looking forward to Derek having the opportunity to join me at home like John who called it quits on his job 6 months ago.

    • Marissa November 17, 2012 at 11:14 am

      I’m glad someone else does too. Airports are amazing.

  • K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! November 18, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I’ve been self-employed/working from home since April 2012 and overall I absolutely love it! Being able to travel and virtually work from anywhere suits my personality and lifestyle very much. One must be very organized and still ensure that there is a structure to the day. I hope to never have to go back to a daily commute to an office or a traditional 9 to 5 worklife.

  • Mike November 19, 2012 at 5:43 am

    I loved working for myself, but absolutely could have benefited from utilizing your tips. Once I have gained some experience at my current job I like the concept of return to self employment.Iā€™m sure your sites is going to be huge soon, although it already is doing well.

  • ForHerByHer November 21, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Awesome tips!

    I also work from home and I love that working from ‘home’ means I can work from pretty much anywhere. It took some getting used to in the beginning. I found that because I never left the ‘office’, I would sometimes look up and realize it was 1:00 am. It’s easy to burn out when you’re working for yourself… hiring a VA is one of the best things I’ve ever done!

  • My Money Design November 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Writing blog posts from a coffee shop and going to breakfast sounds pretty amazing to me. That right there is one of the reasons I’ve started to become more fond of traveling and having flexibility.

    Great list! Some people might disagree, but I do think its important to schedule in time for yourself and time for improvement. If you don’t, it will just get pushed aside and you’ll never end up getting to it.

  • Kathleen November 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    I love these insights into working for yourself!