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Finding Inspiration in Your Job, and
Staying Focused While Working at Home


I imagine that I am going through what many do who work at home or freelance most of the time. My job is a really good one, but I have literally no peers with whom to bounce off ideas, share projects, whatever. I have the dual responsibility of webmaster and sysadmin; but lately I'm feeling quite stale and uninspired to take initiatives. Often there are only 2 or 3 people in the office and most of them are doing administrative work. I work at home 1-2 days a week, and having just moved to my farm, I feel quite distracted (would rather hang out with my lambs somehow than plod through web updates).

The additional problem is that because there's really no one technical (nor, for that matter, anyone concerned with content) around, I don't get feedback - so if I bust my butt or sit around and read Internet World, no one seems to care... until a Board member sneezes and then my boss throws me into the frying pan (for nothing that I could have anticipated anyhow <G>).

So.... long story short, I'm looking for inspiration, motivation, and maybe even some practical hints on structuring my job more so that it is more interesting, rewarding, and whether anyone cares or not, I have created a better product. Help?

Sometimes when I'm bored with work, I'll challenge myself to learn something new (currently it's Lasso).

A bigger problem for me is that, having done freelance or non-freelance design work for over 25 years, everything becomes repetitive. Instead of new problems, there are new twists on familiar challenges. Even seemingly ideal jobs or projects never last very long. Plus, because you're doing work for someone else or to please someone else, it's impossible for the work to become a true means of self-expression.

My solution has been to look elsewhere for inspiration rather than trying to get my jollies from graphic design work. For the last few years, 'elsewhere' has been learning music. [Hubby], a longtime musician, has intensified his involvement in music to such a degree that I wouldn't be surprised to see him eventually become a professional musician. In fact, we are considering moving to Las Vegas soon, partly to increase the possibility of his going professional.

Overall, the most interesting phases of my life over the last several decades have resulted from my pursuit of outside interests. I have made several major lifestyle or living place changes that reflect my outside interests.

My Native American teacher would say that work is just what we do to keep "grounded on the planet" -- to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. She would say that we place too much emphasis on trying to trying to find self-fulfillment through work. Instead, she would advise people to express themselves through play, hobbies, and other recreational pursuits. Rather than saying "do what you love and the money will follow," she would advise you to learn, grow and express yourself by doing what you love, then your paying work will adapt to support you while you do the things you love. Doing what you love becomes very important, not just a mere distraction, and paying work becomes simply something that you have to do to support the other aspects of your life.

Indeed! Part of my problem is that I have so many things that interest me that have nothing to do with work, that when I work at home I find it hard to put in 8 hours with any concentration (it tends to drag out from morning till night). For example, today I worked at home and took 2 hours off in the middle of the day to go horseback riding across the country fields. I thought about it -- is that wrong? No, I decided. I think it is living. I almost got killed on the road tonight by a reckless driver, and I thought, now if I hadn't gone horseback riding and had instead slogged away at my work, and then got smushed by an SUV, wouldn't that be a pity.

I was raised with a puritan work ethic, combined with a girls prep school "gotta be a good girl". Always trying to please the boss, do the right thing, be terribly concerned when people complain about my work, etc. Makes it really hard to put work in perspective sometimes. But I had an epiphany about this today though (even before the near death experience): my boss made it clear today through some truly insane directives (that will probably put our organization under for good) that she cares nothing for the advice or expertise of her staff, who is very concerned and trying to help. I realized that as long as I feel I'm doing an honest job, and they keep paying me, I needn't get involved in fighting for "what is right" at the job. It's hard to let go of (goody two shoes A student who wants everything to make sense), but I'm on my way to being free. I envision many more sunny afternoons cantering across the hillsides.

This might sound funny, but what I do to inspire myself is have a look at my local competition.

This a very sobering practice, but it pushes me to be better, more competitive and to make my work more appealing than the other guy's.

I've always had trouble dealing with isolationist type work environments, and it's also important to focus on not letting it affect your self-esteem.

Do you have a job description you can send? It will help for brainstorming.

In the meantime, a few things to keep in mind:

It's a terrible job market out there, and although NYC has been hit the worst, it's awful across the USA. Think very hard before you decide to make any changes.

Do you feel good about the organization in general and the people you work with? I know it's a good cause and they do good work, but what's the environment like?

Will your employers be open to making changes in your current job? Are they OK on negotiating, or is it "do things my way or else?" Although your boss throws you into the frying pan, would he be supportive of your making changes to your job (including taking on more responsibility) if the changes will benefit the company, and if so, would he be willing to "sell" any ideas to the powers that be?

Are there any projects that you can take on that might make you more visible in the organization?

This list is great for bouncing ideas as well as for moral support. But motivation has to come from within, and it's something I have a problem with in working at home. Most people don't have this problem, but I find that working at home is like having a big box of Belgian chocolates sitting in front of me - the temptation to do what you want (esp. get up really late) sometimes overwhelms what you should do.

It's also a good idea to keep track of special accomplishments. Although I've always been bad at tooting my own horn corporately, it is a good idea to do so tastefully so that you don't seem to be bragging. And it's also good for your morale to have a list of accomplishments to reveiw when you're feeling down.

>I work
>at home 1-2 days a week, and having just moved to my farm, I feel quite
>distracted (would rather hang out with my lambs somehow than plod through
>web updates).

I'm self-employed and work from home and often find things which ordinarily are simply chores (such as washing dishes or tidying up) suddenly become quite interesting when I have work I'm trying to avoid (because it's hard or unpleasant or boring or I'm afraid I'll fail).

>The additional problem is that because there's really no one technical (nor,
>for that matter, anyone concerned with content) around, I don't get
>So.... long story short, I'm looking for inspiration, motivation, and maybe
>even some practical hints on structuring my job more so that it is more
>interesting, rewarding, and whether anyone cares or not, I have created a
>better product. Help?

I read much (though I say little) on mailing lists such as this. From time to time I'll venture forth with an opinion or question. That helps.

I also have one friend in a similar / related field who gets bursts of emails from me when I need a "personal" chat. That might be work-related specifically, or more generally, or just life stuff. I can email her and moan about clients, seek feedback on my "brilliant" ideas, mention a TV programme I saw - that kind of thing. She often responds in kind. She lives nearby so sometimes we have lunch or even social events.

In terms of structuring my work I do three main things. I work at home on web maintenance and developing websites, and also on creating training courses for myself an others.

I see private clients. I teach courses at various venues. I also respond to phonecalls and emails from clients and various "interested parties" such as potential clients.

This can all be complex and distracting and I sometimes feel I've achieved nothing in a day.

One strategy to help with this has been that I've marked out days for specific purposes: on Fridays I aim to catch up with tasks I'm behind on such as unanswered emails and to do my accounts (record-keeping, tax things, filing etc).

On Mondays I aim to do my "at-home" work such as website design for clients.

On Tuesdays I work on one particular contract I have to maintain a website.

Wednesdays and Thursdays are for visiting clients.

Courses I teach are scattered all over, including evenings and weekends, but as I have to be at a particular place at a certain time I don't have problems "getting to" them.

This doesn't solve all my problems, but it helps me focus on specific tasks and feel I've achieved something.




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