Ask Elsie + Emma,Author: Elsie Larson,Business Tips,Tips,

Elsie + Emma : A Beautiful Mess*Photos by Arrow and Apple Photography 

I've been working from home for more than seven years now. My career has taken quite a few twists and turns, but one consistency is that I've worked full time or part time from my home. I love it, but it's definitely gotten easier (and much more productive) over the years! This morning I took reader questions (via Instagram) and I've picked out a few to answer here today.

Q: I have a hard time staying focused and motivated working from home. I often move to a coffee shop just because that atmosphere seems to help me focus a bit more. Any tips would be great!

A: I totally understand. This was a huge thing that I struggled with when I first started working from home. Homes are filled with distractions and responsibilities that can derail a perfectly productive work day. With that said, I now find my home to be the most productive place to work and struggle with the opposite problem while traveling. A few tips that have helped me are keeping strict working hours (I'll talk more about this below), working in a small group, keeping a list by my side at all times (SO essential) and spacing conference calls and team meetings throughout the week. So I have larger blocks of "alone time" to blog and complete deadlines. 

Q: Please share how you use an editorial schedule for your site.

A: We have touched on this subject in the past (here and here and here). We plan all of our posts for the week every monday, through the following Monday or further out sometimes. For longer term posts (like this or this) we may have it on our running list for several months before we set a publish date for it. It really depends on the type of content whether it needs a few days day or a month of prep time, we try to give each idea whatever amount of time it needs to "bake". We make our weekly schedule that's super organized and specific, but we also know that small shuffles will need to happen, so we stay flexible. 

Q: How do you find new inspiration sitting in the same place while working??

A: Honestly, Emma and I travel so much right now that we LOVE weeks that are slow and relaxed. If we are ever feeling a creative block, we take breaks—like going out for lunch or coffee, stopping by a flea market or taking a little bit of alone time to run errands. I think consistency is very important in a working environment, so I appreciate a routine and a schedule that we can stick with most of time time. I am most productive when my weekdays are routine and simple. 

Q: Does working from home generate clutter (which for me can interfere with working!)? Do you have to clean/organize before you can really get to work?

A: Oh my goodness! This is a HUGE issue. We do our best. Eventually we plan to move to another office space, but until then we do we have to work extra hard to make our situation work for everyone. On any given weekday we have between 2 to 5 people stopping in and out of my home. They bring computers, food and project supplies—so, yes, it gets very messy! We try very hard to be considerate of others and clean up our spaces. With that said, I've never had a "perfect" home studio. And if someone else does I would love to hear how! We deal with the mess because it's worth it. :) 

Q: In about what time frame do you normally get an average post written?

A: As I said above, it really does depend on the type of post we are writing. Some posts seem to take an eternity between sourcing supplies, perfecting a DIY method, executing a finished project and then photography and copy writing. Others, like this one, are really just something we did for fun and then blogged about on a whim. I would say that from start to finish an average post takes a few hours. We always want to stay open to spending more time on projects we love. But it's definitely important to have a system that's functional and time efficient, since we are committed to publishing content a few times each day. Balance is good! :)

A Beautiful Mess : On Working From HomeQ: How do you avoid distractions? 

A: We don't work on personal projects or personal e-mails during work hours. We follow a list of tasks and goals each week. When somethings not working, we talk about it and try something new. I will say that working in a group does help a lot. We've found that everyone is far less likely to waste hours browsing online when there are other people around. It just helps everyone stay aware of what they are there for and on task! 

Q: How do you separate work life from home? What are the boundaries you set/use? 

A: Right now our small team works from my home. Some people only come over a few days per week, but there is someone here every weekday. When we made this choice my husband and I had a long conversation about how to keep our house feeling like a home, despite all the "work stuff" going on here. Here's what works for us: Nobody comes into the home until 10 am every morning. This gives Jeremy and I a little more privacy during our morning routine. On an average day, everyone leaves at 5 pm. Even though we aren't able to fit all our work for the day in that 7-hour slot, we're really intentional about getting our work that needs to be done as a group during that time. But I talk about that more below. We also have a work zone and private zone in our house, meaning our team doesn't go upstairs, where most of our living space is, without a reason. This distinction is important because we don't have to stress about people entering our private space all the time (e.g., it's not embarrassing if we don't make the bed or have some clothes on the floor!) Emma and I also have a system for separating our personal time and money from the business's time and money. These things all help us stay professional, balanced and reduce stress in a big way. I don't think any business can be at its best without proper boundaries, especially when working from home. 

Q: Do you set office hours for yourself? Also, how do you deal with retirement funds, insurance, etc when you're an entrepreneur? 

A: Yes. I work set hours every week and then Emma and I also work "optional hours". Monday through Friday we always work between 10-5 with our team. For the "optional hours", as necessary, we'll work in the early mornings, the evenings and the weekends to make sure we're staying on top of everything. For example, we are shooting a book right now, and we do almost all of our shoots on Saturday mornings. We plan them in advance, and we are careful to give ourselves days off (usually Sundays) and free evenings (hello, date night!) on a regular basis. Because of all the projects we are working on right now, we can't complete our work in 40 hours like a normal job. BUT we make sure to schedule days off, so we don't go insane. It's amazing what a difference a day and a few nights off every week do to reduce our stress levels... it's so important! 

As small business owners, we are responsible for our own insurance and retirement funds. I have an accountant who helps me stay organized for tax time. We use the same accountant for both business and personal tax needs, which helps to simplify the process. 

Q: How do you divide your time to conquer multiple projects at once without burning out?

A:  This is a great question! For us, multiple projects actually helps make our job more fun and less monotonous. I love switching between projects! Our biggest commitments are our blog, which one or both of us work on daily, and our books, which are seasonal- 6 months on, 6 months off type work. We also do collaborations (SO fun!). But we are very careful with which ones we take on, because they only work well when they are a great fit. :) I would never want to go back to doing strictly one thing. But with that said, it's important not to over-commit, because I think that is one of the biggest sources of burn out! 

Thanks so much for all the fun questions! If you are curious about more business/blogging type stuff, leave me a comment, and I'll do my best to comment back or answer your question in a future blog post! xo. Elsie 

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