I travel quite a bit for my business. But when I’m not on the road, I’m generally working from home.
There are definite perks to working from home. For starters, the commute is nice and easy. Second, I’m incredibly comfortable in my home and working on my own schedule. It is incredible inspiring to feel like you have so much control over your own destiny. When inspiration hits, you can jump into immediate action vs first jumping into your car. I can also control the environment and do everything possible to set myself up for success. This can include things like decorating your space or controlling the temperature. Being in control of your environment, work flow and your time definitely has its perks.
As nice as these perks are, working from home comes with its own pitfalls. Having done it for so many years now, I can tell you it’s incredibly easy to become distracted and not get your work completed. The key to working from home is to create an environment that allows you to focus on the tasks at hand.
If you work from home full- or part-time, here are some things to do to be productive working from home.
1. Commit to a Schedule
Working from home, especially as a freelancer, offers a lot of freedom. You can choose which days and hours you work. As long as you complete your projects and hand in on time, everyone’s happy.
But it’s important to stick to a schedule. The mind is a tricky thing, it tends to get into habits easily and when you suddenly switch those habits, it doesn’t want to perform for you. If you work regular business hours some weeks and night hours other weeks, you may find your mind can’t focus as easily going back and forth. Pick one set of hours and stick to working only those.
2. Have a Dedicated Office
This is really important. I used to sometimes work from my couch, them my balcony, then my dining room table and sometimes even from my bed (big no-no!). Pick a space and make it your dedicated office. Going here each day will cue your brain that it is time to work, not eat, sleep, or spy on your hot neighbor down by the pool.
3. Have a Morning Routine
Just because you aren’t leaving your house doesn’t mean you can’t act like you are. Create a routine that will prep you mentally for the day ahead. Rise, shower, get dressed, have your coffee and then head to your dedicated work space.
4. Limit Personal Time and Social Media Use
It’s easy to goof off when no one is looking over your shoulder. Working at home takes discipline, so be your own boss and make sure you are spending time actually working and not checking your email and Facebook page every 20 minutes. Save this for your lunch break or after work hours.
5. Structure Your Day
One of the best things to do to be productive at home is to schedule your day efficiently. Spend some time each night planning your next day. Decide what you will do and when. For example, will you research in the morning and write in the afternoons? Are mornings for client calls, early afternoons for brainstorming and late afternoons for marketing to-dos. Get specific.
I like to use an online calendar to create a timeline with events that I follow closely. Google Calendar works great.
6. Take Breaks
It’s important to take a few breaks throughout the day to rest your eyes, neck and hands, and clear your head. Take a 10-minute walk around the neighborhood with your dog, get on your elliptical machine, or return a quick phone call. Reward yourself for staying disciplined and getting work done.
7. Stay in Touch with People
It can be lonely at home, even with your favorite four-leggers nearby. In order not to feel so isolated, make it a priority to be social throughout the week. This could mean scheduling a Skype call with a colleague or grabbing a quick lunch with a friend. Even just running errands around town and having tiny conversations with others can be invigorating when you’ve been talking to only yourself and the houseplants for days.
8. Communicate Needs to Others in Your Home
Plenty of people work from home but don’t have that home all to themselves. This is particularly true during summer months when school is out. If you have roommates, spouses, in-laws or children sharing the same space with you, make sure you are clear what your work hours are, where you will be working, and that you’d appreciate not being disturbed. As far as they are concerned, though you may physically be home, you are NOT home.
9. White Noise
Some people, especially those who used to work in an office setting, can go stark-raving-mad having to work in absolute silence every day, save for the occasional dog bark or lawn mower in the distance. If you find the silence is deafening in your home, then experiment to see what kind of noise will actually help you focus. Some people need music, while others need ESPN or the History channel on low in the background to simulate office chatter.
10. End the Day when the Day Has Ended
Boundaries are really necessary to a healthy work-from-home routine. You’ve gone ahead and created a schedule, so stick to it. If you are going to work from 9-5, then, as you would were you working at an office, log off and punch out at 5pm. It will be far too easy to keep working through the night unless you signal to your mind that you are DONE for the day.
The freedom you get from working from home can be very rewarding so long as you recognize potential productivity traps. By following these 10 tips you will be able to manage your time, stay focused, and get your work done each day.
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