By Nicole Tinkham
For many, working from home sounds like the ideal situation. You don’t have to leave the house in the morning (which of course means you don’t have to get all dolled up for the office), you’ll save on gas, odds are you’d be more productive throughout the day, you don’t have to deal with any office drama, you can eat lunch and take breaks on your time, you can have the TV on or have music playing in the background, and the list goes on and on. There are many benefits to working from home, but there’s also a ton of distractions that you probably never considered. Don’t think you’ll run into any issues? Take a look at your hectic weekends as an example. You sit down to get some work done and your dog bugs you to go out and play. You suddenly remember you have to run to the store. Oh and start a load of laundry. And where did that stain in the carpet come from? You’ve got to get it out before doing anything else. And then your friend calls for a coffee date so you figure you could use a break. You should really start prepping dinner so you have less to worry about later. An afternoon tea is in order and maybe a snack. And then before you know it, the day’s over and practically nothing got done! If this sounds anything like you, read on for ways to get the most done while working from home.
Get ready in the morning
The one thing you’re probably most excited for when working from home is the freedom to wear your comfy clothes all day; no waking up early to get ready and no sitting in dress clothes all day. But we’re going to go ahead and burst your bubble. Wearing pajamas and sweatpants triggers your brain to think it’s time to relax as you would on weekend mornings. You won’t get anything done while your body is in relaxation mode. To be productive, you must act as if you’re actually going to work. That means take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, make a cup of coffee, and do anything else that’s part of your regular morning routine. This will wake your body up and let it know that it’s time to get to work.
Even though it’s important to get dressed before starting your day, you can be super casual about it. If you’re not meeting up with any customers, why not wear jeans and a t shirt?
Designate a space to work
Working from home opens up your work space options beyond your itty-bitty office cubicle. It’s easy to see how your first instinct might be to spread out all over the place, but we advise against that. Rule #1: Your work space should NOT be where you sleep or spend time with your family. Combining work and your personal space can bring stress into those other areas of your life making it more difficult to relax when you’re not working. If you have a separate bedroom that can be used as your office, this is the most ideal situation. Make sure you have everything you need right at your fingertips to avoid running around the house searching for a pen or stapler. Also make sure you have the necessary equipment to work efficiently like proper lighting, storage, and an ergonomic chair.
Get out of the house
You finally work from home and now we’re telling you to get out of the house. What’s up with that? Changing up the scenery can bring about new creative ideas. Try to get out and do some work at a local coffee shop. The ambient noise may actually keep you focused.
We also recommend leaving the house after the work day is done. Most people escape work by going home. In your case, work is home which can make the transition into your personal time difficult. Try to get out of the house whenever you can when you’re not working. Practice shutting off your work brain and focus on something else in the evenings.
Continue to communicate
One of the bonuses of working from home is the freedom to do your own thing (for the most part). But that doesn’t mean all communication goes out the window. In fact, you’ll have to work harder at communicating than you ever did in the office. When in an office setting, it’s easy to head over to someone’s cubical for a short chat. It doesn’t seem like much but those small interactions add up over time and are something you’ll miss out on by working from home. Check in with co-workers throughout the day through email, instant messaging, phone calls and Skype to get any updates and see how everything’s going.
The six main distractions you’ll come across are visitors, pets, children, music, social media, and chores or errands. Here’s how to handle each one.
• Visitors – You MUST set business hours for yourself. Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re available to answer the door or take personal calls. Make your work hours clear to family and friends. If they do happen to call or stop by, simply tell them you’re busy and will catch up with them later.
• Pets – The most effective way to stop pets from pestering you all day is to go about as if you’re not home. If you would normally lock them in a cage while away, go ahead and do the same during your working hours. You can even shut your office door if you need to.
• Children – The beauty of working from home is not worrying about finding a babysitter all the time. There may be certain instances when a babysitter is needed but for the most part it’s fairly manageable. Stress the importance of your quiet focused time with them and have plenty of things to keep them occupied. When possible, you may even have them help you out.
• Music – Congrats, you now have music freedom! But that doesn’t mean you can spend 5 minutes between each song searching for the next one to play. Pick a playlist and leave it alone!
• Social media – Do you sit in the office all day on Facebook? We didn’t think so. So don’t do it when working from home either! Go ahead and check it on your breaks but shut it down when it’s time to get serious again.
• Chores and errands – Again, keep your work hours in mind here. The time to clean and run errands is AFTER your finished working for the day. If you see something that needs to be done jot it down on your personal to-do list and tackle it later.
Take short breaks throughout the day
There are two different at-home workers in the world. Those who get distracted and take too many long breaks and those who get so focused they forget to take a break altogether. Neither is a good option. Taking breaks throughout the day actually helps you be more productive but it’s also important to limit your breaks to 15 minutes at a time. Also, don’t forget to unwind and eat lunch! You may need to schedule your breaks throughout the day to help you stay on track. Oh and step away from your computer when taking breaks. Try to get outside and walk around a little to clear your head.
Make a schedule
You wouldn’t just show up to the office whenever you feel like rolling out of bed, would you? You shouldn’t do this when working at home either, so make sure your schedule is consistent.
You may find it harder to stay focused when you’re at home and that’s totally normal. We’ve already discussed the various distractions that could come up but sometimes it just feels like you’re starting many projects without completing any. That’s where great to-do lists come into play. We could go on and on about making to-do lists but we’ll keep it short and simple for now. Here are just a few tips to keep in mind.
• Bring your to-do list with you EVERYWHERE. We recommend downloading an app so you always have your list on your phone.
• Leave out daily tasks that you’re used to doing anyway like checking your email. It just tends to clutter your list.
• Focus on one item at a time. Trying to do multiple things at once seems productive, but it’s actually the opposite. Focus on one thing until you’ve completed it and then move on to the next item on your list.
• Color code your list based on importance. Get the most important tasks out of the way first.
• Organize based on the size of the task. Plan to do the bigger projects at the time of day you’re most alert.
• Take 5 minutes at the end of your work day to create your to-do list for the next day. This way you’ll know exactly what to expect.
• Anything not checked off your list should become priority the next day.
• Include an action verb when writing out your list. Use words like “complete” and “finish”.
Working from home has several benefits that many people find appealing. However like anything else, there’s always a learning curve. Expect to have difficult days and be prepared to experiment with different things to find what works best for you. So many people make the leap into working from home without even considering what they’re up against. It can be truly challenging if it’s something you’ve never done before! But it can also be very rewarding if you do it right. Use this blog as a guide to kick start your at-home career and let us know how it’s going along the way. Post your journey in the comments below or share with us on our Facebook page!