You finally did it. You did what millions of others will only ever dream about. You decided to work from home. For some people telework is a feature of their job, allowing them to work from home while they care for children or elderly parents. For others, the home office comes with a new title: self-employed. Regardless of how you managed to escape your cubicle, you will quickly find out that the hardest part of working from home is working from your home.
All of the routines and structure that once kept your work day relatively productive have been removed. Now, it’s up to you to be disciplined enough to keep the distractions at bay and make each day productive. And while it’s tempting to devote Mondays to binge watching all the shows you missed while you were chained to your office, your bottom line demands that you find a way to make each day count.
So how do you get focused and stay productive while you work from home?
Factors That Can Cause You to Flop
While chatty co-workers and computer problems may have ruined your day at work, the factors working against you at home are greater and more persistent. The urge to get out and play with the dog can be overwhelming. Children, particularly small children, pose a particularly difficult challenge to parents who work from home. After all, many parents work from home specifically so that they can spend more time with their children. It can be hard to make little ones understand that you simply MUST work.
Of course, the greatest distraction is distraction itself. A twenty-minute break can turn into two hours. Emptying a waste basket can lead to scrubbing your bathroom floor. Trust me, I understand. At the end of the day you are exhausted, haven’t accomplished half of what you intended to complete, and aren’t entirely sure where your day went. But hey, your bathroom is clean.
Create The Right Environment
Even people who work from their bedroom need to create a working space that is exclusively devoted to working. Take the time to make sure you have everything you need at your workstation. Setting up an home office doesn’t have to be costly. You can repurpose old furniture or add a splash of paint to a bare wall to brighten the space.
Your workspace can be a whole room in your home or a corner of the living room with your desk and laptop. Whatever it is, make sure that you are clear about its purpose. If your spouse of children see you sitting at the desk, they should know that you are officially working and shouldn’t be disturbed.
Take A Break
Neuroscience has taught us that taking breaks helps your brain work faster and with more clarity. There are lots of ways to organize your day, but it is important to make sure that you include regular breaks into your work schedule to avoid burnout.
Infographic Source: writecloud.co.uk
Make A Schedule (And Stick To It)
It is easy to slack off when you call the shots, and the best way to combat that is to avoid perpetual “weekend mode” and develop a clear work schedule. Structure your day the way you would in any workplace. Set specific times to complete core tasks and don’t forget to add regular breaks. Make sure that you set clear “business hours” when clients know they can get in touch with you and your friends and family know that you won’t be available. Remember, no personal calls on company time.
A great way to stick to the schedule is to use your Google calendar or a similar app to create a daily schedule with notifications. The rule is simple. When you see the notification, obey immediately. Pretty soon the schedule will become a routine that you, your clients, and your family can count on.
Act Like You’re Going to Work
You could work in your pajamas, but I wouldn’t recommend it. In fact, it’s safe to say that staying in weekend mode when you should be at work is the worst thing you can do. Wake up, shower, and get dressed. Some productivity experts even recommend putting on your shoes, even if you’re just going down the hall.
These actions tell your brain that what comes next will require you to be “on”. George Carlin, reportedly, punched an actual time clock each day as he sat down to write new material. If you want to stay productive while working at home, treat your home office like any other workplace.
Perks of Working From Home
All of this may sound like a drag, but there are plenty of perks to working from home. Many work-from-home gigs allow you great freedom and creativity. You can set your own schedule, allowing you the freedom to work when you feel most productive. You are also in charge of “office procedures” and can streamline your workflow for greater results.
While working from home can be a bit isolating, co-work spaces and cafe’s with decent wifi can provide you with a change of venue and unofficial “co-workers” without the stress of office politics. Gone too are your morning commute and the stress of traffic jams. You may even save a few dollars on transportation, assuming you don’t develop a serious coffee addiction while working at your local Starbucks.
Increasingly, people are using technology to their benefit, reshaping what being “at work” means. And while there is some benefit to the traditional workplace models, more and more people are questioning why they need to leave home to check email, answer phones and write reports.
As the gig economy and the internet lower the barriers to achieving a work/life balance, the skills necessary to be successful “at work” are changing as well. Learning how to master your procrastination habit and make time your friend is key among them. Don’t let poor time-management stand in your way.