Whenever I tell people that I work from home, one of the reactions is typically “wow that’s great, I could never be that disciplined….”
For me there are lots of benefits to working from home – flexible working hours, the ability to schedule (and reschedule if need be) my own workload, not having to deal with rush hour traffic or micromanaging bosses…. But it’s true, you do have to be somewhat disciplined to make it a profitable venture.
Money, not surprisingly, is probably my main motivator for staying productive, if I don’t work I don’t earn, it’s as simple as that! But there are some other tips that I’ve put in place over the years I’d like to share, as I think they’re also important for staying productive when you work from home.
Set a daily routine
Just like a normal worker, you should treat each work day as if you’re going into the office. Set your alarm, get up, have coffee/breakfast, shower, brush your teeth and dress in something smart but casual. Loungewear isn’t recommended as you’ll feel like you should be watching TV instead of working. You need to have a ‘work’ not ‘play’ mindset for the day ahead.
Get up and make the bed
If your other half has sloped off to work earlier then it can be tempting to laze in bed, after all he or she will never know. Maybe you could grab your computer and do some work in bed, you think….This is a bad habit to fall into and one I’m guilty of myself. As well as being bad for your posture, working from bed isn’t always particularly productive. It’s a better habit to get up at the same time as your partner and make the bed so you’re less likely to get back in it.
Schedule your tasks
Time management is all important when you’re working from home. If you don’t schedule your meetings and deadlines, then things can slip away from you. Use a desktop or online calendar to write down all your tasks, their estimated time to complete and their deadlines. You can do a lot more than you think by simply remaining focused and keeping to your schedule.
Clients may have their own project management systems for adding tasks and due dates, which is fine. But don’t rely on this completely, use your own system for time keeping so you’re in control of your workload.
Don’t forget to take a break
Remember how offices have morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea? When you’re working from home you still need to take regular breaks too rather than just powering through. Otherwise it’s easy to lose productivity and get burned out. Every hour get up from your computer and stretch, have a snack or a tea/coffee or go for a walk.
If you’re really not feeling motivated, finish up early and go for a walk or to the gym. Returning fresh to a task the next morning is much better than pushing your tired brain past its capacity.
Don’t get sucked into social media
Notice that I didn’t include social media as break suggestion? This is because with platforms like Facebook and Instagram it’s incredibly easy to be sucked in what people are posting. Before you know it your 30 minute lunch break has ticked over into two hours, how did that happen?!
It’s not always easy to keep to this rule especially if the work you’re doing for a client involves using social media. Make it a rule to only browse your personal social media after work, and you should be able avoid any potential time wastage.
Know your productive hours
Work smarter, not harder. If you work best in the afternoon, move your more intensive workload to these hours to capitalize on your productive period. Save mornings for going to the gym, low key tasks or admin work that you can feel good about completing so you’re in the right headspace later on.
In saying that, if your productive hours tend to be outside the norm, i.e very early morning or late evening, then you’ll need to set clear boundaries with other members of your household so they know you’re working. This might be a closed office door with a ‘do not disturb’ sign or putting headphones on as a signal.
If you have kids then you’ll need to have a system in place with your partner to share the household chores and the drop offs/pick ups from school. Otherwise you’ll end up doing it all when you should be working.
Finish at a certain time each day
Sometimes you get so caught up in a task that you end up working way later than you should. Even though it’s difficult to let go of your train of thought, taking time to relax, spend time with your partner or family and going out to visit friends is also important.
You’ll be infinitely more productive during the week (and less burnt out by Friday) if you set yourself a finishing time each day, say 5pm. Even if you don’t finish at 5pm on the dot you’ll know the work day is over and you can look forward to enjoying the evening.
Working from home full-time has a myriad of benefits but you do need to be more aware of work-life balance since you’re managing your own workload and time constraints. With some trial and error you should be able to get this down to a fine art, then hopefully you’ll be well on the way to making working from home a successful and profitable venture!