“Working from home” can sound like a dream: the freedom to make your own schedule, the comfort of working within personal surroundings, the proximity to your kitchen… But whether you’re a full-time, at-home copywriter or a professional who has the perk of work from home a few days a week, it doesn’t take long to find out that working from home can be much more challenging than it seems.
Here are a few tips to help you make working from home work for you:
1. Create a dedicated work space.
Sure, it can seem like an amazing perk to be able to work from bed, but you may find that “This is where I rest” doesn’t meld so well with “This is where I work.”
Help your mind stay productive and focused on work by creating a space that is dedicated just to work. Even if you don’t have an at-home office and usually work from the kitchen table, you can help yourself to create the illusion of an office by moving office “cues” to the table while you’re working: your computer, any files you need, pens, paper, even something as silly and simple as a stapler.
Setting these around you will help to remind your brain that, no matter where you are, this is “work time,” not “play time.”
2. Create a schedule.
Another seeming perk (that turns out often be just the opposite) is how free your time is. At first, it may be exhilarating to have entire, free days stretch before you. Soon, though, you’ll probably discover that too much freedom can actually make it much harder to sit down and get your work done.
Instead of just letting the day unfold (and discovering you haven’t gotten much done at day’s end), schedule your time to work just like you would in an office. You could try the traditional “work from 9 to noon, work from 1 to 5”, or adjust your hours if you’re more of an early bird or night owl. But no matter when you schedule your work hours for, make sure that they’re truly dedicated to working.
3. Get dressed.
“I’ll get to work in my pajamas!” For whatever reason, this is something that has gone through the mind of every person as they transition from in-office to at-home. Yay, pajamas!
However, you may find that staying in your pajamas just makes you a bit lethargic, easier to be distracted and overall sleepier. Which makes sense, doesn’t it? To your brain, pajama time is rest time.
You’ll probably see your productivity make a huge spike when, instead of staying in your pajamas to work, you get up, shower and get dressed for the day. No need to wear a suit, but getting dressed can signal to your brain that it’s time to get serious.
4. Disable games, social media and other distractions.
If you were in an office, you probably wouldn’t be rewarding yourself for finishing a draft of a direct mail piece by playing three games of solitaire. Sure, you don’t want to be caught by your boss, but an even more important reason is that games, social media (unless it’s part of your job) and other distractions like this take your focus from your tasks and suck up your intention for an indefinite amount of time.
Think about it: when’s the last time you took a break to take a walk around the block and looked up an hour later to wonder where the time went? Probably not recently, if ever. But how about the last time that happened while you were playing solitaire (a personal vice of mine) or checking out Facebook? Right: it’s pretty common.
You should take breaks, but don’t take breaks that will suck up your concentration and turn your brain to mush. Save games, social media and other things like that for your after-work hours.
5. Do errands outside of work hours.
It seems like life will get a lot easier once you’re working from home: You won’t have to battle the hordes at the grocery store at 6pm each night or call weeks in advance to get a hair cut appointment. You can do errands during the day now! Except, if you spend your day doing errands…when will you get your work done?
It’s unavoidable that sometimes you’re going to need to get a few non-work things done during the day, but, as much as possible, try to still do them outside of your designated work hours.
After all, if you do your errands during your “work hours,” you’re going to need to keep working during the hours you designated as your “non-work” hours, and there’s a good chance your brain is going to resent that and not give you its best work. You’re going to find it very easy to say to yourself, “Eh, I’ll just make up the time for the errands tomorrow…or the day after…” Treat your work hours with as much seriousness as you do in an office. After all, especially if you’re working for yourself, your work hours are more important than ever.
6. Make time for socializing.
One of the biggest downsides to working from home is that you miss out on the daily social interactions with coworkers. Even if you’re not best friends with them, interacting with your coworkers is important to keep yourself happy and healthy. And, no, we’re not talking about just emails or instant messages.
If you don’t have coworkers working in cubes around you, you’ve got to make even more of an effort to socialize face-to-face with friends in the evening, on the weekends and even for lunch every now and then. Working from home is freeing, but it can also make you lonely faster than you’d think. Make sure to keep planning get-togethers to ensure you’ve still got all the friend face-time you need.
Your turn! What do you do to make sure that your time at home is as productive as you can make it? Let us know in the comments below!