Whether you are an entrepreneur working at home, a traditional employee telecommuting from work, or you are just considering making the move to the home office, there is no denying the convenience of working from home. Research shows that people working in a home office are happier, more productive, and more reliable. But how do you stay productive if you don’t have a boss or colleague checking in on you ever hour to track your progress? It’s easy to treat every day like a weekend, sleep in until noon, and then get caught up in Netflix. Though working from home is a great way to be able to enjoy these things when you need them, it’s also important to set your own boundaries and rules. Here are a few ways to stay productive at home, and make sure you don’t waste your day away under the covers.
There are days that I work from home on the couch in front of the TV with my laptop, and I never get as much done as when I’m sitting at my desk focused on what I’m doing. Though I feel productive on the couch, I don’t get nearly as much work as I could done. Now I’m just waiting to find an apartment so I can set up a beautiful desk space that inspires me every day to sit down and work.
Have a Morning Routine
Think of working from home as any other typical office work day. To get to work on time, you have to set your alarm, wake up, get ready, and leave by a certain time. Though the commute to your desk won’t be as long or hectic, you should still set a wake up time and establish a morning routine. Think about what time you want to start your work day and what kind of productivity you have at different times of the morning. If you’re a morning person start your work day at 8, but if you’re not sleeping in is okay. That’s one of the benefits of working from home – you can do what works for you. Know that you want to start work by a certain time and wake up however long before you need to.
Believe me, I understand the appeal of waking up and staying in your comfy clothes, or maybe even your pyjamas all day long. But this isn’t the best thing for productivity. Staying in comfortable clothes that you could roll over and fall asleep in will only encourage you to do just that. Get up, get dressed, and start your day just as you would if you were leaving the house. Think about what would happen if a colleague or client came to your door right now. It’s unlikely, but you are working, and you should be ready for work. You don’t need to wear a suit, but plaid pyjama pants probably won’t cut it.
Set a Schedule
Every day you should have a schedule of the things you need to get done. Be realistic about how much time it will take you to complete each task, and said deadlines for different times throughout the day. If you reach a certain time without meeting your goal, you know something is going wrong – either your goals were unrealistic, or your productivity is low. The great thing about working from home is also that your schedule is flexible. If you get invited out for lunch or your child has a sports game you’d like to attend, you can do it, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it. Just make sure that you schedule that time into your workflow, and make up for the lost work hours elsewhere. Missing hours add up quick, and you’re lying to yourself if you only worked 30 hours in your 40 hour workweek and you think you’re still being productive.
Create a Workspace
Just like if you worked in a traditional office, your work life and home life should be separate. You shouldn’t be working at the kitchen table or on the couch. This is one I need to work on myself! If you’re willing to invest in your work and your business, you should also be willing to invest in a real work space. Create a desk and area that inspires you. Make sure that all your required tools and materials are there, and that you can sit down and get things done. Also make sure that the space is separated off from your normal living space. You don’t want to be looking at piles of laundry that need to get done or be distracted by other things around the house. Work is work.
I’ll admit, it sounds a little counterintuitive, but taking breaks is an important part of getting work done. Breaks not only give you time to relax and recoup, but they’ll also give your brain time to refuel, and make the quality of your work better. It’s hard to take breaks when you know the deadline you are trying to meet, but think of yourself as an employee, and give the legal number of breaks. You deserve just as much of a rest as anyone else, and you need them to stay productive.
Turn off Distractions
It’s easy to get caught up in watching shows like The View everyday if you’re at home, but it’s also a big waste of time. Whether you know it or not, having the TV on in the background is making you less productive. Turn off the TV and separate yourself from the distraction all together, so you’re not even tempted to turn it on. Other distractions like your cellphone and Facebook can be dangerous as well. Would you take a personal call or answer a Facebook notification in a traditional work setting? Probably not. Turn your phone on silent or limit yourself to only answer business related calls, and turn off all your social notifications. In a job like blogging, it might be necessary to stay on social media throughout the day, but make sure you’re only signed in as your page rather than your personal account.
Create a Work Playlist
Though TV and videos can be a distraction, music is a little different since there is no visual component. Since you’re working from home, you’re free to listen to music like you wouldn’t be able to in a traditional office. The right kind of music can stimulate your mind and actually help you to focus and be more productive. Think about making different playlists for different types of tasks, like creative jobs or more focused intellectual jobs. Music can be a great way to stay focused and help your workflow if you use it right.
Get a Plant
Plants don’t only look pretty, they also serve a purpose! Plants can convert all the gases in your workspace into brand new fresh air that will clear your head and help you think clearly. Find a sunny area in your house, place your desk there, and put a plant right on top. Not only will the plant do you good, but the sunlight will brighten up your workspace and disposition. Bringing in a little bit of the natural world is a great way to keep your workspace bright, airy, and inspiring.
There are lots of things you can do to make your workplace more comfortable and productive. An ergonomic work place will not only be more comfortable, but will help you avoid strain in the long run. You need a chair that is comfortable and supports your back and neck, and you need a desk that is the correct height and distance from your body to make sure your arms are strained. If you’re working at a computer, you also need to make sure your eyes don’t get strained from staring at the screen for too long. Take regular breaks to ensure that you avoid headaches and blurred vision.
Get out of the office
Last but not least, you need to make time to get out of the office. Being on your own and working from home can be a great way to stay productive, but it can also be very lonely and monotonous. You’ll soon get tired of your day to day if every one is the same. Make time at least once a week to go out of the house and do something business related, whether that means taking your computer to the coffee shop to work there, or meeting a client for lunch. Leaving the office will be a great way to reboot and get some drive back.
If you can stay productive working from home, it can be a great way to do business. It offers you all the flexibility that you could want in life, as well as the ability to make money and do the job you love. I’m making the jump to freelancing and working from home full time soon and I couldn’t be more excited. I already know that it’s hard to follow all of these rules every day, but I’m slowly working towards doing my best and optimizing my productivity.