Working from home has become the new normal. Love it or hate it, for many companies this is likely to continue for some time in the future. If you are a creative, a freelancer or an entrepreneur getting started on a new business, working from home is your natural state. If you have been working at home for a few months now, the novelty has probably worn off. You might be feeling a little stuck, bored and distracted. Procrastination can get the better of you when you are working in the same place that you normally sleep and binge Netflix.
After spending the last 5 years working from home, I have some wisdom I can share with you. It’s not always easy but there are a few little tricks that can help you stay productive and get the most out of working from home. Here are five you can use right now.
Regular Work Hours
One of the joys of working from home is flexibility. You no longer have to be at the office at a certain time for another awful standup meeting. This might be fun for the first few weeks but eventually, it becomes more of a distraction. Not knowing when to start work can lead to sporadic bursts of work here and there but more often than not it leads to distractions and errands taking over precious work time. The lines blur between personal and work time and it can get chaotic.
Sticking to regular work hours can help you switch and switch off much more easily. It doesn’t have to be the typical 9 to 5 that you escaped from but it does need to be consistent. You might prefer to work early mornings, starting at 6am and working till lunchtime before clocking off. You might be a night owl and prefer to start around dinner time and switching off in the early hours of the morning for asleep in. This all depends on what kind of work you are doing and whether you need to be available to clients or colleagues. Whichever you choose, keep it consistent.
What’s worse than setting up your laptop on the dining table and then half an hour in to work, the rest of the family sits down for lunch!? Not to mention having everything happening around you, demanding your attention. This is why a dedicated workspace is so important. You need either a room or area of your house that you can set up and be free from distractions. Working on the couch or in bed is not an option!
Keep your workspace tidy. Having a cluttered space with papers, books and mugs of coffee scattered around will only clutter your head. Keep things simple, minimal and streamlined to get the most out of your work. When you sit down at that desk you only have one thing on your mind, getting to work.
Plan Out Your Day
Working from home can be challenging when you approach it the same way you might’ve approached your job at the office. When you are at home, there is no one looking over your shoulder. You don’t have anyone managing your time and this can lead to disaster. Plan out your day first thing in the morning. Organise all your tasks in order of priority and then do the most important first.
Don’t forget to schedule in time for breaks. You need time to have lunch and to do any house errands that you need to get done. If you need to do laundry, get a headstart on dinner or walk the dog, make sure you schedule these in. There is nothing more distracting than having to stop in the middle of a task to pick the kids up from school only to never get back to the task.
Dress for Work
The fantasy of working from home often includes visions of sitting in pyjamas working under a cozy blanket on the couch, cuddled up with a cat. This is honestly a nightmare for your productivity. It might feel all warm and fuzzy at first but keeping up this habit only leads to mental fog.
Dressing for work might sound strange, especially if you are not getting in front of the camera for zoom calls. It actually does wonders for your self-image and gets you mentally focused on productivity. Of course, you don’t need to go all out and dress in a suit and tie or anything like what you would normally wear to an office. All you need is to dress up smart casual. Enough to make you feel as though you are leaving your house but not too much that you feel silly or stuffy. Above all else, avoid sweat pants and hoodies.
Probably the biggest drawback to working from home is the fact that it is incredibly easy to get distracted. When we are working in our homes, there is everything we normally have around us to distract us from the pressures of life. This could be Netflix, video games, our family, our pets or even just taking a nap on the sofa.
Eliminating these distractions can be a challenge but once you get the hang of it, your productivity will soar. Having your dedicated workspace and only leaving that room in your scheduled break times is one way to avoid picking up the PlayStation controller. Another way to do this is to put your phone in your desk draw and only take it out if you need to make or take calls or have an actual reason for using it. Letting your family or roommates know that you are going to be working and can’t be distracted is another way to keep that fine line between work and leisure.
It isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t have that dedicated workspace. It takes time to get used to which is why incorporating habits like these can be effective. Even if you struggle at first, don’t give up. It is so important to bring in incremental changes because they will add up and sooner or later you will get in the full swing of working from home.