Top tips for working from home and staying productive
Working at home (in your own company) has enormous advantages – no long commutes during rush hour, no need to ask permission to go to the dentist or to leave early to pick up the children from school. But it can also bring a whole range of problems – especially if you’re new to working at home. Losing the structure placed by an office can be very troubling for some. Problems can be things like, Never really turn off! Or other people who don’t respect your time. Or just not organized enough to actually do something!
So, if we work from home, how do we stay productive – and keep a balance between work and private life?
I’ve compiled a list of tips for working from home that I’ve found useful. (By the way, I’ve been working from home for over 11 years now – and I wouldn’t go back to an office for nothing! But I still find these tips extremely useful in reminding myself what I should be doing so often!).
Tips for Working from Home: 1. Define your workspace.
You should have a workspace – and that’s not sitting on the couch in front of the TV! If you don’t have a separate study (which is the ideal option) try setting yourself up with a desk in the guest room or dining room. You need a room where you close the door and feel like you’re ‘at work’ when you come out of that room at the end of your day. Psychologically this is important because it changes your state of mind from “at home” to “at work”. Learn focus. Being able to close the door on your separate room is vital – if the door is open it can signal to your family that you are available to chat (or play!).
Wherever your workspace is, make sure you keep it tidy – the old saying about a tidy desk that equals a tidy mind is true! The neater and better organized your workspace, the more productive you’ll be. Also make sure you have the equipment you need – especially make sure you have a comfortable chair with back support.
Tips for working at home: 2. Set basic rules with people around you
Set your working hours (see tip 4) and make sure your friends and family are aware of this and respect it. You are NOT available for coffee, long lunches or to play! Your friends and family probably wouldn’t bother you in an office with questions that can easily wait until you get home – but if home is your office they can’t have the same reticence. Many friends and family will also think that if you work from home you are able to stop for coffee or a long lunch at a time notice! Make sure everyone understands that interruptions are only for urgent matters.
Tips for working from home: 3. Prepare for work – physically and mentally
Breakfast, shower and get dressed. You don’t have to wear a suit – but don’t stay in your pajamas! Getting dressed first thing in the morning prepares you for work – it gets your mentality in the right place.
Don’t use the computer to check emails while walking past the study first thing in the morning (I’m guilty of this one!) Suddenly you realize it’s lunchtime and you’re still in your PYJAMA’s with a stinking headache cos you haven’t had breakfast ( let alone a shower!).
Make sure you are set in the right mind for the day. Start the day right
Tips for working from home: 4. Set fixed hours – and stay with them
An advantage of working from home is that you don’t have to work 9-5 if you don’t want to. I tend to work from 9.30-3.00 (with a break for lunch) and then 7.30-8.30 in the evening (after my Son is in bed). Think about what works for you. It may be necessary to work early in the morning or evening to fit around your family life or to communicate with colleagues in other time zones.
Whatever hours you decide – stay with them! (You may have some leeway – but don’t let the work run your life).
I think this is one of the hardest ‘rules’ when working from home – it’s so easy never to turn off. But a healthy work-life balance is important – even if you work from home.
Tips for working at home: 5. Don’t think you need an Immaculate House!
Don’t spend more time on housework than working! A little light housework in your ‘lunch hour’ is acceptable, just like popping the odd load washing up, but really, if you’re at work, you’re at work – even if you’re working at home. If you can afford to get a cleaner and you’d have one if you had a ‘good job’ working in an office – still one. Please don’t think you have to be Superwoman (or Superman) and do it all yourself because other people think you have much more time because you work from home!
If you take your job seriously, especially if you’ve just started a new business at home, then you should put the hours in your work – not in cleaning the house! Plan non-work time for household chores and let the rest of the family do their part. It is important that you don’t take on every household job just because you work from home – which around you should respect the fact that even though you are at home you must do serious work during your scheduled hours.
Tips for working from home: 6. Limit distractions
If your work allows it- Turn off the phone so you can concentrate and continue without distractions. Check your email only at certain times of the day. It’s so easy to get distracted by emails you think they should respond immediately! If you do this, you’ll never complete all the tasks!
Switch your Skype, Facebook, Twitter etc while you are working. Check your chat at certain times and only go on Facebook during your break. I know that working from home can be lonely, so using Social Media can feel like your lifeline to the outside world – but this can quickly take over your day and ruin your productivity.
Tips for working from home: 7. Make a daily TO DO list
Making lists can really help you to concentrate and delay – which for some reason we seem to do more of when we’re sitting at home on our own! I do a weekly list of tasks and then break that into the daily tasks. I use the Steven Covey approach to Time Management as much as possible and the most important thing for me is to concentrate on my
BIG ROTH. Don’t just choose the easy tasks – spend quality time on your Big Rocks and your business will fly!
If you’re really struggling to concentrate (even with a to-do list) try planning out what you’re going to do every hour that should help you stay productive!
Tips for working from home: 8. Make small deadlines
This follows tip 7 – and can also help stop the dreaded procrastination! When you start the day it seems like you have a lot of time and it can be easy to get on a sidetrack through the TV or the phone. Set goals for finishing papers – for example “I’ll finish writing this blog by 11 o’clock”. “I will finish this marketing activity at 1am”. This helps to break your day and keep you focused on task.
Tips for working from home: 9. Don’t take a day off just because it gets difficult!
Don’t just take a day off because you don’t feel like working today! If you have a hard day – persevere – do some work anyway! If you are sick, be sick – take a good day off to get better. If you’re organizing a day off, that’s fine – but don’t just decide that you don’t bother to work today – that’s an inclined plane to go down when suddenly you never achieve anything!
Tips for Working at Home: 10. Taking planned breaks
There are different ways to do this – depending on your work style. But give yourself breaks. Some people find it useful to take a 15-minute break for each hour worked. Or maybe you’d prefer to take a 15-minute break twice a day. In addition to small breaks, take a good lunch break. Eat something healthy – AWAY FROM YOUR BUREAU! Leave the house and get some fresh air – it will really make you so much more productive when you get back to your desk. Just sitting in front of your computer without breaks will only result in ‘declining returns’. You think you’re working really hard – but the results just aren’t that great!
Tips for Working from Home: 11. Finish when you’re done
Know when to stop working! Just because you work at home doesn’t mean you have to work all the time you’re at home! Leave work at the end of the day.
Susan Seaburg (Field Development Manager for Hewlett Packard) provides her input on working from home in an interview with Santa Clara University:
The good news is that you are now working everywhere – the bad news is that you are now working everywhere.
Most people go home to get away from work – you don’t have that option. So be careful that you still maintain a good work-life balance.
Tips for Working at Home: 12. Mind your mood
Everything you listen to will influence your mood – or distract you from the task. Personally I hate working in silence so when I really need to concentrate I put on some non-obtrusive music just to create background noise! (My husband is the opposite – he has to work in complete silence, so we use separate rooms when he works at home as well!). If I don’t concentrate too hard I listen to educational audio – if I’m a member of the Empower Network Inner Circle I have access to a whole range of recordings by people at the top of internet marketing – so I listen to that every day. These can also be great to lift your spirits if you’re feeling a little low or unconcentrated. Find what works for you and make sure you surround yourself with things that will give you the best imagery for what you do.
Tips for Working at Home: 13. Look for opportunities to communicate with other people!
If you know you’re not too distracted, go and work in a café, hotel or library sometimes like this can just give you a change of scenery from home all day. Most coffee shops have free wifi these days if you need to be on the internet.
Attend a number of training courses or local networking events to maintain some human contact – and possibly pick up some business as well!
Skype or Facebook chat rooms can also be a good way to communicate with the outside world. I use these methods a lot when my team and colleagues are all over the world. But as mentioned earlier, don’t get sucked into spending hours a day chatting on the line and don’t get anything else done.
Make the odd phone call as well – not just use email. It’s good for your wits to actually speak to someone once in a while!
And last but not least –
Tips for Working at Home: 14. Be GRATEFUL!!
Be thankful that you work at home. That you don’t have to do the awful commuting, that you are at home when the kids get in from school, that you don’t get stuck in a windowless office or shared cabin! Above all, be PRODUCTIVE, so that you can keep working from home!
Hope you found my top tips for working at home useful. If you want to see how I make money working at home every day – take a look at my blog site listed below.
I want to start a Working from Home Revolution!
See you on the inside!
Louise Fleming is a trained business coach and entrepreneur. Besides running a successful high-end custom made furniture company she also runs her own online marketing business. For more ideas on how to make money working at home please visit louise’s blog site at [http://www.flemingfreedomplan.com].
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