Many of you who read this blog work from home, at least part of the time. I do it full time and most of the time, it’s great. I make my own hours, wear whatever I want to work, and when I was a single mom, it gave me a ton of flexibility to be there for my kids (something I’d never have had with a 9-5 job). Those are the benefits and the reasons why everyone THINKS they’d love to work from home. The reality is, there are some very real, very unique challenges associated with it as well. For some people, it’s tough to stay motivated with no one looking over your shoulder keeping you accountable and on track. With the lure of the sofa and the TV, it’s very easy to put tasks off until later.
For others, keeping on a schedule and making sure you’re not working 24/7 just because you work from home and your office is right down the hall and super convenient can be a real challenge.
Regardless of where you fall in the above two scenarios (and it could honestly depend upon the day – I know it does for me), here are some simpler but effective tips for staying productive while working from the comfort of your own home office.
Set Office Hours (and Stick To Them) – If you work from home, it can be very easy to let your work life overflow into your personal life. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up working all day (and night). When this happens, you actually achieve less because it’s difficult to remain productive through all hours of the day. It also ticks off your family (trust me, I’ve done personal research on this. It definitely ticks off your family). You need to set and maintain boundaries for yourself. Create office hours, post your schedule where your family can see it, invite them to help keep you accountable, and close the door to your office (if you have an office with a door) during non office hours.
Interact With Other People – Working from home can be lonely and boring. That’s why it is important to interact with others, whether this means running an errand or meeting a friend for a coffee. Find some leads groups in your area or join your local Chamber of Commerce. I do my best to make sure I schedule at least one meeting a week, for work or personally, outside of my office. This will keep you sane and motivated.
Take Clear Breaks and Practice Self Care – By taking a clear break, you can recharge your batteries so that you can do better work. You don’t need to work 100% of the time in order to be productive. Don’t skip meals or put off self care. If I wander into my office in my workout clothes, sweaty from my morning trip to the gym to “just check email” before I take my shower, I usually find myself still sitting there at 3:00 in the afternoon, no shower, no makeup, and sometimes even no breakfast (or lunch). Take care of yourself before you head “into the office” in the morning.
Match Your Music To The Task At Hand – Nothing motivates me or changes my mood like music. It’s a good idea to put different playlists together to match your varying energy levels required for work throughout the day. For example, if you are doing something monotonous that you need to power through quickly, go for something catchy and intense that will help you get inspired to implement. You’ll find that music often motivates you and helps you focus.
Plan Out What You Will Be Working On Ahead of Time – You need your day to have some structure, otherwise, you will find yourself staring at the computer screen or surfing Facebook with no clear direction. I’m a big believer in Sunday evening planning, where I make a clear plan for my week of everything I need to get done. Then every morning or the night before, make a list of what you are going to do for the day.
Save Calls For The Afternoon – A lot of us are much more productive in the morning. You should use the mornings to crank through projects without any distractions. Then, in the afternoon, you can make calls and answer emails. If you tackle these at the beginning of the day, your entire day can be set off course.
Work When You Are at Your Most Productive – One of the beauties of working from home and making your own schedule is that you can figure out when you are most productive, and work during those hours. For example, if you are most productive early in the morning or late at night, plan your day around this. Letting go of the 9 to 5 trap frees you up to decide when you’ll put those hours in each day. It’s different for everyone.
Make it More Difficult to Mess Around on Social Media – You need to make social media less tempting. Set up your social media accounts with email notification so you can check in periodically throughout the day without actually opening the website or app on your phone. You might even consider removing all social networks from your toolbar bookmarks. This will stop you from uncontrollably clicking on the icons without thinking about it.
Choose a Dedicated Workspace – If you simply sit on your sofa or in your bed and work on your laptop, you are never going to reach optimal productivity levels. Instead, make sure you have a dedicated workspace. Invest in a desk and a comfortable office chair. You could also consider heading to a local coffee shop to work from time to time.
Pretend You’re Going Into The Office – Last but not least, I recommend getting fully ready for the day every morning, as if you were going into the office to work. This will stop you from going back to bed and help you to feel more like you’re working at a REAL business. You’ll take yourself more seriously if you have on “work” clothes and are ready to face the world with your best foot forward.
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Julie Anne Jones is a sought after keynote speaker, online trainer, and corporate business consultant. She’s an accredited life and business coach with over fifteen years of experience speaking on stages across the United States and Canada. Known as “the systems specialist,” Julie Anne can break down any concept into simple, step-by-step, action-oriented training. She is known for her authentic and easy-to-use scripting and specializes in specific language and communication tools for business success.
To learn more about Julie Anne and her products and services, and to read more blog posts, visit her at www.julieannejones.com.