I have worked on and off from home for a few years. The first time I was telecommuting to a job across the country, the second I had flexibility at my job and worked from home to avoid traffic a few days a week, and for the last 7 months or so I’ve been doing freelance work, so my home is my office. I’ve talked about it a bit here when I reference my lack of writing on the blog – but it’s easy to get distracted at home. You’ve got your TV, chores, errands, bed…and I will admit that I am by no means an expert on this nor mastered the art of working from home – it’s a constant work in progress. But there are some things that help me be productive, so here we go!
Have a place to work – and USE IT. I have a home office. In fact it’s on my list of things a house must have when we PCS – a place to work. It can and has been shared with a guest room and Army gear, but I need a space. But the important part of having a space is USING IT – something that I am really bad at doing. Often I’ll wake up and check email or what not while eating breakfast and then around lunch time I’ll take a break and decide, let’s just move work to the couch. It goes down from there. The main reason that I don’t work from my office is that the desk; over time it becomes a dumping ground for bills or things to be shredded or out of the way when company comes over. And then I procrastinate dealing with those things. So my goal for this year (now that my office is FINALLY set up) is to keep the desk clean and organized. Deal with that paper pile ASAP. Leave my computer at my desk. That last one will be hard for me because I like to be on my laptop in the evenings to play games and check social media – but I have my phone and tablet, so I think I’ll be okay.
Set a schedule. For me, I like to work office hours. So for my first position I worked at essentially the same time that my coworkers were in the office. I was a few time zones behind so it meant waking up early – but I was ready and there when they were in the office, no waiting needed. The same was true when in the same state – I worked essentially the same times as when I went into the office, sometimes starting a bit earlier since I wasn’t commuting, but I was there. This also helped me plan my day as usual. If I had a meeting or appointment or what not I’d put it on my calendar. Now that I’m freelance and have a bit more flexibility with my time, I still like that 8-5/9-6 work schedule. It helps me structure my day and when my husband gets home from work, we are both done with work (most days).
Take a lunch break. Just like if you were working at an office – take a break! Sometimes that break for me is starting a load of laundry. Other days it’s making lunch and watching something on TV. You need that mental break and it’s good to take one. But don’t get sucked into that break and binge watch all of Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt in one sitting when you have work to do. Tell yourself, “I have 15 minutes and in this time I will put the dishes away.” On your next little break maybe you’ll fold laundry. No those aren’t as fun as getting coffee with your office pals but it’s a break to clear your mind.
Put on clothes. I will admit that I often work in my pajamas for a long time in the morning, but I’ve realized that when I do that I just don’t get as much work done. I am often lounging and taking my time getting ready, because PAJAMAS. Even if it’s just workout clothes – change and get to work! You’ll feel better and be ready to face the day.
Have a to-do list. This works no matter where you work but I’m a big fan of to-do lists. They help me focus on what needs to get done and when. If something has a deadline – I put it next to the item, often before, so that I know when I need to do it. As soon as a list is almost done/all crossed out, I make a new one on a fresh page. Yes, there are hold overs from the last one, but the clutter of the other sometimes bugs me so I need a fresh piece of paper to move forward. (My go-to notepad for my to do lists is from Poppin – not a paid endorsement, I’m just a big fan of their stuff!)
Put away distractions. I usually have my phone near me, which has games on it, and sometimes I work in front of the TV, but when I really need to get things done – those need to be AWAY from me. It’s easier said than done. I am also way more productive if I close tabs on my internet browser for Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, even Gmail. Whatever is not pertinent to my work – needs to closed. Now, am I great at this? HECK NO. I’m probably the worst. The moment I have a brain fart or can’t think of what to do next – there I go checking other things. Being in my office helps with the TV a lot, the others are pure will power. I’ve read about apps that help you with your computer distractions – I have yet to try them out but if you have a favorite let me know what it is!
Have your fellow work from home people. I have a few other friends that work from home that I talk to about the good, bad, and ugly of what we do. They are also there for me when I really just need to co-work with someone at a Starbucks or get out of my house. They understand that I don’t have all day to go do something, but I can take a quick lunch break with them. Not saying that my other friends don’t know that, but when you both have working calling you back to your home office it is easier to say goodbye. These friends also help me network and stay sane when looking for other work (yay freelancing) and break up the day with funny work-related stories.
Do you work from home? What tips or tricks do you use to stay focused and get work done during the day?