As a freelancer and entrepreneur I work from home and have been for years. While most people picture working from home as some sort of dream where you leisurely crawl out of bed whenever you want, sip on coffee and read the paper for an hour and eventually hop on the computer in your pajamas and make hundreds of dollars before taking a lunch break. If this is how it works for you please let me in on your secret, but this is not usually how it works! There are definite perks to working from home, but there are also downsides like increased distractions, decreased motivation and lack of routine, just to name a few. Below I’ve shared some of my best tips for working from home efficiently.
Set a schedule.
Pick days and times you’re going to focus on working and stick to it. Whether it’s a typical Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for 4 hours at a time, pick a schedule and try to keep it for at least a couple of weeks to see how it’s going. Knowing when you need to be in “work mode” and when you’re off the clock is crucial to staying not only productive, but sane.
Have a “work space”.
Even if you don’t have an office or a desk, try to create a space that is clear of clutter and distractions. If don’t have a dedicated space for work you can keep a tote of your business essentials and set up at your dining table daily then simply put everything back before dinner.
This is a big one for me. Unless I’m on a total roll, which usually happens after midnight, I need to schedule breaks. I generally try to work for 30 minutes at a time with breaks in between. This isn’t necessarily because I’m exhausted and need a break after 30 minutes, it’s more along the lines of “I can keep focused on anything for at least 30 minutes”. So those boring tasks that make you want to cry and scream? Set a timer and get it over with!
Limit email and social media checking.
Do you play the refresh game? In between this or that task we head over to email or facebook and refresh to see if anything new has come in. You truly have no idea how many times you do this until you limit yourself! No seriously. I think one day I tried to go on Facebook 17 times without even noticing that I was doing it until Leechblock (explained further in the section) told me I was trying to get to a blocked website. For email on my phone I changed the settings so it doesn’t notify me when new mail comes in. My phone only checks for email when I actually open the mail app. This stops me from checking my phone every 5 minutes when I get an email from some store telling me I can have 10% off. For social media? I use a Firefox Extension called Leechblock. It limits me to 20 minutes of certain websites every 2 hours. I also turn off all social media notifications on my phone and occasionally remove facebook for a few days or weeks if I catch myself overly distracted by it. Social media is great, except when it’s completely distracting!
Go on a field trip!
Getting out of the house is a huge inspiration and motivator for me. Honestly, even if it’s just a trip to Starbucks to work for a few hours, it really gets me going. Even better, come up with a field trip that has to do with your work that will inspire you! Maybe you can head to the library to check out some books to further your knowledge or go to a conference or convention that has to do with your business. While sitting at home all day sounds like a dream, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut if you don’t make sure to get out once in a while.
Allow yourself flexibility.
Seriously though, what’s the point of working from home if you don’t allow yourself to be a little flexible? Take half a day and go to a museum when it’s not crowded and make up for it later. If your friend who is visiting from out of town calls you up for a lunch date and there’s nothing urgent on your to do list, get up and go! Now, don’t make a habit of it and skip out on work everyday, but once in a while give yourself a little flexibility.
While it still takes me quite a bit of motivation to do this, I always feel better if I just get outside and take a walk sometime during my work day. The fresh air, the movement, the mental break, they all really help me keep better focus and a better state of mind as I get through my work day. I often try to convince myself that I’m “too busy” to take a 20 minute walk, but 99% of the time that’s not the case and even if it is a busy day, that walk will help me be more efficient and productive.
What are your favorite tips for working from home?