Ah the joys and slogs of working from home. I've now been working this way for 4 years, both whilst I was employed and now running my own company. If you too have your own business or are working a flexi-hour job, you will know that working from home really isn't as easy as it sounds.
If you have just started working from home, this is for you. If you already do then hopefully you can relate! I'd be really interested to hear your opinions on this and what works for you!
image via Pintrest
1. Separate work and home (even if they are physically the same location)
Yes, you're working from home, but I advise you to try and separate off parts of your home as 'work spaces', at least in your mind and behaviour.
Don't panic.. I'm not talking about building walls or taping off your lounge.
Try to avoid working from the sofa, bed or places where you would usually relax.
Ideally, identify one of the rooms as your working space - somewhere with a desk, or hard surface, and natural light. You can make it your own creative haven. We don't all have the luxury of a home office or even a whole room we can separate off for ourselves - but don't worry. Perhaps you could convert a kitchen counter or a dining room table into a work space - at least during daylight hours.
image via: https://inspirahogar.com/
Working conditions are key, so it’s important that you make this room as comforting and appealing to be in as possible. As you'll be spending a hell of a lot of time there, you might as well make it a space you actually want to be in. Get a comfy chair with a cushion, get some plants, maybe a coffee machine, plenty of water etc. If the room looks bare and boring you'll feel like you're boxing yourself in and resent spending time there - especially when your comfy bed is within rolling-distance. Get used to only doing work in that work space.
Mental differentiation between work and living space is key and I can't stress this enough.
As first it might not feel like a huge deal, but if you don't make this distinction, the more time you spend at home, the more you will feel the frustration with only having one space in which you live and work.
If you slip up and have the occasional day on the sofa - you can earmark it as a one off or a treat. Or perhaps you have particular work which you do from bed or on the sofa. For example if i’m writing an article, I prefer to be on my sofa, feet up on my comfy pouffe, maybe a hot tea and some snacks, Drake on Spotify. You get the picture. I also like to have client calls on the sofa because I approach the calls in a more relaxed way.
2. Get out of the house
Home may be your main work space, but I would suggest devising a schedule of when to leave the house.
Just because you're 'working from home' it doesn't mean you have to be inside your house. I take home as meaning 'not an office'. By limiting your time spent at home, you look forward to getting home in the evenings, as you normally would after working in an office all day, as opposed to being bored from spending all day there. Also it means home is a novelty and you'll appreciate the days you do work from home.
For example, for my schedule, Monday, Wednesday and Friday I work from a coffee shop.
Being in a shared working space or public space has all kinds of links to productivity. I think a large part of this is to do with social awareness, you know people are aware of your presence in the coffee shop, and the space you occupy, and if you just sat there picking your nails for 25 minutes it might look a bit strange.
People see you. You know they see you. That is often enough to keep you working.
beautiful cafe inspiration via Pinterest
I would even suggest picking a few coffee shops, one each day you plan to go out.
I have a list of all the cafes I want to explore. Each week I will go to a new location to work. Keeping it fresh keeps me inspired.
Also it's useful to pick a start time, something realistic that allows you to have enough sleep.
The more structure you can give your day the better. I know the one of the flexibilities of having your own business or working from home is that you don't have to work to a rigid time structure, so find a working schedule that works for you. It doesnt need to be 9am - 5pm. Spend some time figuring out which hours you work best. In terms of productivity, I find that working at set hours keeps me on track.
For out of the house spots I recommend, cafes, quiet bars, museums, libraries and co-working spaces. Wherever you choose, just make sure you pick somewhere beautiful that keeps you inspired. Remember, you have the flexibility to work wherever you want to!
3. Schedule in life
One good thing about working in an office with strict working hours, is not just that it provides you with a guideline on when you should be working, but it also allows you a guideline for when it's ok NOT to work. Sometimes when you work from home you may end up working long beyond the hours you have set for yourself.
There's a reason office jobs aren't contracted to 18 hours per day, 7 days a week. So don't expect to push yourself to the extremes, just because you're setting your own guidelines.
One good way around this is building out your week with enough enjoyment and enough motivation to stimulate your working hours.
Parkinson's Law. I've mentioned this one before:
"Parkinson's Law: the notion that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."
Meaning: The less time you have to do something, the more effective you will be in getting it done. So being busy is better!
If your plan is to work from home 7 days a week and do not much else, there's always this 'get out' of just watching a film and putting all your work off.
But if you know you're working out of the house 3 days and week and you have classes booked in, friends to see and life plans, you'll have less time to mess around.
The basic idea is, the more structure and frameworks you have in place, the fewer things you are likely to put off until later, because later you are doing something else.
image via: http://vidyaliving.com
Exercise is key to motivation. Along with scheduling in your work hours and social activities, make sure you schedule in a work-out when possible. I schedule work-outs on days I am least motivated because it gives me the surge of energy I need to push me through those days I dislike (Tuesdays and Thursdays i'm looking at you).
The endorphins will make you feel energised and great about yourself.
Human interaction is terribly important, so make sure you're getting enough of it, but don't forget to schedule in some time with just yourself. It's crucial and the one piece of advice I had received before starting my own business. You can read more in my previous article about Crafting Time Out For You.
4. Input is directly proportionate to output
I'm talking about eating and energy. Try to eat healthy for most of the time because you need the energy you get from real foods. Find a sleep pattern that works for you. It doesn't need to be 8 hours a night necessarily, but whatever it is make sure it's regular and it's enough sleep so that you feel rested. I recommend getting a fitbit or some other tracking devise to track your sleep.
image via Pintrest
The way you treat your body is directly related to productivity and output. So if you've been drowning yourself in pizza and beer all weekend, don't expect an engaged mind on the Monday morning. Get into a regular, healthy pattern. Everything in moderation and don't be too hard on yourself. Then when you do go all on out and indulge, your body and mind will be strong enough and healthy enough to overcome it. My general tips for well being are:
eat right, drink your water, sleep enough
But more on sleeping another time.
5. Don't be too hard on yourself
The most important point of all. Don't punish yourself.
In an office, people do not work 5 days a week solidly without interruption or distraction so don't expect yourself to do the same. Make sure you're taking regular breaks and seeing enough daylight. Set yourself realistic goals for each day and write a lot of lists to sort through what needs doing and what is done. The act of physically ticking something off a list is a healthy way of honoring accomplishment and a simple and effective motivation tool.
If I am supposed to be working, but I find i'm too distracted and can't focus I simply will not work. I will do something else, anything else that I enjoy. Maybe i'll go for a walk or have a work-out instead. Then when I feel in a better headspace I will come back and work. It's not healthy to sit in front of a screen and punish yourself into working if you're not actually doing anything. This is a bad habit we learn from working in offices: 'sit in front of the screen until the boss frees you'. Sure, try and motivate yourself into working, but understand that sometimes you just cannot focus when the clock tells you to, for a variety of reasons.
image via http://kkdas.tumblr.com
So to round up, figure out what works for you and make a plan. Don't worry if you don't stick rigidly to it, as with everything, one step at a time. Social life and crafting time out for yourself are both just important as work life, when you want to work effectively from home. I really recommend making a solid non-work plan because otherwise you'll get bored, unmotivated and emotional. So find a yoga club, football club, fitness class, dog walking club or something to keep you socially engaged with other humans. Also remember to take some time alone where you do something you enjoy, to make your work space an enjoyable place to be and if for some reason you cannot work when the clock says it's 'work time'.. don't.
If you manage to incorporate these 5 tips into your life, i'm sure you'll be working from home more efficiently and you'll be much happier doing it! Feel free to leave your feedback and experiences in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!