Working from home has benefits. You can sleep in, play music as loud as you like, and work in your underwear if you wish. All of that sounds fun and dandy, but despite all of those things, you can still get tons of hardcore work done. As somebody who has been working out of my home office for 7-8 years (? I’ve lost count!) I thought I might be able to offer a little advice to some of you who might be considering the transition or have recently started running your own businesses.
1. Find Your Routine
This really sounds like more of a daunting task than it actually is. You are the boss, so you can make your schedule however it meshes best with your life. Instead of calling it a schedule, think of it as a routine. Once you find a routine that works for you, you’ll find that you’re more productive and less stressed. You don’t have to be super structured about it (i.e. “I will have lunch at 1pm then be back to my desk by 2pm), just let it flow naturally.
A routine that works with your life and still manages to keep you productive is key! Every day I wake up, spend about an hour being lazy in bed and checking all of my messages and social network sites, walk my dog, then mosey on over to my office. I usually begin with emails and then check my project board to see what I have to get done for the day. I spend a few hours on the computer and usually start to tackle one job. By noon, I take a break. I do a workout and do my hair/makeup. Then it’s back to work. This routine sounds pretty laid back to the average person, and I guess it is, but it’s what works for me and keeps me from getting too stressed out.
2. Take Breaks
People assume that when you work from home, your entire life must be work. They wonder how you ever find the time to do “normal” things… as if working from home means that you are tied to your job at the hip. In some ways, I suppose you are, but that doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to sit at your desk all day long. I take breaks, and I take them often. Every couple of hours, even if it’s just 5 minutes. I’m a firm believer that taking breaks helps to recharge your mind and abilities. Some of my best ideas or “a-ha!” moments have happened while taking fifteen minutes out of my day to take my dog outside.
3. End Your Day
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that you can’t end your day just like everybody else in the working world. When I first started working for myself I was terrible at this. I would work past dinner, all into the wee hours of darkness. 3A.M. shut-off time was normal. I quickly realized that I would need to dedicate my time accordingly, and shut down the business at normal hours. I work from about 10-6 on weekdays and don’t ever work on the weekends. A girl needs a life too!
4. Tell Others Your Work Hours
This is an ongoing issue in my home business life. It’s mainly about how other people make assumptions that because you work from home, you must be available 24/7. They believe that when they arrive home from work, you must still be sitting in your office because you live there. I’ve had clients call my home at 9-10pm to ask questions. I’ve had others give me a job to do on a Friday night and expect it to be done on Monday. Make them aware that you work regular business hours and direct them to your email if they need to leave you a message. Which brings me to my next tip….
5. Don’t Let Technology Win!
I read an article recently about how technology has turned us into humans who want instant satisfaction. In the business world, everybody is now connected by email and cell phones… everywhere they go. If something can wait until the next work morning, let it wait. There is no reason you need to be on call 24/7 just because technology lets people contact you whenever they please. Unless it’s an emergency and absolutely cannot wait, answer your emails and messages when you’re back at your desk.
6. Yes, There Will Always Be Distractions
Trying to work in a distraction-free zone is a little ridiculous. There will always be distractions. In fact, it’s actually been proven that a workplace environment (an office with colleagues) has more distractions than if you were to work from home. People who work from home actually get more done than somebody in a workplace. This video is one that I always think about and is worth a watch: Why work doesn’t happen at work. Kind of makes you wonder why we can’t ALL just do our work from home, eh? The internet is one huge distraction just waiting to tear you away from your day. The thing to try to remember is that you shouldn’t get down on yourself for getting distracted now and again. It happens! Once you’ve had your fill of YouTube videos and Facebook, jump right back into your business. I promise you’ll even feel less stressed after getting it out of your system. Just be mindful that the work is actually getting done and distractions aren’t ruining your business.
7. Stay Organized
Whatever your job entails, it’s super important to stay organized. Sometimes my desk ends up looking like a bomb just hit, so I’ll take the extra ten minutes to clean it up and get it organized in the morning so I can work more efficiently. I also keep a big glass board on my wall (like a whiteboard, but glass) where I write down every project and their statuses. My email program has a billion folders, all organized into sections, and each client gets their own so I can save all of our correspondence in there. Even my computer has a main “design” folder, with more folders inside for every letter of the alphabet. Each letter then holds a client’s own personal folder, so finding things is quick and easy! No matter how you decide to organize things, make sure you are consistent with it. Being organized one day and then not following through and staying organized will only lead to troubles down the line. Trust.
Do you have any tips for working at home? Do you ever take the day off work to do it at home?
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