Working at home (in your own business) has tremendous benefits – no long commute in the rush hour, no need to ask permission to go to the Dentist, or leave early to pick the kids up from school. But it can also bring a whole draft of problems too – especially if you are new to working at home. Losing the structure provided by an office setting can be very unsettling for some. Problems may include things like, Never Actually Switching Off! Or other people not respecting your time. Or just not getting organized enough actually to get anything done!!
So, when working at home, how do we remain productive – and keep a work-life balance?
I have compiled a list of tips for working at home that I have found helpful. (By the way, I have worked from home now for over 11 years – and I wouldn’t go back to an office for anything! However, I still find these tips extremely useful to remind myself what I should be doing every so often!)
Tips for Working at Home: 1. Define your Work Space.
You need to have a workplace – and that isn’t sitting on the sofa in front of the TV! If you don’t have a separate study (which is the ideal option), try setting yourself up with a desk in the spare bedroom or dining room. You need a space where you can shut the door and feel like you are ‘at work’ and therefore feel like you have ‘finished work’ when you move out of that space at the end of your day. Psychologically this is important as it changes your state of mind from “at home” to “at work.” Learn to FOCUS. Being able to shut the door in your separate space is vital – if the door is open, it can signal to your family that you are available to chat (or play!)
Wherever your workspace is, make sure you keep it tidy – the adage about a tidy desk equalling a tidy mind is true! The tidier and more organized your workspace, the more productive you will be. Also, make sure you have the equipment you need – in particular, ensure you have a comfortable chair with back support.
Tips for Working at Home: 2. Set Ground Rules with Those Around You
Set your working hours (see tip 4) and ensure that your friends and family know this and respect it. You are NOT available for coffee, for long lunches, or play! Your friends and family probably wouldn’t disturb you at an office with questions that can easily wait until you get home – but if a home is your office, they may not show the same restraint. Many friends and family will also think that as you work from home, you can stop for coffee or a long lunch at a moment’s notice! Ensure that everyone understands that interruptions are for urgent matters only.
Tips for Working at Home: 3. Prepare for Work – Physically and Mentally
Have breakfast, take a shower, and get dressed. You don’t have to wear a suit – but don’t stay in your pajamas! Getting dressed first thing in the morning prepares you for work – it gets your mindset in the right place. Don’t turn the computer on to check emails as you walk past the study first thing in the morning (I am guilty of this one!) Suddenly you realize it’s lunchtime, and you are still in your PJs with a stinking headache cos you haven’t had breakfast (let alone a shower!) Make sure you are in the right mindset for the day. Start the day properly.
Tips for Working at Home: 4. Set Regular Hours – and Stick to Them
A benefit of working at home is that you don’t have to work 9-5 if you don’t want to. I tend to work from 9.30-3.00 (with a break for lunch) and then 7.30-8.30 in the evening (after my Son is in bed). Think about what works for you. You may need to work early mornings or evenings to fit around your family life or communicate with colleagues in other time zones. Whatever hours you decide – stick to them! (You are allowed some leeway – but don’t let work run your life). I think this is one of the hardest ‘rules’ when working from home – it is so easy to actually never switch off. But a healthy work-life balance is important – even if you do work at home.
Tips for Working at Home: 5. Don’t think you need an Immaculate House!
Don’t spend more time on housework than on working! A bit of light housework in your ‘lunch hour’ is acceptable, as is popping the odd load of washing on, but really, when you are at work, you are at work – even if you are working at home. If you can afford to get a cleaner and you would have one if you were working a ‘proper job’ in an office – still get one. Please don’t think you have to be Superwoman (or Superman) and do it all yourself because other people think you have lots more time because you work from home!!
If you take your work seriously, especially if you have just started a new business at home, then you need to put the hours into your work – not into cleaning the house!! Schedule non-work time for household chores and get the rest of the family to do their share. You mustn’t take on every household job just because you work from home – those around you need to respect the fact that although you are at home, you have serious work to do during your scheduled hours.
Tips for Working at Home: 6. Limit Distractions
If your work permits- TURN OFF the telephone so that you can concentrate and get on without distraction. Only check your email at certain times of the day. It is so easy to get distracted by emails that you think you have to respond to IMMEDIATELY! If you do this, you will never get any tasks finished!
TURN OFF your Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc., while you are working. Check your IM at certain times and only go on Facebook during your break times. I know that working from home can be lonely, so using Social Media can feel like your lifeline to the outside world – but this can quickly take over your day and ruin your productivity.
Tips for Working at Home: 7. Make a Daily TO DO List
Making lists can really help you focus and stop you procrastinating – which for some reason, we seem to do more of when we are sat at home on our own!! I make a weekly list of tasks and then break that down into daily tasks. I use the Steven Covey approach to Time Management as much as possible, and the key thing for me is to focus on mine. BIG ROCKS. Don’t just pick the easy tasks – spend quality time on your Big Rocks, and your business will fly! If you really do struggle to focus (even with a to-do list), try planning out what you will do each hour which should help you stay productive!
Tips for Working at Home: 8. Create Small Deadlines
This follows on from tip 7 – and can also help stop the dreaded procrastination! When you start the day, it seems like you have lots of time, and it can be easy to get sidetracked by the TV or the Telephone. Set targets for finishing pieces of work – e.g., “I will finish writing this blog by 11 am”. “I will complete this marketing activity by 1.00”. This helps to break up your day and keep you focused on the task.
Tips for Working at Home: 9. Don’t Just Take a Day Off because things get tough!
Don’t just take a day off because you don’t feel like working today!! If you are having a hard day – persevere – do some work anyway! If you are sick, be sick – take a proper day off to get better. If you organize a holiday day off, that’s fine – but don’t just decide you can’t be bothered to work today – that is a slippery slope to go down when suddenly you never achieve anything!
Tips for Working at Home: 10. Take Scheduled Breaks
There are various ways to do this – depending on your working style. But give yourself breaks. Some people find it helpful to take a 15-minute break for every hour worked. Or maybe you would prefer to take a 15-minute break twice a day. In addition to small breaks, take a proper lunch break. Eat something healthy – AWAY FROM YOUR DESK! Leave the house and get some fresh air – it will genuinely make you so much more productive when you get back to your desk. Just sitting in front of your computer with no breaks will result in ‘diminishing returns. You think you are working really hard – but the results aren’t that great!!
Tips for Working at Home: 11. Finish when you Finish
Know when to stop working! Just because you are working at home doesn’t mean that you should be working ALL THE TIME that you are at home! Leave work at the end of the day. Susan Seaburg (Field Development Manager for Hewlett-Packard) offers her input on working at home in an interview with Santa Clara University: “The good news is that now you can work anywhere – the bad news is that now you can work anywhere.” Most people go home to get away from work – you don’t have that option. So be careful that you still maintain a good work-life balance.
Tips for Working at Home: 12. Watch your Mood
Everything you listen to will influence your mood – or distract you from the task. Personally, I hate working in silence, so if I really need to concentrate, I put on some non-intrusive music to create background noise! (My husband is the opposite – he has to work in complete silence, so we use separate rooms if he is working at home too!) If I do not have to concentrate too hard, I listen to educational audios – as I a member of the Empower Network Inner Circle, I have access to a whole range of recordings by people at the very top of internet marketing – so I listen to those every day. These can also be great to lift your mood if you are feeling a bit low or unfocused. Find what works for you and ensure you surround yourself with things that will give you the best frame of mind for whatever you’re doing.
Tips for Working at Home: 13. Seek out opportunities to communicate with other humans!
If you know you can be too distracted, go and work in a café, hotel or library sometimes as this can give you a change from being at home all day. Most coffee shops have free wifi these days if you need to be on the internet. Attend some training courses or local networking events to maintain some human contact – and possibly pick up some business too! Skype or Facebook chat rooms can also be a good way to communicate with the outside world. I use these methods a lot as my team and colleagues are all over the World. But as mentioned earlier, don’t get sucked into spending hours chatting online and not getting anything else done. Make the odd phone call, too – don’t just use email. It is good for your sanity actually to speak to someone once in a while!
And last but not Least –
Be grateful that you CAN work at home. That you don’t have to do the awful commute, that you can be home when the kids get in from school, that you aren’t stuck in a windowless office or shared cubicle!! Above all, BE PRODUCTIVE so you can KEEP working at home! I hope you found my top tips for working at home useful. If you want to see how I make money working at home every day – please take a look at my blog site listed below.