We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t bring your work home with you,” but that’s not exactly possible when you’re working from home. Whether you run your own business like me, blog full time, or work for a company that gives you the flexibility to work from home, it’s easy to get distracted by all of the “shiny” things in your house: Netflix, the refrigerator, your bed. Distractions are everywhere.
As a WAHM (that’s “work at home mom), I sometimes struggle with balancing work and home life, as well as making sure to spend time with my daughter throughout the day. One of the reasons I started my business four years ago was in anticipation of building the life I wanted to have; I knew I wanted to work, but I also knew I wanted the flexibility of being home with my (future) kids. So over the years, I’ve developed strategies and rules for myself to make this situation work for me.
Here are my 8 productivity tips for working from home effectively:
Stick to a schedule.
One of the reasons we work for ourselves is so we can set our own schedules, right? Even though you have flexibility now, you still need to create a schedule and routine for yourself in order to be productive and stay on track. The good news is it can be whatever you want it to be. For me, I wake up early, before everyone else, and get a good amount of work done. My daughter then wakes up at 7 and I take care of her until she either goes to school or help arrives. After that I work out, sometime between the hours of 8:30-10. As soon as I’m done, it’s shower and back to work until lunchtime. After lunch, I usually work a few more hours, and then my productivity hits a total wall. It sometimes kicks back in later in the evening, but I’m definitely not a night owl, and I don’t try to stay up late working because it isn’t productive for me. Get to know yourself and identify the hours in the day where you’ll get the most done.
Get dressed in the morning.
It’s tempting to walk into work every day having not showered and gotten dressed, but resist. Get up at a normal time, take a shower, and put on real clothing. Dressing for success is a real thing; there have been countless studies showing that what you wear does influence your productivity. I used to work in marketing for an ecommerce company as you can imagine, it’s a very casual environment. They recently implemented Fancy Fridays, encouraging employees to wear business attire one day a week. Some people even wore tuxedos. I like the idea of forcing yourself to get a little fancy when you go into work, even if “go into work” means sitting on the couch in front of a laptop. I know it helps my productivity.
I know it sounds tempting to watch tv, listen to podcasts and play around on gchat while you work, but productivity can take a major hit when we don’t focus on one thing at a time. We all like to think we’re great multi-taskers (not me actually, I’m terrible at it), but most brains cannot process a bunch of things at once. It’s better for productivity if you dedicate certain hours in the day to certain tasks, then move on the next, even if you aren’t quite done with the first.
Make plans to see other people.
One thing I miss about working in an office is the collaborative nature of it. If you’re not sure of something, you can ask a trusted co-worker what they think and easily bounce ideas off of other people. Not so much when you’re alone in a room. Working from home can get lonely and monotonous. Try to schedule a lunch or coffee with another local business owner who really gets it, and pick his or her brain while you’re at it.
Make your space comfortable.
They say a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind, so keep your space tidy and open to give yourself room to think. I know when my desk starts to get messy, it’s much harder for me to think and focus.
Identify your daily “top 3.”
We all have a to-do list a mile long, but chances are all of those things don’t NEED to get done every day. There are likely 3 or so items that absolutely have to get done, so focus on those. If you get them done, move on to your “nice to do” list.
Set your work day as if you were going to and leaving the office.
Trying to work all day and night is a recipe for quick burnout. When you’re your own boss, you will never, ever feel like everything is done when you leave the office at the end of the day. Learn how to shut it down so you can prioritize other things like family, sleep and your favorite hobbies.
Make time for exercise.
One of the great things about making your own schedule is that you have the time to squeeze in things like exercise in your busy day. Working from home is sometimes an even more sedentary existence than working from an office because you’re not forced to take a lunch. There are days when I sit in my office and don’t move for many hours at a time… not exactly the best for health and circulation. If your body’s in good shape, your mind will be in better shape, so don’t neglect fitness. There are lots of studies showing the connection between physical health and mental health.
What helps you be more effective working from home?