I thought working from home was going to be easy. The freedom to create and think, to be home for my children when they need me, to be able to visit interesting places whenever I want and not be tied to a desk all day.
Turns out, that’s not quite how it works. Work is still work. I still sit at my computer for long periods, I still have to engage in emails, phone calls and social media. I still have to clean the house, organise family affairs and do a other million things each day.
It has taken me a long tome to adjust and in truth I had to learn a new way of working. There are 6.5 hours between the time my children leave, and return from school. In that time I can get a mountain of work done…or…nothing. So here are 10 things I do to keep me focused, productive and making the most of the freedom I have working from home
Without this you are wasting your time before you even begin. There are so many distractions around you and your senses are stimulated in a completely different way than if you were in an office.
Turn off emails, social media and any other notifications you have programmed. When I really want to get something done without interruption I turn off my mobile phone. My husband and the children’s school can contact me on the land line, so I am not completely cut off. They also have a different ring tone than every other caller, so I know when or when not to answer the phone.
Working from home does not mean you are working in the home. It took me a long time to stop jumping up and put washing on the line because it was a sunny day. Yes its great, but this interruption eats into my 6.5 hours and before I know it, my children walk in the door and my business working day is over.
Working from home does not mean you are working in the home.
2. Make a plan
There are two secrets I use for to-do lists. Firstly, for every item I write down, I allocate a time frame the task can be completed in. For example:
- Record this months expenses – 45 minutes
- Skype call – 1.5 hours
- Email designer – 15 minutes
- Check bank balance – 10 minutes
Time allocation creates an achievable to-do list. If you have six tasks that will take 2 hours each, it is unlikely you will achieve them in one working day, so consider spreading them out over the week. Sometimes having 10 and 15 minutes tasks motivates you to keep going, because there is nothing as satisfying as crossing off a to-do list!
The second secret I learned is from Tim Ferris, author of ‘The 4 Hour Work Week” – work backwards. Choose a project completion date and work backwards; choosing dates along the way for different elements to be completed to reach your target. Eventually you will be back to the day you are writing the list. This method saves goals slipping away in a fog of mixed priorities.
3. Designated work space
I recently updated my work space: I created a larger desk, easier access to what I need and cleared out a ton of clutter. Create a space that you love to visit, add fresh flowers or a picture. I light an un-scented candle, I feel calm when its lit and I focus on the flame when I am thinking. Our home is a small two bedroom terrace rental, so there is no hope of adding more room. My desk is in the living room, so keeping things neat and tidy is a must.
4. Let family and friends know you are working
I know lots of people who work from home and fall into this trap. Family and friends figure you are at home, and so call for a chat and this can be very frustrating. So make it clear that your work day is the same as anyone else’s day – for example: you would not call into your friend for a chat if they were working in a bank or a hospital.
5. Join a network
This is really important to avoid isolation. Any network will do, even if it’s just to secure a work night out at christmas! I was a bit sceptical of networking at first, but I have come to appreciate their value. Regardless of what business the other members are in, most of us have the same fundamental needs.
6. Get washed and dressed every day
Working from home is not an excuse to skip a shower and stay in your PJs’ all day, nor is it a good idea. Have a set routine in the morning and stick to it. My key to success is being dressed and ready to go before the children wake. I do this in my power hour (see No 8).
VITAL! When the children leave for school, I head out for a walk in the park. The 35 minutes I spend walking is great for thinking about my day ahead and what I really need to achieve. I love it most for eliminating brain clutter. As ideas or tasks flood into my head, I can discard them or park them. So when I am back at my desk, I am clear on what it is I need to achieve in my working day.
8. Power Hour
I know this sounds a bit too much for a 6.45am wake up call, but it’s what makes may days successful.
In the first hour of my day I:
- get washed and dressed.
- put washing on the line, put a wash on
- feed the rabbit and dog
- empty the dishwasher
- pack the lunch bags
- check my email, but NOT social media
- check for post
If I do these tasks when the children leave, I don’t stop. That is, I keep tidying, or cleaning and my work day fizzles away. By having my power hour, I get essential jobs done and then break the cycle with my walk. When I get home, I head straight to my desk.
9. Work In Creative Spaces
Every now and then I pack up my laptop and head off to somewhere inspiring. Perhaps the coffee shop in the National Gallery or the National Print Museum. After a mooch around the gallery, my head is clear and I can get through a ton of work and feel super creative. In summer I head to the park or the seafront.
10. Have Days Off
Having your office at home can also be a burden if you do not know how to STOP working. I am guilty of this, perhaps the children are on holidays or home sick from school, I try to catch up at night or on the weekend. That part is OK, that is the luxury of being your own boss, you have the flexibility of prioritising your life. But in a normal run of things, I take Sunday and Monday off. I usually have ceremonies on a Saturday, so call it a working day. It took a while for me to detach and not check emails, but shutting down for two days gives me the energy I need for the week. I spend time with family and relaxing, what being your own boss is supposed to be all about.
Work smarter – not harder
It has taken me a long time to figure these 10 steps out. When I wander off, I am working more than I need to. I try my best to work smarter, not harder. Every now and then I have to remind myself of my priorities and what my goals are, and then I am back on track.
Do you work from home? I’d love to hear about your tips and tricks to keep on top of you day! Please leave a comment below.