New to this whole Work at Home gig? No worries. Let’s talk about how to work from home successfully. You CAN do this!
It’s March of 2020. It’s the understatement of the century to say that there are currently A LOT of changes happening in our world. One of them is a massive increase in the number of people who are now working from home.
Maybe one of them is you.
You may have discovered over these past few weeks that being productive isn’t quite as simple in the home environment as it is when you’re working at the office. I remember the struggle WELL when I first started working from home seven years ago (the same time I became my own boss).
Our homes are an obstacle course filled with distractions.
The piles of laundry. Unannounced visitors. Social media. The kids <— working at home with small kiddos adds a whole other layer of challenge that requires a special arsenal of tips and tricks!
I’m not gonna lie. Trying to get work done here can be a real challenge. If you’re having trouble navigating this “new normal”, I’m here to offer hope.
It IS possible to be a Work at Home Success Story!
Over the past several years, I’ve conquered the work-from-home challenges in order to grow a thriving side-hustle business (this blog) while also working remotely as an almost full-time employee.
Today, I’m going to help you jump to the front of the work from home productivity line by sharing my best tips for navigating the main challenges I’ve faced while working remotely from home over the years.
These main challenges are:
- a lack of structure
- unclear boundaries
- tons of distractions.
Master these challenges and YOU, my friend, will be a Work at Home Success Story.
How to Work from Home Successfully: My Best Tips
Tip #1: Routines are Key
Establish a Morning Routine (no jammies allowed). When you first start working at home, you might be seduced by the idea that a lack of structure is a new-found luxury. The idea of rolling out of bed, grabbing your laptop with a cup of coffee in hand, and snuggling into the corner of the sofa to begin work without changing out of your jammies sounds like heaven.
I thought so too at first. But after a few months of falling into this rut, I can tell you that working all day in your jammies is actually demoralizing.
Over time, I discovered that I was way more on top of my game when I established a morning routine that was similar to what I would do to prepare to go to work outside the house (you know…shower, get dressed in clothes presentable enough for the UPS man, and do my hair and makeup).
Set Work Hours. The great news about working for home for many of us is that we can choose when we work. This is my situation (whether I’m wearing my entrepreneur hat or my employee hat).
But working flexible hours can be both a blessing and a curse.
The beauty, of course, is that you’re available to pick up sick kids from school or to grab lunch with a friend in the middle of the day.
The curse is that this flexibility can bite you in the butt if you tend to be a procrastinator since you might find yourself working at 11 p.m. to meet a work deadline because you decided to play all day. Having no set work hours can also be a problem for workaholics. If you love what you do, it’s way too easy to fall down the rabbit hole of working all the time, neglecting your family (and your self-care) in the process.
When we work at home, we no longer have that natural boundary of being “off work” when we leave the office. You will benefit greatly by setting a consistent work schedule to ensure that work gets done and that you step away from work when you should.
I tend to work from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., spend time with my family from 3:00 – 8:00 p.m. then circle back to work tasks from 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. if there’s a need for closure on a project. Set hours that work best for your life circumstances and make a commitment to yourself to actually adhere to these hours.
Tip #2: Establish a Dedicated Work Space in Your Home
Similar to that “working in jammies would be so awesome” myth, I had to find out the hard way over time that working sprawled out in my bed or on the couch wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
Maybe you can be productive from the couch, but what I found was that it makes me feel like I’m off my game. I’m much more susceptible to distraction when working from my couch or in bed.
The couches in our house are located in the main living areas. Sitting on them gives me a 360-degree view of all of the unfinished tasks that are calling my name (e.g., that end table that needs to be dusted, those dishes that need to be washed, that basket full of clean laundry that needs to be folded).
Fast forward a few years and you will now find me working exclusively in my home office.
One of the perks of our new home is that I actually have a beautiful space that comes complete with a door that I can close to block out household distractions. I’ve conditioned myself so that when I enter this space, I know that it’s “nose to the grindstone time”.Being in my home office helps me to focus.
Don’t have an office in your home? Brainstorm ways you can carve out some sort of workspace. If you have a dedicated space, but it’s been serving as a dumping ground over the past few years, it’s time to declutter that home office and organize it so that you can use it for its intended purpose.
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Bonus Productivity Tip: Purchase a standing desk.
In an effort to reduce the number of hours that my butt is in a chair each day, I purchased a standing desk converter so that I could shift back and forth from a sitting to standing position. Much to my surprise, I find that I’m able to focus better and work more efficiently when I’m standing.
Tip #3: Set Firm Boundaries Around Work Time
When you first begin to work at home, it’s CRUCIAL to set really firm boundaries in order to protect this time. Of course, you need to set boundaries with yourself (e.g., don’t allow yourself to get sucked into household tasks or scrolling through Instagram stories when you should be writing that report).
It’s equally important to set boundaries from the get-go when it comes to other people so that they begin to understand that when you’re working, you aren’t available. The way this plays out is different for everyone.
For you, it might mean not answering phone calls from your mom during work hours. Or maybe you need to train your kiddos to not barge in the home office when the door is closed.
Be firm and consistent. You have a right to protect this time without guilt. You are earning an income for your family.
Tip #4: Minimize Distractions
To make the most of your work time, minimizing the 18,000 distractions that surround you at home is a huge part of winning at this working-from-home gig.
Fortunately, there are some great tools that you can implement to boost your focus. And with everything that’s currently going on in the world, you may find that the biggest distraction you’re facing is happening between your ears. Check out these methods for minimizing that mental clutter so that you tame those worries and get back to work.
Tip #5: Map Out Tomorrow’s Work Agenda Today
This tip is useful no matter where you’re working. But it’s been so critical to my productivity, I couldn’t NOT include it in this post.
End your workday by determining exactly what tasks you need to do tomorrow so that you can hit the ground running.
If I don’t sit down to work without a predetermined plan for what it is I need to do, I waste SO MUCH TIME trying to decide what to do. This is especially true during crazy busy times in my work life when I have a ton of overwhelming projects on my plate that are pulling me in many different directions.
Find a method for nailing down tomorrow’s tasks that works for you. Maybe you will simply write down the 3 things that you must get done tomorrow on a Post It Note and place it on top of your laptop so it’s the first thing you see in the morning.
I use Trello for this purpose. It’s an awesome productivity tool that serves up visual To DO lists in an organized way that works perfectly for my brain.
As part of my evening routine, I update my Weekly Tasks Trello board to nail down the exact work tasks I’ll be focusing on the next day. When I walk into my office in the morning, I fire up Trello and get to work immediately.
A final word of advice — give yourself grace during the first few weeks you begin working from home. It takes time to establish routines, set boundaries, carve out a dedicated workspace, and develop an effective system for prioritizing work tasks.
Hopefully, this post has provided a roadmap for you as you navigate the transition from the business office to the home office and you learn how to work from home successfully.
You GOT this my friend!
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