10 Tips for Working From Home and Getting Things Done
Working from home is the holy grail of employment perks for many of us. But once you've secured the gig, it's easy to fall into bad habits and lack motivation.
Here are my top tips for making the most out of the working day, whilst still enjoying that 'working from home' feeling.
1. Get Dressed
I know, the whole point of working from home is that you can do it in your pajamas, right? The problem is if you don't get dressed straight away you'll keep putting it off.
Oh, you think, I'll just make a coffee. Whilst that's brewing I'll just empty the dishwasher. I should eat! Hmmm, I'll just quickly start my e-mails downloading…
Before you know it it's 10:30, you're still not dressed, and you daren't risk getting into the shower because the mail man will be here any minute and you're expecting a delivery.
In the meantime, you feel lazy, unproductive, and, whoops, you've dangled your dressing gown in your mug of coffee, so really all you've achieved is creating more laundry. Not a great start to the day.
2. Dedicate a Work Space
If you work from home often it's crucial that you have a dedicated working area. Because if you start out on the dining table, something will suffer. Either, you'll want to leave your work where it is, and you'll starting having TV dinners (proven to be bad for your relationships and your weight) or you'll shuffle your work around to eat and start to lose track of documents. Set aside one space, however small.
If you do need to work at your dining table, work on one thing at a time, and put all other projects away in files in your designated area, such as on a book shelf. Do not let things pile up.
This is especially true if you have a partner or kids. Other people just don't respect piles in the same way their creator does! They don't realize the amount of work that went into sorting things into those different stacks. So don't tempt them to undo your good work by leaving them around.
3. Make a List of Top Priorities
Every day, write down three things you need to achieve. It doesn't matter how big or small the tasks are, the key is that they are the most important things for the day.
Now, first thing, pick one item, and do it. Before you open your e-mails, before you check the bank. Just get one thing done. Maybe it's making a phone call you've been putting off. Perhaps you need to book an appointment and you haven't got around to it. Maybe you need to journal those expenses. Do one important thing first thing in the morning, and you're whole day will feel more positive and productive.
4. Know yourself
As well as just crossing off one easy item from my to-do list each morning, I also focus specifically on my writing before lunch. This is because I have realized (at long last), that I am most creative earlier in the day, when the words flow off my fingertips, ideas abound, and I can just create, create, create.
But if I do administrative tasks in the morning – checking e-mails, updating spreadsheets, dealing with incoming mail - by late morning I feel tired and uninspired. I get sidetracked with problems and issues, and the thought of having to write weighs me down. It starts to feel like a chore instead of a joy.
You might find it's the opposite – perhaps you like to clear your desk before you start on that big project. Learn what works for you, and which hours should be reserved for getting Big Things Done, and which should be saved for filing paperwork or replying to those annoying 'send to many' e-mails.
5. Minimize distractions
If you struggle with checking twitter, e-mail, and reading blogs when you should be getting things done, close those windows. You can check your e-mail on the hour, every hour, if you're worried about missing something. But to constantly be at the mercy of new message alerts diverts your focus from what you're working on.
Similarly, save TV for your time. Once it's on, it's easy to get pulled into a story, and for some reason it is much harder to turn a TV off than it is to turn one on.
6. Always have a machine working for you
To really make the most of working from home, I always trying to have a machine running: the washing machine, the dishwasher, the breadmaker, or the slow cooker. It such a huge benefit to being around during the day, and folding the laundry when it's done provides the perfect excuse to…
7. Take breaks.
When you're working by yourself it can be hard to keep track of time – either how long you've spent procrastinating, or how long you're chipping away at that big project.
Every so often get up, move around. Start a new load of laundry, chop the veggies for dinner, just have a change of scenery. Having struggled all morning for a title for this article, it just popped into my head as soon as I walked away from the computer and changed my activity for just five minutes. Breaks are good!
8. See People
Working from home can be isolating, so make time in your schedule to see people. It could be other colleagues or friends who work from home, or perhaps friends who aren't working.
Just don't fall into the trap of always going out for lunch – it can be costly, and it usually takes up much more of your day. Invite people over and serve a simple lunch of quiche and salad, soup, or sandwiches. You'll be surprised how keen they are to return the favour when they know there's no bill to pay at the end.
That said, friends and family who don't work can think 'working from home' is a euphemism for drinking coffee whilst the company foots your broadband bill. Learn which people don’t understand the boundaries, and save them for the weekend.
9. Set time limits
If you're really struggling to get something done, set a timer on your phone or in your kitchen, for 20 minutes. Promise yourself you'll do nothing but this one thing for 20 minutes, and then you can have some free time to yourself as a reward.
You will be amazed what you can achieve in so short a time, and it's easy to commit yourself to something boring for just 20 minutes. (This tip also works well with housework. Combined with loud music it’s a recipe for a clean house in your lunchbreak).
But the biggest tip I can give you for really getting things done is simple:
10. Just go and start it. Now.
No more procrastinating, no more checking one more website. Just get stuck in.
It's a strange but true fact of life that thinking about the things you need to get done is usually far worse than actually sitting down, and just doing them. So off you go!
Does anyone else have top tips for working from home? Or stories of how things have gone wrong? We'd love for you to share.
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