Is working from home a new adventure for you? Or maybe you’ve been working form home for a while but you’ve noticed you’re more productive in a regular office job. Whatever the situation may be for you, it’s always a good idea to figure out how you can maximize productivity when you only answer to yourself and maybe your keyboard-loving cat.
When I first started working from home, I quickly discovered that I’m not naturally good at keeping myself on-task. One moment I’d be in the middle of an email to an important client, and the next minute I found myself staring out the window at the clouds. I honestly wasn’t sure how I got there or how long I’d been there. So I developed a productivity roadmap to keep me accountable and to increase my efficiency while working from home. I bet this roadmap will help you, too.
Set a Schedule
This is one of the first and most important things you can do when working from a home office. If you don’t set a schedule, you could end up sleeping in and leaving your office early, with very little completed work to show for your efforts. You don’t have to be a drill sergeant, but you should at least have pretty consistent goals for when to start and end your work. Make it a goal to “clock in” at the same time every day, and get to sleep early enough that you can stick to your work schedule without difficulty.
Talk with your family to make sure your work schedule allows you to meet your family’s needs as well. Once you’ve figured out your work-at-home hours, let your colleagues and clients know what they are so they know what to expect when it comes to your responsiveness at different times of the day.
Designate an Official Home Office Area
If your “home office” simply refers to any clean chair you can curl up on with your laptop, you’re in for a rude awakening. Failing to have an official home office space is a recipe for failure. You need to be able to have a space where you immediately go into “work” mode. When you leave that space, it signifies your return to normal life.
Without an official home office area, you’ll start to feel like your entire home is your office. And that can make it difficult to achieve work/life balance. Keep in mind that your office doesn’t have to be huge. It doesn’t even have to be an entire room if you live in a small space. A home office can be as simple as a small desk and chair set up in the corner of your entertainment room. Just make sure you don’t go to that space unless you’re ready to work.
Get Ready for the Day
There’s no quicker way to quash productivity than by rolling out of bed and heading to your home office in slippers and pajamas. Lazy mornings tend to blend right into lazy workdays. To boost your productivity, take time to get yourself ready for the day before you even sit at your desktop.
Take a shower, get dressed, brush your teeth, and do anything else you would do if you still worked in a commercial office setting. You’ll be surprised to discover how much more motivation and confidence you feel when you take time to look the part.
When you’re home all day, it’s easy for family members to expect too much from you. That’s why it’s important to set and manage expectations in advance. Gently remind your family members that although you’re home, you’re working. That means you shouldn’t be expected to clean the house or make meals during work hours. Have your family pretend you’re not even home during the day. That way they won’t unintentionally develop unrealistic expectations about what you should be able to accomplish while you’re at home.
It’s also important to let family members know that you need peace and quiet while you’re working. If kids are constantly coming in to talk to you or ask you for favors, you won’t be able to get much done. You may consider putting a sign on your office door that reminds your family members when you’re done with work.
Then, once work hours or finished, make sure you are fully present for your family. Don’t even think about checking your emails or answering casual business calls. Since your office is in your home, it becomes even more essential that you keep the two completely separate. Otherwise you could end up becoming a workaholic with an unhappy and neglected family.
Schedule Regular Breaks
When you’re working in a commercial office setting, you probably get more breaks than you realize. From scheduled lunch breaks to short walking breaks to talk to colleagues, you probably have plenty of opportunities to get up and stretch your legs.
When you’re working alone at home, it’s easy to neglect breaks. After all, you can talk to a colleague just by picking up the telephone or scheduling a video conference call. There’s no real need to get up and walk around.
For the sake of your mental and physical health, you need to schedule regular breaks throughout the day. If you’re not paying attention, those break times can breeze right by, so you may want to set alarms on your phone that go off at the same times each day. During your breaks, get up and walk around, use the restroom, eat a snack, or do anything else you want to do. Movement is key, though. Sitting all day long at a desk isn’t good for your circulation or your health in general.
Get Rid of Distractions
Distractions are the enemy of productivity. When you’re working from home, there are many different things that can potentially become distractions. You may be distracted by a family pet, kids returning home from school, or the sound of the television on upstairs. Do whatever you can to minimize distractions before you start your work day.
If you have a pet that consistently bothers you, close your office door. If your kids like to tell you about their school-day when they get off the bus, consider rearranging your short breaks so you can talk to them for a few minutes without messing up your work schedule. If you hear sounds from around the house, try wearing noise-canceling headphones while you work. For every distraction, you should be able to come up with a solution.
Give Yourself Deadlines
One of the biggest traps that comes with working from home is getting blasé about deadlines. If you know a project is coming due, it’s important to set little deadlines for yourself to make sure you aren’t late. Otherwise, you could end up having to pull one or more “overnighters” at the last minute.
It’s very easy to procrastinate when you don’t have someone consistently asking you for updates. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have all the time in the world to get something done. Instead, stay on task and on schedule with mini deadlines that will help you stay accountable and punctual.
Get as Much Work-From-Home Advice as Possible
Working from home can be a lot of fun and very fulfilling. To help you make the most of the situation, follow this productivity roadmap. You can also find more great advice for working from home on The Flexible Professional blog page.