Starting your own business or going freelance means you are likely to start working from home. As great as this may sound, there are some common traps that you can fall into which will dramatically affect your productivity and personality.
There is a fine balance between working hard and hardly working, but here are some tips to help you know when and where to draw the lines.
Make yourself a designated workspace
Set up one area at home which is solely dedicated to your working life. This area is your office, you do nothing except work in here. Optimise the area to help you get your work done by knowing what kind of atmosphere you work best in; is it a silent area with plain walls and no windows, or is it a more colourful space with things around you that stimulate you? Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can work fine in your living room with the TV on and the laptop on your knee, this will only make it harder for you to distinguish between work and relaxation.
-“But that’s the way I worked at Uni and at college and I did fine, so I’ll just carry on doing it MY WAY!”
-True, you may have worked this way before but that’s because you had no choice, you probably had to grab any space you could to get your work done. Now it’s your future and livelihood, staying focussed is a necessity.
Avoid procrastination and distraction
If you are at home, chances are you will have things around you that need doing like cleaning, running to the shops for some essentials, or things that are far more tempting, like computer games or the gym.
Procrastination and distraction are your biggest enemies when working from home, and you should avoid them at all costs. You should have a clear action plan of things to do that day and strive to hit your targets. The trick is to realise that you are beginning to think of other things to do and to have the discipline to shake it off and focus your attention on your work. Twitter and Facebook are useful marketing tools but they are hugely addictive distractions, as are things like RSS feeds. If you can’t minimise the use of them, don’t use them at all.
Another big distraction is the people around you. Because you work from home, you may find people start to ask you to run errands for them because they have to be at work all day and you are at home. Remind yourself that this is your job and you have to stay committed to it, lay the ground-rules with friends and family and remind them you have work to do too.
-“But it doesn’t matter if I stop for a little while to relax as long as I get all my work done”
-Yes it does, try and maintain a sense of structure, the more you let yourself stray, the more your work will suffer for it.
Prioritise your workload
Hitting your targets will help you to feel as though you are making progress and put you in full control. Give more time to projects and essential work and less time to all the little day to day tasks. Finishing large pieces of work will be satisfying both to you and whoever you are working for, organising your inbox won’t.
–“This is obvious, of course I am going to focus my attention on big projects, they take more time”
-It should be obvious, but sometimes people get carried away with the little tasks and don’t leave enough time for the main job in hand, it’s a form of procrastination.
This doesn’t mean get back on Facebook and Twitter, it means physically getting out of the house and having a social life. The last thing you want is to lose touch with the outside world or be so enthralled by your work that you start to feel guilty for not being at your desk. You shouldn’t give up on the things you like to do. Getting out and about will not only be healthier for you, but it gives you time away from your work to think about things. Being around other people can often inspire you when you least expect it.
–“I can still work really hard and maintain an active social life”
-Absolutely, it should not be underestimated how important time away from your work can be.
Stay structured and define the boundaries
Part of working from home is about being flexible. Sometimes you need to be able do a little bit more here and there in order to achieve your goals. However, you also need to make sure that you have clear boundaries between work, and the other things in your life. Communicate your working hours to whoever you are working for and try and stick to these as best you can. Treat your working day like anyone else would: Get up, shower, get dressed, have breakfast, go to work, have lunch, work some more, and then finish.
This will help you to maintain discipline, structure and normality. You don’t want to be working away till late at night because you have made a late start, think of the affect that will have on both you and those around you.
–“So I’m supposed to drop everything that I’m doing at a certain time because I have decided I knock-off at 5 o’clock?”
-No, but that’s where the advantage of working from home comes in, you can afford to put in some extra time if you need to. The point is that you have to make sure that you leave time for yourself as well as your work. If you end up working until late at night, you will find your productivity will lapse.
What are your top tips for working from home? Let us know in the comments below.