Working from home is a gift.
If you’re lucky, you might even get to set your own hours and decide what kind of projects you want to work on and who you want to work with.
That’s an amazing dream lots of people have.
But it can also be a struggle, if you don’t have good work habits.
When you work from home, or are free to work or study from anywhere, YOU have to be your own accountability partner.
I’ve been working from home for 10 years now and I’ve developed a few habits that have served me well and a couple that are less desirable which I’m still trying to break.
Hopefully you can learn a thing or two from my experience.
First: The Warnings – What Nobody Tells You
Technology has been the bane of my existence in the past few months. Between my website going down and being hacked, storage clouds slowing down my computer, the Internet and/or phone suddenly not working and technical people actually making some of these things worse, I’ve logged way too many hours on the phone with tech support.
You know all that technical stuff someone else fixes for you in an office setting? Ya, that will be your responsibility from now on. And whether you are a bit, a lot or not at all tech savvy, you will still have to go through the drill of: “Have you tried to shut your computer off and restart it?“ Why, yes; yes I have!
Technology can be a huge time suck and it’s not something you can just ignore, because chances are, you will depend on it to be able to work. Be prepared for that.
Motivation & Interruptions
Sure interruptions will be limited. You will even get into awesome workflows and be super productive.
But you WILL get interrupted, just differently: the doorbell will inevitably ring when you’re on a conference call, deliveries will happen at remarkably the worst times possible and notifications on your phone and computer will keep coming.
Motivation and productivity ebb and flow. That’s normal. You simply can’t go at 100 % all the time. Knowing that and noticing your rhythms, will help you determine the best conditions for your situation.
One thing is for sure though, you will have to motivate yourself. You won’t be able to count on the energy of your coworkers to get you over the hump of resisting the not-so-fun parts of your work.
Knowing what works best for your motivation and productivity will be paramount. Do you work best in the morning or in the afternoon? Are you better with tight deadlines or with a plan laid out in front of you? For example, I’ve learned that working from a coffee shop is exhausting for me, unless I’m brainstorming a project with pen and paper. I work best in silence, with only the neighbourhood noises for company (Oh, hello birds!). The only time music helps is if I’m tired or need a boost of energy.
As I said, working from home is a dream. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but it can be lonely at times.
You are likely to miss on office parties and after work get togethers.
When you work from home or away from your team, it can be hard to bounce around ideas with a coworker or a team. Although you can still do that on the phone or via a live video chat (when technology works properly 😉 ), it’s not quite the same.
You know the saying: “Out of sight, out of mind“? That might be you if you’re working from home. Not that your team doesn’t appreciate you and value your contribution, but it may be normal for them, from time to time, to forget to call you back or give you that info you’ve been waiting for. You might end up at the bottom of their priority pile, simply because you are not there physically. Just be persistent and send them friendly reminders or simply give them a call.
Now for the Fun Stuff – What You Need to Be Productive
Whether you’ve been working from home for a while or you’re embarking on this new adventure, check the following tips to make it work for you.
1. Organize your Space
If you can, it’s best to have a designated space in your home to work from. I know it’s not always possible, but it would be ideal if you didn’t have to work from your bed, the couch or your dinner table. Even if it’s just a very simple/minimal desk (like this one or this one).
Being able to sit at a specific space, helps signal to your brain that it’s time to work now. It’s subtle, but I promise you, this trick works. So, get creative and set a nice and tidy little nook you can work from in peace.
My own office has gone through many iterations and I’m always in for a makeover. It’s a space that’s my own and that I really like to be in. That’s super helpful in the motivation department.
2. Set a Schedule
Regardless if you set your own hours or if, like me, you work a regular 9 to 5, having a regular schedule helps with productivity. You don’t have to have the same schedule every day, you could simply set up your week’s schedule on Friday and mark it in your calendar or planner.
3. Take Real Breaks
Speaking of schedule, please, for the sake of your mental health, take real breaks. Not ones where you browse some more on social media. Weather permitting, take some breaks outside to get some fresh air, device free.
Every couple hours (at least), get up and walk around, do a few sun salutations if you like, start a load of laundry or empty the dishwasher if that helps. The main idea here is to do something active.
That’s one bad habit I’m trying to BREAK right now (get it?).
4. Dress for Success
I can’t count how many people have asked me if I work in my PJs. I don’t. That wouldn’t feel professional to me. I’ve maybe done it twice and I always felt less than my best.
Wear something that makes you feel good and is comfortable, but still looks put together. Believe me, it makes a difference.
5. Try Single-Tasking
Research has found that it can take more than 20 minutes to get your concentration back after being interrupted. And these days, a lot of these interruptions are self-inflicted.
It’s also been proven that multitasking is bad for your brain.
Give your brain all the power it needs by implementing these tactics:
- Try logging off social media for parts of the day;
- Only open the necessary apps/software needed to work on your project;
- Work on one thing at a time;
- Only check your emails a few times a day; no need to check constantly;
- Reduce the
amountof device interruptions or simply silence notifications on your devices.
Once the day is done, it’s done!
One issue I have with technology is that we can be reached at any time. That doesn’t mean you should respond all the time though. Create limits and boundaries. Set up your devices to shut off notifications between certain hours of the day (let’s say between 5 pm and 7 am). Inform people that you will not respond to messages during those times.
When on vacation, unplug completely. Delete the apps if you must or at least disable the notifications and only check at predetermined specific times.
I know this can be hard, especially if you are working on your own business. But, this is YOUR time and everybody needs rest. Allowing yourself to take time off each day, on weekends and vacations can only make you more productive when you come back to work. Give yourself that freedom and space.
7. Meet People IRL
Beat the lonely feeling by meeting people in real life. Get together with other people that work from home and connect once in a while. You could also go work from a coworking space a few days a week or a coffee shop if that’s your jam. Or simply make a point of hanging out with friends and family.
8. Exercise & Hydrate
So basic right? Most people working in an office setting, be it at home or in a tower, spend way too much time being sedentary. Plus, if you’re like me, you may also forget to drink water. Other bad habits I’m trying to break.
To kill two birds with one stone, I make a point of taking fitness classes at a small studio, so that gets me out the door and interacting with other humans, as well as including exercise in my routine.
But for you it could just mean doing yoga before work, going for a walk at lunch or for a run after work. Whatever it is, pick something you enjoy doing and drink lots of water.
If you’ve been working from home for a while and something feels off, you may need a reboot. Be willing to change things up a bit. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find the best situation for you.
Do you work from home? Do you have other tips you could share with me?
Wishing you a super productive week!