Working from home can be the ultimate freedom – but it can also come with a whole host of distractions and difficulties that you might never expect. These expert tips come from a place of experience and could be a huge help when trying to find balance and succeed both at work and at home.
How To Succeed At Working From Home
Get organized. Maintaining balance is one of the most difficult aspects of working at home, because the work is always right there staring you in the face, Hanna says. “To keep you on track (and not working too much or too little), organization will be key. Get organized by creating filing systems, schedules and to-do lists.”
Have a set work space. Kanarek suggests you designate a specific place for a home office–and store all work-related files, reference materials and supplies there. Try not to make it near a bed or a TV, Spence adds. Taylor says that you should ensure that your office space emulates that of a true work environment.
Plan your day. This will help you minimize your distractions and maximize your true productive times, Spence says. “For example, many people eat a small breakfast on their way to the office, but when at home, you may be tempted to have a bigger breakfast which may slow you down for your early morning meeting. Or you may normally get off at 5 pm, but the kids come home at 4 pm, so you may need a shorter lunch so you can get all of your work done.”
Avoid home distractions. “Never underestimate the gravitational pull of the fridge and your comfy bed,” says Kelly McCausey, a blogger, podcaster and online business coach.
Pets, TV and family members are just a few other distractions you’ll encounter when you start working at home, Hanna says. Planning ahead will be key. “Having readily available snacks for consumption, planning children’s activities or child care in advance, and having a separate office space can all help minimize distractions, but ultimately it is up to you to stay focused.”
When you’re first learning how to work from home, an important step is the weight you give your work in your own mind. If you see your work time as valuable then you can transfer that view to others along the way. It’s common to get pushback from people who simply don’t understand what working from home is like, but when that happens we have to be firm, even with those we love, about keeping appropriate boundaries in place.
Limit the number of times you check e-mail. You might find yourself constantly checking e-mail because you’re worried about being out of the loop—but while it’s important to stay connected, spending too much time on e-mail might distract you from more important tasks, Kanarek says.
Set office hours. Make sure to create a time slot for each of the day’s activities. This helps with communicating to others when your work-time and play-time is, Hanna says. “If you have small children you may need to schedule your work around their naps or another caregiver’s schedule, so that you can have a good chunk of time to work uninterrupted.”
Take breaks. When making your schedule, you might want to consider working in smaller spurts, and allowing yourself time to get up from the computer to stretch. “This will really help you both physically and mentally,” Spence says. “Without a water cooler and co-workers around, you may forget to take time away from your desk. When you take breaks, you’ll be more productive,” Kanarek adds.
Don’t handle personal tasks during work hours. “Please don’t think that the laundry or the fact that your mother wanted to spend time with you since you’re at home is not going to tempt you,” Spence says. Make sure that you are focused on the best and proper use of your time during your work hours, she adds.
Hanna says that all too often work at home individuals fall prey to others taking advantage of their work at home status.
Communicate your work schedule to friends and family. Spence suggests you communicate with your loved ones that you’re working and ask them not to call you unless it is urgent. Make your office hours known and clear to the family, and make sure they respect your working hours, Foss says.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Working at home tends to lend itself to a sedentary lifestyle, not to mention the close proximity of the kitchen and refrigerator, making weight gain a problem for many telecommuters, Hanna says. Make sure to schedule time for regular exercise, keep healthy snacks around the house and remember to drink a lot of water.
Keep the supplies you use often within reach. When you have to leave your desk to find supplies or files, you waste time and get distracted easily, Kanarek says. Store supplies near the place where you’ll use them.
Conduct business during traditional hours. Make your phone calls during normal business hours and keep administrative work for after-hours, Taylor says.
Don’t discuss your personal life. It might be easy or tempting to discuss your personal activities with business colleagues while you’re at home, but keep all work-related conversations professional, Taylor says.
Avoid multitasking and stay focused. It’s easy to start one project and then bounce to another without finishing the first, Kanarek says. “I used to be the perfect example. At the end of the day I was exhausted, but I hadn’t accomplished as much as I’d hoped I would. Finally I made myself focus, stay on task and accomplish a certain amount of tasks every day. Some days I’m more productive than others, but overall I’m more productive than I used to be.”
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What are some tips or tricks you’ve learned to help you be more efficient when working from home? Is there anything you miss from working at an office?