The 60-second commute from the bedroom to the office, more time with the family, increased flexibility of work hours – it’s not hard to get lost in the dream of working from home. But what’s the reality like? Some people thrive in a home-based work environment, while others crash and burn. What category will you end up in?
If you’re planning to work from home then the key is planning, along with a good dose of discipline. This applies equally to working at home for a corporation or starting up a business idea you’re passionate about.
Here’s what works for me.
Become an A-lister
An up-to-date ‘To Do’ list is an essential roadmap to productivity. Make a ‘To Do” list every afternoon before turning off the computer for the day (yes, the sky won’t fall in if you turn the computer off!). This ensures you’ll never sit down at your work desk and wonder to yourself what job you should do first.
Embrace a morning routine
The way you start your day is a good indication of how the rest of the day pans out. If you start out by pressing the ‘snooze’ button three times, only to jump out of bed with just enough time to have a quick shower and run out the door, the rest of your day will be pressured and rushed too. Getting up at the same time, exercising and enjoying a leisurely breakfast will put your mind in a calm place, as opposed to being on edge and overstimulated.
Stick to a work regime
Be realistic about how much time you really have in order to be productive? Do you only have the short school day between 9.30am to 2.30pm in which to get everything done? It’s all very well to think you’ll put in extra hours in the early morning or the night shift after the kids have been organised but is this truly sustainable? You may simply end up more tired, stressed and possibly more cranky with the family than ever before.
Tackle the hard jobs first
Eliminating a sluggish brain and maximising morning energy with a routine that works for you will pay dividends in the time it takes to complete the top jobs on your ‘To Do’ list. This translates into more satisfaction and less frustration when completing tasks. If, and it does happen, you just can’t find the inspiration for a certain task, take a break, clear your head and, chances are, you’ll return to the office with the right answer.
Beware of multitasking
Tempting though it may be to put on a load of washing while waiting for a file to download or opening up another job while waiting for a return phone call, multitasking can be detrimental. It’s proven to be inefficient and your brain will always operate better when working on one thing at a time.
Keep your inbox under control
Turn the tables and master your emails before you spend all day submerged in a sea of urgent messages. By all means stay in communication with clients but keep your emails brief, to the point and meaningful. Ditch the ‘It’s here somewhere’ method of keeping tabs on emails. Devise a filing system that works most efficiently for you so you can immediately access client correspondence in a professional manner.
Turn off distractions
And I mean all distractions and notifications. I don’t need to know someone mentioned me on Twitter at the exact moment it happened. I don’t need to know every single time someone likes my latest post on Instagram. And for me, Facebook is a huge distraction so I limit myself strictly to a timeframe when using it. I get a huge volume of emails each day – do I need to know the exact instant every single one of those emails drops into my inbox? No, I don’t. There’s nothing life-threateningly urgent happening in any of those places. If there was something, I’m sure I would get a phone call about it!
Take a lunchbreak
Always factor in some ‘me’ time into your working day. That includes taking a regular lunchbreak – it doesn’t have to be long, 15 minutes is fine if you’re busy. That’s all the time you need to move away from your desk and grab something to eat. Giving your brain a further break by reading a book or a magazine is also a refreshing way to recharge and top up on your productivity.
There are heaps more things to manage when working from home – such as family and friends who just don’t get the work-from-home thing and drop in at any time because you’re there. But that’s another story…