Being self-employed or working from home can have many benefits including flexible hours, but it also has drawbacks like distractions and isolation. Ideally you can customise your work environment to be perfect for you. On one hand, you have no commute, colleague interruptions, and flexible working hours which make working at home an ideal situation. However, on the other hand, there is the potential for distractions which can hinder progress, demotivate, and cause stress and other problems. There are, however, several things you can do to foster a productive working environment at home to help you make the most of your working situation.
Maintain a routine
Don’t stay in your dressing gown and slippers until the afternoon just because you can. Maintain a regular morning routine, that includes showering and dressing for work as if you were going into the office. This mentally prepares you for work and gets you into a work mind-set, making you more productive and focused on your To-Do list.
Organise your working environment
A messy, disorganised desk is distracting and inefficient, impairing your productivity. It makes it difficult to find the right documents at crucial times and keeps you from completing your current tasks. Therefore, it is important to create an organisational system which is logical and easy to follow. Both your physical and digital files should be organised in a filing system. New documents should be filed as they are received – don’t let a stack of papers build on your desk, it will only delay you in the future.
Create a detailed schedule
Having vague long-term goals looming over you can be daunting and demotivating, making it difficult to get started and stay focused. To help address this, break larger tasks into several smaller tasks and create a detailed To-Do list. Keep your list updated as new tasks arise and you complete other jobs. Having clearly outlined objectives to guide your work is very motivating – and so is checking off completed items!
Set realistic objectives
After you’ve created your To-Do list, think about how much time tasks will take and set yourself realistic objectives for the day. This will help keep you motivated when you start to lose focus and get distracted. Prioritise your tasks to focus your attention on the most important items first. This allows you to work on pressing matters early in the day when you are more motivated and able to focus. Do this in preparation for each day so that you can plan for what’s ahead and commit to getting everything done.
Bonus Tip: If you have important deadlines you need to meet, set yourself automated reminders on your calendar app on your phone or on your online email service so that you don’t miss them.
Working from home means there are a lot of tempting distractions such as family, friends, or even your pets. Be strict with your boundaries during your working hours. Treat it the same as if you were working in an office and make sure you are not unnecessarily disrupted or distracted during your ‘office hours.’
That being said, breaks are important for you to maintain your focus, especially if you are looking at a computer screen for extensive periods of time. So after completing a task, or when there is a natural break in your work, get up and get yourself something to drink or get some fresh air for five minutes. That way you are refreshed, ready to focus, and can get back to working hard.
It can also be tempting to eat at your desk if you are running behind and need to catch up on work. But you are likely to be more productive by taking a break from work while you’re eating, and then focusing your full energy on your work after lunch.
Avoid wasting time
If you find yourself performing the same (or very similar) tasks over and over again, think about a way to make the process more efficient so it takes less of your time. If you are constantly answering customer inquiries, for example, invest some time into adding a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section onto your website to save time in the future. If you draft a lot of similar emails, create templates which are easy to customise and send. Whatever it is that you are spending a lot of time on, simplify it or automate it as much as you can.
Regardless of which of the above tips help you make the most of your working situation, remember that positions that work from home require as much of your effort, if not more, as office positions. Find what helps you be productive and stick with it!