Working from Home? 11 Tips on How to Do It Successfully
It’s the ultimate dream: ditching the dreary, lifeless cardboard-box that is your office, where your soul was squashed and your creativity crushed, and replacing it with cosy mornings enveloped beneath the doona where the ideas just magically flow, the sun cascades dreamily through your window and all is well with the world.
Urgh, if only.
The reality is, while there’s perks to working at home, it still has its difficulties. You see, a lot of us are just not naturally wired to transition from thinking of our home as our safe and comfortable space and into our income-generating, put-your-concentration-face-on workspace. Home is our sanctuary, our place of relaxation, where we’re free to let our hair down and flop about without a care, unabashedly walking around in our sloppiest clothes and bingeing our favourite shows on Netflix in a judgement-free environment (oh hey there, Distractions!)
So we’ve come up with some top tips on how you can succeed at nailing working from home.
Set up a dedicated work space
Working from the comfort of your bed sounds nothing short of delicious, right? Sure, until you discover bed is now ruined. You see, now your bed is your office, and no longer that retreat you can go to when you need to relax and recharge. Crap. A dedicated space for you to get stuck into your projects, however, is far less crap and much more awesome.
Select the most appropriate place in your home – one that’s quiet and has lots of natural light so you don’t feel like you’re back in your lifeless office – and set it up with both the tools you’ll need and the things that really make it your own. Great ideas include a standing desk for those who need to wriggle (it’s also great to avoid bending your neck when seated), plants for that connection to nature and a couple of nice family photos.
Plan out your schedule for the week
The beauty of working from home for most people is doing away with those rigid 9-5 days and the painful daily commute that comes with them. But that doesn’t mean your days should lack structure, either.
Figuring out when you work best is one of the top keys to getting on top of your tasks. It might be early in the morning when the house is still quiet, between school drop offs and pick ups or perhaps you’re a night owl. Or you might want to build it around activities you couldn’t otherwise do on a regular schedule, like fitting in that 10am gym class you’ve been wanting to try.
Another way to shape your schedule is to choose a definitive end of work time for each day. We’ve all done it – you said you’ll finish with this last thing and then bam, another two hours have gone by and you’re still staring into the blue light abyss. Choose a time to clock off and stick to it.
Plot out your week into a nice colour-coded calendar, finding the times that work for you, and place a printed copy in a prominent spot so you can refer back to it regularly.
Lock down your tasks for each day
Your weekly schedule is in tact, woot! While this will likely remain relatively unchanged, your daily tasks will fluctuate as you tackle different parts of your business and their relative levels of urgency. Make the most of each of day by jotting down what needs to be accomplished, then break up what you’re working on into timed increments for the day. This gives your day direction and ensures you’re less likely to end up faffing about on random bits and pieces that are less important. Or lock in the three most important things you have to do for the day and a couple of secondary items you can lock in if you’re ahead of schedule.
Play dress ups
Oh, to tackle business in your pyjamas! Yes! Except that this, once again, sucks all the luxury out of your pyjamas. These are your comfort clothes; the ones you put on and instantly sink into with relief. Let’s keep them that way. Swap your pyjamas for something a little more business like; something smart, but not like you’re trying too hard. Think jeans, and a casual shirt. You’ll likely feel an instant sense of purpose. We know, we know, pyjamas just seem so much easier... But remember, no one’s asking you to squeeze yourself into a form-fitting suit and killer stilettos. You can, however, be dressed comfortably and still kick working-from-home butt. Trust us on this one.
Kick your distractions to the curb
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “I’ll just quickly do X”. Sure, you’ll just rinse your lunch plate and pop it in the dishwasher, then before you know it you’ve stacked it completely, washed the rest that wouldn’t fit, done an entire load of laundry (which you’ve now hung on the line), and tidied the lounge room. Or, from the digital spectrum, you’ve answered a Facebook message from your bestie, which very quickly escalated, and you’re now lost in the web that is YouTube, you have no recollection of how you got there and you’re tearing your hair out because you’ve lost 3 hours.
Thankfully, there are ways to combat it.
Apps like Forest or the Pomodoro technique are great tools for keeping you in check; you work for a set amount of time, and then have a break. If checking your favourite websites on your desktop is your kryptonite, programs like FocusMe block specific pages that you have a tendency to find yourself lingering on for an excessive amount of time. Distractions are distractions no more.
Take regular breaks
The of working from home is that sometimes it gives us permission to work longer, with fewer breaks, because we’re already in our relaxation space. After all, our commute time to the couch is but 2.7 seconds. Regardless, you still need to lock in regular breaks. It’s proven to be good for your mind and to improve your productivity and the quality of your work, so there’s really no downside and therefore no excuse.
Taking a break also means SWITCH OFF YOUR TECH. Walking away from your computer but still being plugged into your emails via your phone is not taking a break. Disconnect entirely. Stretch your legs on a breezy walk, meditate (the Headspace app has micro meditations for those new to meditiation), head to your local cafe and swap that take away coffee for sit-down sesh with a real cup (just ask the owners of Napier Quarter), squeeze in a light workout, or pump some tunes and dance it out.
Expand your circle
Working from home is freeing, it’s fabulous, it’s the best! And it’s also a little bit lonely! Erm, yeah. No office banter, like Susan whinging about the air temperature or George bringing in his famous homemade brownies, and no one to bounce ideas off or troubleshoot difficulties with. Just you, your work space and your work.
That’s where it’s good to have a network of people – both in your industry and outside of it – that you can lean on when you need to feel that human connection. Join a small business Facebook group, meet up with a friend for coffee or organise a bi-weekly catch up with your small biz peeps to keep you motivated. It’s SO important to surround yourself with people who understand your industry and have your best interests at heart (and while it’s great if they’re mutually exclusive, they don’t have to be) so you can share your experiences, or just vent.
Diversify your environment
Don’t feel like you’re getting anything done in your slick new home office that you so lovingly created? We hear you. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t get into the working groove at home. So get out of there – take your work to your local cafe, book into a communal workspace or, if you have a wireless hotspot and a light load, head to the park and soak up the fresh air while you get things done. If you find this works well for you, consider breaking up yours days with half your work done at home and half done elsewhere. Sometimes resetting in a new space is the boost you need to get through that part of the day.
Set and track your goals
Unlike an office environment where you’re likely to have an appraisal every six months, it’s just you looking out for you. There’s no one there to pat you on the back, be your cheerleader when things are tough or tell you what a stellar job you’re doing when you’re feeling unsure (or, in some cases, give you a polite but firm talking to about eating all the “office” Tim Tams and bingeing Riverdale on the work computer).
Setting goals, both short and long term, will provide you with milestones to work towards and allow you to chart your progress, both within your career and on a financial scale. Want to earn X amount? Cool. How? And by when? Jot down what those goals are and place them in a prominent place in your workspace so they’re within sight whenever you’re feeling the work slump or three-thirtyitis.
Remember that it’s okay to fall off the wagon every now and then
It happens. We all have days when we’ve set out with all of the above locked and loaded, and the day has still ended up being a total train wreck. It’s okay, really. After all, no one is perfect. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Take the rest of the day and remind yourself that sometimes these things happen and that you’ll get back on track tomorrow. You got this!
What are some of your tips for working from home?
Let us know in the comments below!
Samantha Kodila is the Content and Administration Assistant for The Social School. She’s also a freelance copywriter, travel writer, editor and content creator. She’s still finding that all-important balance of working from home (damn that Netflix to hell) (I take it back, I love you) and divides her time between dancing in front of her standing desk in her home office and quaffing numerous coffees while hammering out articles and blog posts in Melbourne’s cafes. She ‘grams pics of flowers, coffee spots and her travel adventures @samantha.kodila.