For those of us who are trying to work successfully from home, we often find ourselves wondering how on earth we can be productive without the structure of a traditional office environment. While it's wonderful to skip out on any sort of commute, wear whatever you want, and hang out at home all day with your dog, working from home does come with its own set of trials and tribulations.
The first is that it's incredibly difficult to stick to a schedule. When no one is there to hold you accountable, sleep can scoop you up in its loving embrace, and prevent you from ever getting anything done. You may also find that the day slips away, probably because you're sans structure. Before you know it, the day is gone and you realize you never actually did any work.
Avoiding distractions, like that of the Internet or the aforementioned dog, can also feel next to near impossible. Without a boss standing over your shoulder, you can easily spend eight hours in a haze of Internet browsing and daydreaming. And that's not even taking into account that you may live with other people who totally don't respect that you are trying to get some work done.
Working from home sounds so well and good until you actually find yourself doing it. When the reality sets in that you are accountable for how you spend your time, it can be quite the wakeup call. So if you are wondering how to be productive while working from home, here are some tips for ignoring distractions and getting things done.
1. Wake Up At A Decent Hour
Unless you have a scheduled meeting every morning, it can tempting to sleep in and get around to starting work "whenever." Don't do this if you plan on getting anything done. Instead, treat working from home like you would any other job. Get up at a certain time, eat breakfast, and have yourself a nice morning before sitting down to work. It works. Trust me.
2. Put On Real Clothes
One of my favorite perks of working from home is that nobody gets to see you. This means you can get stuff done from bed, in your pajamas, surrounded by a billion bowls of cereal. And if that works for you, then great. But if you find yourself distracted all the time, or unable to really start working, consider getting dressed up for the day. Just like putting on some real clothes when you're sick (instead of your grubby bathrobe) can kind of make you feel better, same goes for putting on fresh clothes for your day. Getting dressed will signal to your brain that it's time to stop sleeping and start working.
3. Create A Work Schedule
When your schedule is all up to you, it can be easy to stare unblinkingly into your Excel spreadsheets until midnight. Or, on the flip side, you may fritter the day away and get absolutely nothing done. That's why you have to schedule you work day just as would for any other job. Choose a start time, like 9 a.m., and then tell yourself you'll be done at 5 p.m. Having a start and end time will keep you from going overboard, or at least motivate you to get stuff done in the time allotted.
4. Have A Designated Work Area
Working from home means you get to set up shop wherever you want. Maybe you like to work from the couch, or outside in a lawn chair, or at the corner coffee shop. It's really up to you. But being able to move around also means you're more likely to get disorganized. That's why you should designate an area for everything work related. Whether it's a desk, the corner of your kitchen counter, or even just a backpack, this work space should be where you store everything you need for your job. Keep the tools of the your trade handy, and make sure you organize all important papers and documents in one location. After all, you wouldn't leave your reports on the water cooler in the breakroom, so don't leave them chilling in your kitchen, either.
5. Give Yourself A Legitimate Lunch Break
When you work within feet of your kitchen, it can be tempting to snack all day and never actually take a real lunch break. And while snacking all day is totally awesome, skipping out on your break is not. It's important to give yourself time to think about something other than work. So be sure to get up, stretch, make yourself something for lunch, and then get back to it with a clearer mind.
6. Ignore All The Comforts Of Home
If procrastinating is easy in a boring office, it's a thousand times easier when you're at home. Besides limitless access to Netflix and Facebook, you also have your dog staring at you, a shelf full of books, and your roommates in the next room seemingly having the time of their lives. If you want to get anything done, you have to stick to your schedule and ignore whatever is trying desperately to distract you. Now's the time to pop in your headphones and let it all fade away until you call it quits for the day.
7. Pretend A Boss Is Looking Over Your Shoulder
When there's no one around to tell you what to do (especially if you are your own boss), then it falls all on you to keep yourself motivated. As a little mind trick, pretend your desk is in plain sight of your boss's office. If this were the case, would you open YouTube or browse online for a few hours? Probably not. Remember, you are supposed to be working, so keep your "boss" in mind when you feel yourself getting distracted.
8. Resist The Urge To Do Chores
If you've decided that you are going to work from 9 to 5, then take that time period seriously and respect the fact that you are working. Sure, the laundry may be piled up and the dishes are officially disgusting in the sink. But any kind of household chore should wait. Even if it feels productive (sure, you're vacuuming, which is good) it's still not your work. Save tackling your to-do list for the evening, or the weekend.
9. Ignore Texts And Let Phone Calls Go To Voicemail
You wouldn't answer your phone and start blabbing away if you were surrounded by quiet cubicles and coworkers, so try not to do it when working from home, either. Save phone conversations for your lunch break, and avoid getting yourself embroiled in a texting spree.
10. Make Sure Your Family/SO/Roommates Respect That You're Working
This can be the most difficult thing about working from home. When you work in an office environment, everyone else is there to get work done, too. But when you work from home, it can be difficult for family members or room mates to respect the fact you are trying to be productive. They may barge in wanting to talk without realizing that they're being incredibly rude and distracting. Instead of yelling for them to go away, try setting some ground rules before you start working so everyone knows how to behave. Let them know that if you close your door, for example, that this means you're working and need to be left alone. That way you can get stuff done without creating any tension or hurting any feelings.
Working from home has some amazing perks, and yet it can also prove to be incredibly difficult. But if you take the time to set up some rules for yourself, and for those you live with, then it can end up being just as productive as any other job.
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