The concept of “working at home” is nothing new. People have been working at home since the dawn of time. The ever changing world of work and business has seen an increasing number of people working from home, and there are no signs of that changing any time soon. Writers, independent sales reps, freelancers, small business owners and entrepreneurs, and employees whose companies permit telecommuting are just a small sampling of the kinds of people working from home these days.
Most people in the working world have experienced having some sort of manager or boss in relatively close proximity who can pop in at any moment to see what they are up to. It’s safe to say that for many people, this is what helps keep them on their toes. But what about those of us who work from home at least part time? I spend the majority of my time in someone else’s office, but when I come home, I still have writing deadlines to meet and things to do for my own businesses.
What can we do when the couch (or in my case, the bed) is calling our name? How do you resist the urge to explore everything the internet has to offer? Here are some suggestions to managing yourself when no one is watching.
1. Get dressed for work every day. It doesn’t have to be fancy – unless you are meeting clients and that is what is expected. Get in the habit of viewing working from home as any other legitimate work environment. Take a shower, get dressed, drink your coffee, eat breakfast, or whatever your normal routine would be if you were leaving the house.
2. Keep work and home separate. Do the best you can to keep home life and work life separate. While you are working from home, remember, the key is WORK. Dedicate a room, or a least space in a room for working. Don’t work in bed. Create a space specifically for work – get in the habit of realizing you are at work. If other people are at home during the day (house mates, spouse, kids, other relatives), close your door. Send the message that you are at work. An open door sends the message that people can come in at will and interact with you.
3. Set office hours. Maintain those boundaries. Act as though you are at work – because you are. Return personal calls on your lunch break or when you are done with work for the day. Save the housecleaning for later. When work hours are over, enjoy your time with family, friends, or time alone! Sure, you’ve got some leeway, if you were working in an office or store, you’d turn off the lights and head home. Do the same thing at home. Wrap things up and walk away until tomorrow.
4. Plan your work day. Create a to-do list for the day. What absolutely has to get done? What else needs to be accomplished but is less pressing? Set up a mini-road map for the day to provide some structure for yourself. Yes, even artists can use a little structure. I’ve had plenty of artist clients!
5. Create a schedule that works for you. One of the benefits to working at home. If you aren’t a morning person, start a little later, or do tasks earlier in the morning that get your warmed up for when you are at your peak. Perhaps you start the morning with a few non-essential tasks because you know you hit your peak at 11 and you can power through something really important then that will take more of your focus and energy.
6. Take breaks. Take a lunch break. Get up and stretch your legs once every hour or two. Take breaks during times your typically feel sluggish. Use that time to check personal emails or play around on the internet during this time.
7. Create a healthy work environment for yourself. Make sure you have adequate lighting. Get a comfortable chair. Buy a plant. Listen to music that isn’t distracting – avoid mellow sleep inducing music, songs that bring down your mood, or music that makes you want to get up and dance every two minutes. Find the balance between upbeat and out of your seat. Tidy up your work space at the end of the day so you don’t dread starting work the next day because of the prep work you have to do just to get started. Getting started is tough enough as it is – don’t make it harder for yourself.
Working from home can be great as long as you can manage your time. For some of us, working from home can be a luxury (I know it would be for me!), so it is important to make sure that boundaries are put in place so that we get things done. This is important across the board regardless of who you are – but it is really horrible if you convinced your boss to let you work from home twice a week and you get nothing done on those days!
Are you a person who works from home? What struggles have you faced? Which habits and practices work for you?