Whether you’re a business owner, a freelancer, or an employee in a work-at-home situation, it might seem like the biggest challenge to establishing a home-based primary office is securing the workflow necessary to make it possible. Many veteran work-at-home folks will tell you, however, that the real test comes when the work really starts to pile up.
Without a boss around the corner or the possibility of the company tracking our internet usage throughout the day, work-at-home situations eliminate a system of checks-and-balances designed to keep the average employee working throughout the day. At your house, there’s nobody telling you not to spend the morning watching talk shows and the afternoon checking Facebook. But if the work doesn’t get done, you won’t get paid — and you’ll sour your relationships with the entities that have hired your services.
To stay productive at home, follow these simple rules:
- Set Office Hours
- Take Breaks When You Complete a Task
- Prepare Lunch Ahead of Time
- Silence Your Phone and Email
- Establish a ‘Tomorrow To-Do’ List
When you’re at home, it can be hard to differentiate between work hours and off hours, especially if you share your house with family, a spouse, or a roommate. For their sake and yours, make it clear that when you’re working, it’s not the time to bug you about house chores or invite you to go for a walk. Temptations not to work are a dime-a-dozen around the house, so it’s imperative that you draw a line when you’re ‘at the office.’
When tackling a big project or a seemingly endless stream of small ones, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Break down your tasks into smaller increments. When you finish something (like writing a blog post), give yourself five minutes to stretch, pet the dog, or even to check your social media accounts. You’ll clear your mind for the next task at hand.
Office workers either bring a lunch to work with them or head out to eat for a midday break. If you work at home, it’s less likely that you’ll go out for lunch — your fridge is right there with you. But because the possibility of a hot meal is there at midday, the cooking process can often disrupt a workday. On the other hand, it’s more tempting to snack on chips and junk food you may have on hand instead of cooking, especially if you’re busy. Whenever you eat breakfast, think about your lunch plans. If it’s going to be a busy day, go ahead and make a sandwich so that you’ll have a healthy lunch ready to go when you get hungry.
Friends don’t expect their office-bound pals to answer the phone throughout the day, but because you work at home, they might think you’re available 24/7. Even work calls can be disruptive if you’re focused on a project. This rule applies to anyone who needs to concentrate on a task. Sign off of your email account or take it offline, and silence your phone. Finish the task you’re working on, then devote the time to answer emails and calls. Sometimes, multitasking just slows us down.
If you’re a hard worker like me, it can be difficult to know when to stop for the day. To help create a seamless break between ‘work time’ and ‘everything else time,’ conclude your day by making a to-do list of the tasks you need to accomplish the following day. This will not only bring closure to one day, it focuses your mind the next morning and provides clear goals that you can work toward throughout the workday.
What other tips do you use to maximize your productivity in a work-at-home environment? Do any of these suggestions sound useful to you?
Anita Brady is the leader and chief executive of 123Print.com, where you can make your own business cards and customize other promotional materials. Anita is a long-time industry veteran who has managed strategic marketing and other efforts for companies small and large.