Are you new to working at home? Or are you a home based entrepreneur with children and now home all day? With the COVID-19 crisis suddenly thrust upon us, many of us are faced with how to work from home and stay focused and productive.
Family and friends who know that I’ve been working out of my home for years have been asking me this question – how do you do it? They are the inspiration for this blog and the video I posted a few days ago. After 30 years in business and the last twelve years as a home based business, here are my 10 tips for making working at home work for you.
- Stick to a schedule
Schedule work hours and advise your clients, co-workers, friends and family of your hours. It is important that you stick to these work hours. That means making sure you get to bed on a regular schedule and awake and groom on a regular basis and keep your routine. Having a predictable schedule will help you distinguish between your work and home life.
- Dress for work
I know some first time home workers are enjoying working in their pajamas and slippers or having the top half dressed and bottom half in jammies. The most productive workers are dressed for work – whether it’s business casual or more relaxed – dress as if you are going to your work place – now your home office. It will help to shape your attitude and get you in the frame of mind. And if you suddenly have a video conference call you don’t have to break your momentum by quickly brushing your hair and teeth and pulling off your raggedy hoodie.
- Focus your activity
Develop a daily agenda, objectives for the day or outcomes for the week. Tie your activities to your big goals – monthly goals, quarterly goals, etc. If you don’t have goals (a subject for another blog) that may be something you will want to work on in the future. I use my post-it stickies on my Surface to remind me of things to do for the week. You may want to group like activities so that you can use your time most efficiently. I tend to work on emails three times a day, and client specific projects in blocks of time. Find an approach that works best for you.
- Define your work space
It can be particularly challenging when everyone is at home all day long, But as I recently put it – when you are the breadwinner – not working is not an option. Find a way to define or even redefine your work space and make it your own. That may mean relocating to a different part of the house, taking the corner of the basement, garage or kitchen table. You will have to communicate to everyone in your household your work area and ask them to respect the boundaries that you may need to be productive.
- Manage your work time
Communicate your work schedule to everyone in your orbit which includes family members, friends, and children. People who are not working and confined to home are lost for things to do and are looking for comfort which is important, but you will have to remind everyone of your work schedule so you can focus. Be firm but not mean. You may have to be creative. That may mean putting up a sign that says you are on a video-conference call or are concentrating on reading or composing emails.
- Manage interruptions
Manage distractions and interruptions by sticking to your schedule and reminding family and friends that you are working. Don’t make or take unnecessary phone calls, social media chats unless it’s work related during your focused work time. Avoid the temptation to procrastinate, take on miscellaneous household chores, snack, or play with your cat unless you are on a break.
- Schedule breaks
You’ll earn your scheduled breaks when you are working with purpose and focus. Make sure you get up every hour to stretch or move around if you are bound to the computer. You may want to walk when you are on teleconference calls but make sure you are using your mute button on your device. A 10 minute break outside or inside can be invigorating and give you a chance to say hi to your kids, pat the dog or throw in a load of laundry. Make sure you take your lunch break away from your computer. Try having it with family or away from your work area and stick to a regular schedule – 30 minutes, 45 minutes? Lunch at the kitchen table? On the deck? Then get back to work.
- Take care of your mental and physical health
My Apple watch reminds me that it is time to stand or take a breath which is helpful. But you can also be your own Apple watch and pay attention to your breathing, your attitude and getting exercise. It’s important to get a good night’s rest to be fresh every day to work. Find ways to take care of yourself. Taking needed breaks and managing work/home life schedules will keep you balanced.
- Creative/idea time
Take a few minutes out of your day to brainstorm ideas and capture them. Ask yourself questions beginning with, What if? How can? Should we? Could I? I capture these ideas on a running word document on my desktop and a tablet next to my nightstand. After a few weeks, check your list and see if there is anything worthy of advancing to the next step.
- Reward and reflect
At the end of the day, look over what you have accomplished and reflect on what you did exceptionally well. Reward yourself in a small way. Plan want you want to accomplish tomorrow.
Everyone needs encouragement and so do I. If you like this blog, please pass it on, like our Face Book page or comment. Thanks for your time and stay well!