If I had to make a top 10 list of places where I don’t want to be… a subway at 7.30 am would be on it. And still, that’s where most people are – every single day on their way to work. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has always dreamed of avoiding this situation by working from home. As I’m about to make this dream come true for me as a blogger I wanted to do a reality check first. What will home officing really be like? Typing the question into Google will give you a myriad of articles telling you that it’s not actually that cool because no, you can’t relax in your pajamas all day long. You don’t say. Some really clever individuals might already have figured that out as it’s called home office and not home spa. Now here’s my approach: I personally think for some people working from home is more suitable than for others. Obviously some people simply can’t work from home due to the nature of their jobs. But those amongst us who can – what do we have to do and which skills do we have to acquire to make our home the perfect workplace for us?
1. Create an actual workspace at home
It clearly depends on your preferences how office-y this place will look. I have a huge, clean, organized desk in my own apartment but I also love working from the table in my parents’ living room (that’s where I am sitting right now and that’s where this blog was born). I personally prefer sitting at an actual desk versus lounging around on the couch or in bed simply because it gives me this “I am being productive!” feeling. Having a work desk at home will also help you get into work mode more quickly and you’ll have everything you need ready (if you need more than just your laptop). Make sure to invest in high-quality furniture (such as a good chair) and devices to be as productive as you can be.
2. Rid yourself of distractions
This is an important one. If you are living with your family, your partner or with roommates arrange that you won’t be disturbed while working. This might be rather easy with adults but I guess it’s a bit harder to make children understand that Mum/Dad is physically there but not actually available. And no, you’re not the one who can go grocery shopping / pick people up from the airport / babysit the neighbor’s cat / whatever because “you’re at home all the time”. You’re working. Be sure to clearly state in which cases it’s okay to disturb and in which cases it isn’t and reinforce these rules from the very beginning so everyone in the household can get used to it. If you can’t concentrate at home because it’s simply too busy or noisy consider working from a quiet café or coworking space. However, not only other people can be distractions. Even if you’re living by yourself there is still the INTERNET and the never ending stream of WhatsApp messages and Twitter push notifications. Which leads us directly to…
3. Develop self-discipline
Most people probably think that this is where the un-fun part of home officing starts. But let me tell you this: it will actually make your life easier and more relaxed, I promise. Give yourself a set of rules that work for you and that make you more productive while letting you enjoy the perks of working from home. For example I’d recommend that you avoid chatting to people via Facebook or phone while working. It will just set you up for working half-assed for 5 hours without actually getting anything done. Instead, focus entirely on your work for, let’s say, 2 hours, then take a little break to relax, talk to people, get a snack or coffee. Also, set aside a fixed amount of time for your break so you know when to get back to work. Grab your cup of tea / snack / pencil before you start working so you don’t have to get up several times in between. Block out everything that you know will distract you from work (e.g. by setting your phone to silent) but also give yourself little breaks to check up on these things so they don’t haunt your mind all the time. Even and especially when working from home sticking to a routine and your own rules is key. Ideally your rules should keep you from procrastinating as well as from self-exploiting.
4. Have a work schedule
Self-discipline goes hand in hand with having an agenda. Get a calendar or workbook and set your goals for each month, week and day. Write a to do list that includes every task you need to get done within a certain time frame. If you can, write down how long it will probably take to complete each task. This will help you not to lose sight of what needs to be done when. It’s perfectly fine to take a 3 hour lunch break to go for a run – what’s important is that you’ve reached your daily goals by the time you go to sleep. If possible, adjust the schedule to your own pace and stick with it: some prefer to start working super early and to be pretty much done by noon. Others are very productive during the evening hours. Some prefer to spread out their work throughout the day and take more breaks. Try out what works best for you and plan accordingly to be most productive. One thing you should avoid when planning your day, especially if you just started working from home, is arranging your work around your social life and other commitments. The time that’s left when everything else is done most definitely isn’t enough – set your priorities and block enough time for your job!
5. Make your job your life – or keep those two separated
You’ll often hear people say that it makes sense to keep your job and your private life separated. In some cases though this isn’t entirely possible. Some people strongly identify with their business, especially if it’s a one-person business. Some jobs kind of require your availability 24/7. As a blogger my life IS my business as I blog about what I wear, what I do and where I travel. Instagram has no closing time. If you’re cool with your job and life melting into each other there’s nothing wrong with this as long as you get to relax enough and don’t feel overwhelmed (I learned three days ago that blogger burnout is apparently a thing).
If you do want to keep your job and private life separated this might be a bit harder to do when working from home. I would recommend having a designated work space (see tip no. 1) that you can leave when the work is done, just like a real office. It’s also crucial to set a daily goal (see tip no. 4) so you can actually tell when the work is done. This will keep you from getting overworked and feeling like you just stopped at some random point throughout your work day.
Establish a night routine such as going for a walk, taking a shower or cooking dinner to signalize your brain it’s time to wind down. Also, avoid working in pajamas. Put on something comfy but civilized in the morning and change into something even comfier when the work is done. It can also help to stick to a rule such as “No work after 8 pm”. Every message or phone call after 8 pm will be answered the next morning. This is especially important for Internet-related jobs that pretty much create a continuous never-ending stream of incoming work. You can separate these two areas of your life even further by using two separate computers (or accounts) and phones.
6. Battle loneliness
If you are living by yourself and working from home there might be no actual need to meet anyone at all throughout the day (depending on your job). Avoid going stir-crazy by scheduling in lunch or dinner with friends and family. This will have a variety of positive effects: not only will you be able to maintain your relationships but it will also help you separate work from free time (versus having lunch by yourself at the computer). What’s more, it will encourage you to put on decent clothes and it will help structure your day and give you some fresh input before getting back to work.
Are you working from home or would you like to try it? Why or why not? If you have any additional tips please share them with us in the comments!