I used to work from home (notice I said, “used to”). As I always say, there is good news and bad news when you work from home.
The good news is you see your kids a lot. The bad news is, you see your kids a lot!
Working from home can be both a blessing and a curse. There are many obvious benefits to working from home: you don’t have to commute anywhere, you can work at your own pace, you can stay in your sweatpants, etc. And if you have kids, oftentimes, being your own boss allows you to create your own hours leaving flexibility to dedicate specific times to pick up your kids from school, attend soccer games etc. However, by the same token, these benefits sometimes make it difficult to maintain high levels of productivity.
Indeed, working from home and working in the office both have their own requirements and challenges and it’s important to know the keys to success in either environment. Consider these rituals and see if they don’t increase your work-from-home productivity
1. Turn off notifications: Unless your work is heavily reliant on phone calls and mobile usage, you probably do not need to have your phone next to you at all times. And you know it’s true: having your phone alert you with game notifications and news alerts every three minutes only distracts you from your work.
Turn your phone on silent, leave it in the other room, and get going.
2. Have a separate workspace: Your productivity will decrease dramatically if you’re sitting on your bed, working in front of the TV, or surrounded by lots of commotion. Make sure you have a designated, separate space in your home to work. Having a space free of distractions will help you maintain focus.
3. Separate family from work: Along the same lines, working from home is especially unique for those with families. It is important that your partner and your children know there are rules when you are working from home. – For example, institute office hours so you can ensure hours of uninterrupted time.
4. Keep things organized: An organized space is an organized mind. Take a couple of minutes to tidy up your work area before sitting down (or at least once a week). This makes a bigger difference than you might think.
5. Start with small tasks: Everybody has their own preference, but many people find that starting the workday with smaller tasks helps one to gradually get into a workflow. For me, bigger projects are harder if I haven’t entered that rhythmic workflow quite yet. Things, like responding to emails and tidying up your workspace, are great ways to get the day moving.
6. Know your work habits: Similarly, you know your work habits best, so it would behoove you to and pay attention to them. If you know that you like to have a couple of hours in the morning to drink coffee, wake up, and read the news, then don’t try to force yourself to jump into work first thing in the morning.
7. Be disciplined: Working for yourself requires a level of self-discipline and planning, and this becomes even more important when you work from home. Make a list of what you want to accomplish for the day and try to stick to it.
8. Stay in the chair: There’s always some reason to get up out of your chair. Whether you think you need more coffee, a walk, a snack, etc., the solution is usually quite simple: Stay in the chair. Just keep plugging away. The fridge can wait. A couple of breaks are good and important, sure, but this is an excellent rule that will make you more productive.
The good news is that if you stay on target, playing with the kids won’t induce work-related guilt and everyone will be happier – you, your family, and yes, your clients too.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success. © Steven D. Strauss.
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