Working from home is often idealized. No annoying commute, ability to wake up and work whenever you feel like doing so, no boss looking over your shoulder, pajamas count as dress code, flexible schedule… Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, being your own boss comes with its own challenges that can overpower the benefits.
There are so many factors that affect your ability to stay laser focused and actually get stuff done. The key to boosting your productivity is eliminating those annoying factors.
SKIPPING MORNING ROUTINE
Business owners often mention freedom of time as one of the main reasons for quitting their 9-5, but I’ve got the impression that people often underestimate the commitment it takes to stay productive. It’s necessary to stay on top of your stuff to get it to work and the goal of a morning routine is to set yourself up for a successful day.
So how do you do it when no one is pressuring you out of bed?
- Wake up around the same time every day. Not only does waking up at the same time every day help establish a healthy circadian rhythm, but it also allows you to plan out your day and get everything done. I’m a night owl and like to sleep in, so I wake up at 10 am every day, spend the first 1,5 hours doing my morning routine and get to work around 11:30 am.
- Steer clear of work emails and phone calls until you’re finished with your morning routine. I love what I do, but I can’t imagine tackling emails first thing in the morning while enjoying my coffee. It’s not my idea of a mindful morning. Morning routine is your self-care time that prepares you for the day ahead, so use it wisely.
- Make a list of pleasurable things that make your morning happy and do them every day. Working from home gives us the freedom to not have to rush our mornings and that is an invaluable advantage. We can design our perfect morning routine – so what does yours look like? Take a sheet of paper and write down everything you’d love to do in the morning. Then bring that list to life! So for example, my list consists of preparing breakfast and enjoying my coffee (for an abnormally long time), watering herbs, checking my plants, taking a shower while singing along to my favorite 80s playlist, writing a brain dump and reading a book. Your list might look completely different and that’s the point. Do soul-nourishing things for yourself!
- Consider exercising. Woah there, Satan! The good thing is that you don’t have to go running at 6 am. No one checks! However, studies have shown that exercise increases productivity, so it might be a good idea to put those trainers on.
- Map out your day. Set three goals for the day and prioritize your to-do list.
Ever sit down to work, but don’t really know where to start because your brain has too many tabs open and those tabs are about to crash? Well, join the club! Here are four tips that have helped me unload my mind.
- Write morning pages/brain dump. The idea of morning pages – three pages of stream of consciousness writing – originates from a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I know what you’re thinking – three pages? But it takes so long to write three pages! That’s exactly what I first thought, but to be honest, I’m amazed at how much easier my life has become since I started doing it. It clears the head and leaves you in a calm state of mind. It doesn’t matter what you write and you shouldn’t worry about the rationality of your thoughts. The goal is to just do it and get it out of your system. Better yet, write a brain dump in the evening too and enjoy a clear worry-free head as you fall asleep.
- Follow a mindful morning routine. See problem #1.
- Put your phone away. When you grab your phone first thing in the morning, you’re already distracted by a stream of information. Don’t check your emails, don’t worry about missed calls, don’t check Instagram likes. Just be present and enjoy the moment.
- Write a not-to-do list. This is something I only recently read about on Tim Ferriss’s blog and I find the idea compelling. In a nutshell, a not-to-do list is supposed to decrease or cut out distractions and unnecessary tasks that hinder productivity. It makes sense to keep your list nearby for reference.
NOT HAVING A DESIGNATED WORKSPACE
Why you should have a workspace
- less distractions = increased productiveness
- nicely decorated workspace inspires you and makes you want to spend time there
- actually leave your work at the end of the day, even if it’s just a corner of your living room -> helps keep personal life and work separate
- Set up a proper home office. This is where everything work-related lives. It can be an office nook or an entire room but make sure it’s distraction-free and separate from personal spaces such as your bed.
- Work in a coffee shop. Some people work better outside the house. If you’re one of them, utilize your favorite coffee shop. Side effects might include distractive environment and expensive coffee bill, but hey – if it works, go for it!
- Work in a coworking space. Coworking spaces have become very popular among remote workers and self-employed people. A roomful of focused people can be extremely motivating. Learn more about coworking spaces HERE.
- Resist the temptation to work from the comfort of your bed (or anywhere else overly comfy). Look, I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, but if working from bed is ruining your productivity, maybe it’s time to make a change. Read this: the science behind why we should never work from bed.
When I worked in an office, I shut out work thoughts and problems the moment I stepped out of the building at 5 pm. I spent the commute time thinking about absolutely nothing. It was my time to unwind and transition from work mindset to home mindset. This is much harder to do when you work from home. How do you leave the office when your house is your office?
- Have a designated workspace (that’s not your bed or in your bedroom). Create a productive work environment, be it a separate room or your dining room table, and treat it like your office.
- Get dressed for work. It’s totally cool to work in your PJ’s – heck, I do it all the time. However, if you want to simulate a work day, get ready in the morning as you would for a corporate job. The act of getting dressed and presentable helps you get in the work mindset.
- Client boundaries. It’s only natural to want to be there for your clients all the time to keep them happy, but you have to learn to respect your own time before your client can do the same. Just because you work from home, doesn’t mean you should be available 24/7. Set up clear boundaries and make sure to outline these to your clients (make sure to include it in your welcome packet). Define your work hours, communication hours (if different from work hours) and communication mediums. Give a time estimation for emails so your clients know when to expect an answer (24 hours is a happy medium) and stick to it. Don’t read and answer emails outside of work hours.
- Separate email accounts. This is absolutely crucial if you want to stay sane and not get overwhelmed every day. I have a personal Gmail account and G Suite for all of my email needs.
- Separate phone numbers (or phones). My father-in-law owns a business and gets business calls on his personal phone all day. He’s the prime example of why work and personal life need to be kept separate. His phone rings all day every day (it’s not rare to get a call in the late hours of the evening) and once he hears the ring, he has to answer it. Don’t be like my father-in-law. Stay sane! If your work requires phone calls, get separate phones or numbers for personal and work calls and mute work calls outside of work hours.
- Use time blocking to mark down your work hours and focused task blocks. If you’re not familiar with time-blocking, read this.
- Schedule in white space. White space is time spent doing nothing or something relaxing in between scheduled tasks. Leave white space between time blocks and at the end of the workday to give yourself a little time to switch from work to home life. I use my end-of-the-day white space to clean up my desk and write a brain dump of unfinished business that I need to take care of another time.
- Learn how to turn off business and unwind. When the day is over, make sure to unplug from work.
ERRATIC WORK HOURS
The truth of the matter is that unpredictable work hours mean a chaotic life. You need to control your work schedule or your schedule will control you.
During my early days of self-employment working random hours was the biggest problem. I didn’t have a morning routine or a system. In the morning, I would sit down at my computer the very second my coffee was ready. I didn’t have a lunch break scheduled in and some days I would completely forget to eat. I would work very late into the evening, check emails before going to bed and write a mental to-do list before falling asleep.
I never really switched off and sometimes it felt like I was working 24/7 but not really getting anything done. The result? I burned out quickly.
Need more reasons to go regular? Erratic schedule disturbs your body clock and hurts your health.
- Set your work days and work hours. Not everyone has to or wants to work five days a week. Maybe you only want to work four days a week during regular business hours. I know someone who only works 10 hours a week and lives on a full-time salary. Now is the time to set boundaries.
- Know your peak productivity hours. Maybe you’re an early bird and do your best work between 9 am and 1 pm. Maybe you’re like me and get productivity spurts in the afternoon. Whenever it is that you work best, make sure to work during those hours.
- Stick to the routine. Now that you know your peak work hours and work schedule, stick to the routine, and don’t forget to set up boundaries with clients.
- Time track. There’s no better way to keep an eye on your billable work hours than use a time tracking app. CRM software such as Dubsado have a built-in time tracker, but Toggl is another popular option.
What challenges have you faced working from home? How did you overcome them?
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