How to Actually Work from Home
As a freelance creative, I have the opportunity to work not only on-location but remotely as well. This is a dream for many people, to work wherever they want, whenever they want (or within a certain time period), and as much as they want. However, there is a hidden caveat. It can be incredibly hard to actually work from home.
Many people imagine being in pajamas/sweats, comfortably working away at a computer. While this sounds great in theory, this environment lends itself to distraction. I consider myself a pretty productive person, even at home, but there are days when I'm more productive than others. Your ability to concentrate and get work done is strongly influenced by how you start your day, which is why it's easy to fall into the trap of a distracted workday at home. My aim is to offer some advice on how to get into to top-gear and get shit done from the comfort of your own home. Note, this is not meant as advice on how to get a job where you can work from home, but how to still be productive if you find yourself often distracted in this environment.
How to Actually Work from Home
1. Choose a Time You Need to be At Work
Getting off to a productive day requires you to put yourself in a "working" mindset. If you were going to almost any other job, you would have a time that you needed to be ready to work/working by. You should do the same thing! Whether it's 9am or noon, it's important to have a time that you know you need to be at your desk by.
2. Pretend You're Going Somewhere
Even if you have no intention of leaving the house today, pretending you have someplace to be is a great way to enter work-mode. If you're going out, you'll likely want to shower and look presentable. Showering helps break the desire to crawl back into bed and helps you really wake up. As far as outfits go, it's ultimately up to you to decide how you want to dress while working at home, but it's generally a good rule to dress as if you might have to meet with a client at any time. This adds to the working mindset and is a great unconscious way to aide your focus on the task at hand. Personally, it's very possible for a client or my boss to want to meet on short notice, so I always want to be presentable at minimum: basically, no PJ's or sweats. Makeup is optional, but feeling fierce helps focus. You're a boss on your hustle, don't forget.
3. Prep Yourself
Do whatever you need to do to ensure you're focused and ready to work by the time you set for yourself. Make a pot of coffee, get cozy with a blanket, and grab anything you think you might need or want for the next few hours. You want to eliminate distractions, so don't give your brain any reason to want to stand up and go do something else. Taking breaks is important (we'll get there later), but for those who have a hard time focusing, you want to be sure you're prepped and comfortable. Get your music playing, it truly adds to your energy and focus. I personally play the same music at work as I do when I'm working out because the high-energy music helps keep me working toward my goal at a steady pace. If my music is too slow, I notice that my workflow sometimes slows to match.
4. Set Goals
Ask yourself, "What do I want to accomplish today? How many hours do I want to work minimum?" Setting realistic goals for each day makes your workload much more manageable by breaking down the bigger picture. I love lists, lists are my best friend, and they are a necessity for productivity. Lists are a simple way to visualize your progress on a project, and will keep you on track toward your goals. Setting goals before you start working means you won't be wasting time later trying to recall what needs to be worked on next.
5. Start With Email
It's always a good idea to check your email first-thing at work. Your inbox helps shape your plan for the day, giving you an idea of what needs to be done and in what order. I like to respond to emails as soon as possible; however, you can't always respond to an email right away. Answer what you can, and put those that you can't as first thing on your plate. What do you need to get done so you can email back? After responding to what you can, close your email tab. It's easy to get distracted clicking through different tabs and refreshing them while waiting for a file to save, which means it's easier to get distracted by social media. Speaking of which...
6. No Social Media!
Arch-nemesis to productivity, social media is the endless pit of scrolling always a click away. My rule for myself is that I won't check social media on the device I'm using for work, which is just another way to reinforce the working mentality. I also try to avoid checking social media on my breaks, as replacing one screen with another doesn't really constitute as a break.
7. Switch Between Tasks
A good way to keep your momentum going while working is to periodically switch between the projects or tasks you're working on. Sometimes you just aren't feeling as productive as you can be, and that's usually when I switch to a different project. Rather than struggling with myself to make progress, I believe it's more productive to channel your energy elsewhere. If you only have one thing to work on, you might just have to power through it, but if you have multiple projects to work on, switching things up can be a good way to refresh the brain. After looking at or working on something too long, your eyes aren't as fresh and you may not be as adept to see little details or the larger picture. Periodically switching between tasks also requires you to do a better job of actively time-keeping, which I know a lot of people struggle with. For my personal time-tracking, I love using Toggl (not sponsored). It allows me to be highly-organized and accurate in a pretty effortless manner, and it's free.
8. Take a Break
When your brain is too frazzled to be fixed by switching tasks or you've been plugging away at the computer for several hours straight, it's probably time to take a break. A true break entails standing up, walking around, and not gluing yourself to another screen for a duration of time. Whether it's five minutes or a long lunch hour, try not to scroll through social media, check emails, or the like. If you want to be sure that your break doesn't just bring your energy down, moving around or doing chores is great. Wash some dishes, vacuum a few rooms, or take a walk around the block, and you'll likely be more prepared to get back to work than if you sat and checked your newsfeed for ten minutes.