Can you be relaxed and disciplined at the same time? If you work from home, I think you have to be. While there isn’t a more chilled-out environment to work in than your own house (no boss, no fixed hours and no dress code), you need to be very strict with yourself to get stuff done. Here’s what works for me.
1. Stick to a routine
Probably the most appealing thing about working from home is the flexibility. You can do what you want, when you want to – whether that’s staying in bed till 11am or starting work at 9pm.
However, I’ve found what works best for me is sticking to the same routine most days. I get up at 7.30am and have a rule that I have to shower, eat breakfast and make myself look presentable before I’m allowed to open my laptop – otherwise, before I know it, it’s 4pm and I’m still in my dressing gown. And I can’t do my best work if I’m feeling like a slob.
2. Set yourself goals
Being your own boss means there’s no-one to tell you what to do. But this also means there’s no-one to motivate you. I like to set myself little goals throughout the day to help stay focused. For example, “send x number of emails before lunch” or “finish this paragraph before making a cup of tea”.
3. Ban the web when you have a deadline
Email, Facebook and Twitter can really sap your time. If you need to get something done asap, keep your web browser closed.
4. Forget multi-tasking
Constantly switching from one task to another has been proven to be less productive. If you have several urgent pieces of work jostling for priority, it’s better to block off a decent amount of time to work on each – at least half an hour, preferably an hour.
Saying that, if you have writer’s block or you’re feeling fatigued, changing projects can help.
5. Lead yourself not into temptation
I love reading, and I do it whenever I can – especially when I’m eating breakfast. But I’ve learned it’s better to read a magazine than a novel. I can tell myself to stop reading once I’ve finished an article, whereas I find it really, really hard to put down a book. I have a similar principle for websites, trying to stick to blogs that have a few small updates for me to catch up on rather than news sites that can suck me in for hours.
6. Don’t forget to enjoy the benefits
Going it alone can be stressful and scary at times, so it’s important to remember why you chose to do it. Savour that smug feeling you get when your friends complain about their commute or another run-in with the boss.
For me, one of the best things about working from home is being able to inject more fun into the day. When I need a break from writing, I like to warble away to a karaoke track on YouTube, play an instrument or dance around the room – not really advisable in the office.
How do you make your day more productive, or just more fun?