Working from home is great. It’s wonderful. I love the flexible schedule, and being home with my family, and being my own boss. However, it can also be very easy to get distracted and lose your focus. After having worked from home for over 3 years, I have found the keys to my success depend on how I structure my day and eliminate those distractions.
Set an Alarm
No, this is not fun. No one likes to be woken up. But it’s vital to succeed when you are working from home and for yourself. Sure, it’s great to sleep in, but really, you are just wasting precious hours. During the week, my alarm is set to go off at 6:15. On the weekends, we don’t set an alarm. Then again, we made our own living alarm clocks, and rarely get to sleep past 7:30am anyways!
It can be so easy to fall into the trap of going from the bed to the computer and back to the bed. Don’t let that happen! It’s important for your mind and body to get exercise. I recently started group fitness classes in my community, and on the days I don’t have class, I get up and do my own workout routine.
Working from home, you can work in your pjs (yay)! But I find that I am more productive when I “dress for the job.” Typically, I wake up, workout (if I don’t have a class in the evening), and then get my shower done and get dressed. I get ready for the day as if I was going out. The bonus: I can still wear shorts and a tank top if I want, or dress up as needed. When I had a phone interview for my Legacy Republic company, I put my jeans and Legacy shirt on. Did the interviewer see me? No. Did I feel more “in the zone” for that business? Absolutely. No matter what I put on, even if it’s into a pair of comfy pants, just the act of changing out of what I wore to bed helps me be more productive.
As a work-from-home mom, this is difficult sometimes. Some days the kids will play in the playroom on their own with no issues. Other days are filled with screaming and tantrums. Since my husband and I both work from home, we have a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that we use if it is our turn to focus. I also try to make sure I have a couple hours each week scheduled for cleaning the house. A messy house is very distracting for me, so I have to have this time or I lose focus. This goes for your desk as well. If you keep your work area clean and decluttered, you can focus on what you really need to get done.
Give Kids a Signal
If your children are old enough to understand, have some kind of signal with them. Since my husband and I both work from home, and trade-off times to be able to focus without having to worry about the kids, the headphones are our signal. The boys are starting to learn that if mommy has the headphones on, try to find daddy unless it’s an emergency. I’ve also heard of people using an actual signal, by putting up a “red light” on the wall if they can’t be interrupted, a green light if they can be, or a yellow light to ask first. Another option would be using the door if you have one. A closed door means not to be bothered, open means you are open for conversation.
Schedule Your Day
Get yourself a planner of some sort. There are hundreds of options out there, and you need to find one that works for you. This year, I am using the Action Day planner, and I really like it. I wasn’t sure at first, because it is very different from the last one I had, but now I love it. The planner is great for scheduling things by the day, the week, the month… however you plan best. I keep my google calendar connected to my phone for family events (so my husband can see/schedule too), but everything for my blog and other work is scheduled in my planner.
Write Down Your To-Do List
Every morning, I grab my planner and check out what I have going on that day. I see what I need to do, if there are any appointments I have, and anything else I may have scheduled. Then I write down my to-do list for the day and/or week. My blog posts are scheduled by the day, and I create a to-do list for the week.
Invest In Your Office
If your office is not comfortable, you aren’t going to want to work in it. Our home office is supposed to be the formal dining room in our home, but we don’t need that. It was more important to us to have an office area. Bonus if you have an area with a door (we don’t right now). We spent some money when we moved in to order components from Ikea to create our built-in desks. Even more important was getting good chairs. We had always bought cheap chairs, but now that we are both working from home, good chairs are important.
Stay Out of the Kitchen
Eat your breakfast, then go to work. At lunch time, take a break and eat. Then stop working to have dinner with your family. If you were at an office you wouldn’t be snacking all day long, so don’t do it at home either. Food can be distracting, especially if you don’t end up eating at the desk. And, you don’t want to end up with a “freshman 15” effect, where you gain weight when you start working from home. I personally don’t like my coffee until the afternoon. Besides my meals, that’s the only time I try to go in the kitchen unless my kids need something.