Working from home sounds like a dream for many, and is one of the perks that entrepreneurs, creatives and bloggers get when they shift from a more formal career working for a company. I worked in an office environment for over 13 years before switching to working for myself and found that
But working for yourself and working from home is totally different to when you work for someone else because you are only accountable to yourself and what does that mean? No one to answer to if you don’t get out of bed until 10 am, or take a 2-hour lunch break to watch the latest episode of the Kardashians. It can be very easy to quickly find that you lose motivation, getting started with your workday is harder and overall you are less productive.
In this guide, I share tips on how to set up your home environment to boost productivity and how to structure your workday to keep you on track.
Set Up A Home Office
It is really important that you set up a space that you designate as your workspace. Ideally, you should have this area separate from your living/fun space so that you identify this area as your ‘work’ area.
If you are not in a position to have a whole room for your office, no problem look for a space in your living area or bedroom that you could allocate as a workspace and put a desk. If you don’t have space anywhere to add a desk then you could use your dining table or buy a foldaway desk – this is a great solution for small spaces and allows you to still separate work from play.
Having a designated space with a desk and comfortable desk chair that you use for working will help with your mindset and motivation to work. If you sit on your bed or your couch then you are likely sitting in a slouchy position which is not only bad for your back and posture but bad for work concentration and motivation. Sitting at a desk gives you a more traditional feeling of working and will likely ensure that you concentrate on your work.
Make Your Work Space Appealing
Invest in a good desk, desk chair, computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse. If you typically work on a laptop and don’t want to buy a full computer, you can simply buy a multi-port hub to plug in a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to your laptop so that you have a complete office set up. Setting up a proper desk space will stop you slouching over a laptop and will ensure your workspace is separated.
Once you have your tech set-up then add some other comforts to make your workspace appealing. This could be your favourite candle, a comfortable chair cushion, pretty pictures on the wall around your desk, organisational accessories, pens, and notepads. Whatever items make you feel happy and will make you want to sit in this space and stay there for the day!
Ok, I agree that seems obvious and I am not sitting here thinking people work from home naked! When I say get dressed I mean get dressed in normal work clothes – this doesn’t have to be a suit but an outfit that is not your workout clothes, your pajamas or your tracksuit bottoms. If you dress in your cozy at-home clothes that you would usually sit on the couch in your mindset will feel more lazy, by getting dressed, tidying up your hair and doing your makeup you will instantly feel more motivated.
Last year I had a serious knee injury and had no choice but to work from the couch and wear my slouchy clothes and I felt less motivated than I have ever done before. Once I started to work back at my desk I had formed the habit of not bothering to put on proper clothes each day which didn’t help with my productivity and attitude to work, I changed this up by making the effort to get up and act like I was going into the office.
Getting dressed for the day helps me tackle more serious tasks and as cheesy as this sounds feel more ready to seize the day.
Work 9 – 5
Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean the traditional working hours disappear. For you, 9-5 may look more like 7 am – 1 pm, or 3 pm – 9 pm, your working hours will vary depending on what work you are doing, how many hours you need to allocate to it per day, your other commitments such as children, elderly parents or even your other job if working from home is your side hustle.
Whatever set of hours you decide upon stick with them, set a goal that you will be at your workspace at a specific time each day and that you will work through until a specific time each afternoon or evening. Developing habits and routine will ensure that you have a productive workday and week.
If you do have children or other commitments, ask for help from your partner, friends or family. Could your husband be on baby duty Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for specific periods of time where you are allowed to set a do not disturb on your door? Better still if you can find a way to schedule times to work outside of the home at a co-working space or cafe, there will be no risk of child distraction!
Having a weekend break or at least one day off from your work is important when you work for yourself. Running your own business means that you are on call any time of the day and that weekends don’t really exist. For my travel business, if a guest on one of our trips emails me on Saturday night whilst I am watching a movie with a glass of wine, I will always respond – because it’s my business and I want to give the absolute best service I possibly can for my guests from the moment they express interest in joining a trip.
But it’s worth remembering that even if you feel like I do and find it hard to switch your work brain off, having weekends or a day off is ok. Set aside a time in the morning and evening to check your email for anything urgent that must be replied to and in the period in between switch your phone off and take a break! Anything non-urgent can be added to your to-do list for Monday. Remember most people are working Monday – Friday and many businesses they interact with will do the same so if you don’t respond on the weekend they probably won’t even notice.
Structure Your Day
One of the most important factors in motivating you to get work done at home is to add some structure around your day like you would have if you worked in an office environment. This means setting your alarm clock in the morning at a specific time, having a morning routine, setting working hours and break times.
Example of my daily structure:
- 6:30 – 7:30 am wake up
- 8 am: Yoga I use Yoga With Adriene for a 30-45 minute workout each morning
- 8:45 / 9 am: Shower and get ready for work
- 9am: Breakfast and the news
- 9:30 am: Start my workday in my home office
- 1 pm: Break for lunch and watch the news. I tend to not eat lunch and snack throughout the day, but my husband does break for lunch so often I will go and sit with him for 20 minutes.
- 1:30 pm: Back to work
- 5:30 pm: Turn off the computer and start prepping dinner. I typically cook a new recipe every night since this means I will be in the kitchen for at least 45 minutes. This is a great time for me to be off my computer, off my phone and using my hands so its a really important part of my day. I highly recommend integrating an activity into your day that takes you off devices for at least 30 minutes.
Your schedule doesn’t need to be super strict, one of the great benefits of working for yourself is the flexibility to change up what your workday looks like. I noted that I have a range of wake up times this is because I set my alarm for 7:30 am but I typically wake up naturally at 6:30 am so I am usually starting my day earlier and at my desk by 7:30 – 8 am.
Set Your Meetings and Phone Calls In The Morning
I always prefer to set my meetings in the morning. This is because I am most productive in the first half of the day and find I am more energetic and enthusiastic at this time which is really important for meetings. Even if you are an afternoon or evening worker I suggest setting meetings in the morning.
If you have a phone call, an in-person meeting, or skype meeting this will force you to get up and get on with your day early – setting that structure right from the minute you get up!
Use this same logic for other tasks, if you find you work best in the work on the hardest, most creative or brain intensive tasks first and leave your more administrative work until later in the day.
Distractions are the enemy when you are working from home. It is so easy to get distracted, whether its remembering you need to put the laundry on, playing with your cat, catching up on your favourite tv show, or picking up your phone. Your home is most likely your happy place with all your favourite things around so its no surprise that these things will distract you from working!
Once you break your concentration when you are working it can take almost 25 minutes to fully get back to flow state you were in when you were working, so you must minimise how often you get distracted or break from your work.
A few tips for removing distractions.
- Hide Your Phone This is a great way to remove distractions. Place your phone on the other side of the room or behind your laptop so it is not directly within your vision. If you can see your phone you will have the propensity to pick it up and have a scroll through Instagram and before you know it 40 minutes just passed and all you did was like cat videos!
- Have your partner work in a different room If like me you work from home with your partner or business partner separating your workspaces is a great way to reduce distractions. Ryan and I work in the same room and we both work on my businesses so naturally we constantly turn to the other one and say what do you think about this or can you check this over. Whilst its really helpful to talk things out and get the other persons opinion, these interruptions completely break our concentration. Since we work in the same room we have quiet time – where we lock in for X period of time and if we need to discuss something we write it down and wait for our break – you could even put a Do Not Disturb sign up on your desk!
- Use pomodoro timers Pomodoro timers help maintain focus by setting specific blocks of work time before taking a break. The technique is simple, use a timer to break your work into 25-minute intervals and then take a short break. If you get distracted from your task during the 25 minutes, you need to start the timer over.
- Set break times throughout the day Schedule breaks throughout the day, this could be using the Pomodoro method mentioned or instead, you could set yourself specific longer breaks at 10:30 am, lunchtime and 3:30 pm. You could use these breaks to watch the news, walk the dog, get your work out in, clean the bathroom – whatever you like but by setting these times you will reduce how many smaller ‘distraction’ breaks you take.
- Add limits or blocks on apps and websites Sometimes the worst distraction is right there on your computer – other non-work websites! Install StayFocusd, a chrome extension that you can add to your browser to restrict your time on websites that are not related to your work. This could be Facebook or your favourite shopping site, whatever you frequently find yourself browsing – block it!
Join A Virtual Co-Working Space
One way to help focus you when you are working from home would be to join virtual co-working groups. Virtual co-working groups work in a similar way to co-working spaces that you physically go to, except you join the group from home.
Many virtual co-working spaces have customisable rooms that make it possible for you to know what the other people in the space are working on. This could be a meeting room or a virtual phone booth. A virtual co-working space would work great if you are working with a team of people who all work from home in different cities or countries around the world.
Or if you want to keep it simple you could connect with some other people in your network and suggest creating your own virtual co-working space. Just set up a Zoom call or one of the virtual spaces below, and you can all work at the same time on whatever it is you are working on but you know that you can’t run off for an hour to get your nails done and this is designated ‘work time’. You can even drop out into virtual subgroups if you wanted to connect with one person in your group on a 1:1 basis.
- Sococo This space is great for teams working in different locations. You can have a virtual floorplan with avatars for each employee, you can see where everyone is and understand what they are working on. You can even knock on the door if two or more people are in a virtual meeting or set a do not disturb!
- My Work Hive Here you can find remote jobs, as well as co-working spaces in your area and virtual
Join Accountability Groups
My husband is part of a group that he pays $35 a month to participate in, there is one guy who runs the programme and within the training provided they also split all students into an accountability group of 6-8 people to work together over a period of months. At the beginning they set long term goals and projects they want to individually work on and each week they have a group call to discuss their progress, share ideas and help motivate one another.
This is a great way to keep you on track with your business goals and projects when you don’t have a boss to report to, it also helps build connections with other people in similar or complementary industries and businesses. Plus there is the benefit of getting outside perspective, it can be very easy to get caught up in your own thoughts and ideas, or to lose direction about what you should be working on. Often it helps to have someone else take a look at what you are doing through impartial eyes and share their opinions to get you back on track.
Would you be interested in an accountability group if I created one? Let me know as I am currently working on some ideas for group training and accountability and would love to know if you are interested in this. Sign up here to express interest and I will let you know when this launches.
Love What You Do
This is so important. If you are planning to work from home, you absolutely need to love what you do. So if you are just thinking about working for yourself, starting a business or launching a blog then make sure you are going to be working on something that you are passionate about.
Motivating yourself to work from home is hard enough already without having the additional hurdle of having to work on something you are not that interested in. When I first left my banking job, I helped a friend out who was launching a lending start-up, this leveraged my skills and knowledge so I thought it would be a good fit, but I was not interested in it at all! I struggled to motivate myself to work on it, to network to get clients and investors and eventually I stepped away.
When I launched We Are Travel Girls and this blog, it was completely opposite. I loved the topics, I felt passionate about the community building, I wanted to share my knowledge and help others so I never lacked motivation when working from home. It is so important that you enjoy what you are working on so that you can motivate yourself every day to put it the long hours to make it a success!
Don’t Be Hard On Yourself
When you work from home or work for yourself there are going to be days when your schedule goes out the window and your intentions to get through your to-do list fall to the wayside and you end up on the couch most of the day. That’s ok!
Sometimes you need a down day, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you are not productive or working at your peak performance 100% of the time. Just pick yourself up the next day, go back to your defined workday structure and try again!
Thank you for reading! I hope that you found this article useful to help set your intentions for working from home Please let me know your own tips for working from home in the comments.
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