For the past 21 years I have worked from home. I am a mum, wife, business owner and a blogger and without a little organisation and motivation I could not juggle all these things. And to be completely honest, I love working from home! I am here when my kids need me, but I have an amazing work area that contains everything I need for what I do.
So are you ready to read my 21 Tips For Success & Productivity When Working From Home? Then hold on to your panty girdles, grab a gin and tonic, because this is going to be a rather mammoth blog post…
1) Get Up, Get Dressed & Get Out Of Those Pyjamas!
I used to get up and sit down and work in my PJ’s. There are a lot of websites and blogs that say you should work in what you feel comfortable in even if that is indeed your pink fluffy pyjama’s or your bright yellow onesie! However, getting up, washed, dressed, doing your hair and even putting on make up, can get you into that ‘time for work’ mind set. Even though I am rarely seen from behind my laptop screen, I still get up, get dressed, brush my hair and put on make up every morning before I start work. It gives me a lift, makes me feel confident and wakes me up ready for work. Plus with video conference calls, people do not want to see me in my pink PJ’s with ‘morning hair’!
2) Have A Dedicated Workspace
Having your own space to work, and that is dedicated to work, is so important. Whether this is a small pull out desk with a laptop or a full office, it doesn’t matter, just make sure that this is your workspace. Not the kids play area, not the husbands sports station, not the pets bed… your work area. Having your workspace will allow you to get your brain into the rhythm of ‘going to work’. Plus it keeps all your work stuff away from the rest of the house; it’s good to be organised!
3) Decorate Your Workspace
Make your workspace your own; decorate it, add pictures, ornaments, memo boards, inspirational quotes, filing systems etc. Use your favourite colours to make it feel very personalised to you, or keep it simple with plain white if you like a minimal look. Do whatever you want to make it a comfortable space to be in. You will work more productively if you are in an environment that you like being in. My office is white, pink and black. And when I say pink, there is a lot of pink. On my desk I have my laptop, my planner, iPad, iPhone, iPhone tripod which I use to take videos or take part in video calls, a USB fan (I am a woman of a certain age… I need a fan!), a pen tidy, a fragranced candle and flowers, most of which of these are pink. My office has lots of white shelves filled with ring binders, filing boxes, storage boxes and other stationary items – all are pink and black. My office is tidy, organised and it looks exactly how I want it to. It’s an extension of my personality and I love being in there.
4) Keep Tools, Gadgets & Tech Together
Whatever you need on a daily basis for your work, whether it is geeky gadgetry, technology, art and craft supplies, or even just basic office tools, keep them all together in your workspace. This will help you stay focused, tidy, organised and saves you losing stuff you need when you have to have that one thing in an emergency! Being both a geek and a creative, I have a lot of gadgets, tech and tools that I need for my work and they are all close at hand in my office so I can grab things quickly.
5) Set Your Work Times & Set Boundaries
This is a very important step. Set your work times so both you and your customers or clients know when you will be working. It doesn’t matter how long you work for whether it’s 2 hours or 8 hours, just make sure you stick to your work times you have set. I used to work whenever I could and had no real work times whilst my children where at school, but when we decided to home school our children, I had to rethink how I worked. I work from 8am-2pm Monday to Friday and I stick to it as best as I can. There will be times when I finish later than 2pm or start later than 8am because ‘life happens!’ but for the most part I stick to my work times and I am very lucky that my clients respect this. It’s also really important to set boundaries with friends and family. My children are almost fully grown up so saying to them ‘go and find something to do because I am working’ is easy, however if you have young children, try setting your work times to correspond with their nap times or school times. Let your friends and family know your work hours, it’s also an important mind set for them to get into that you have to work at these times without distractions as much as possible.
6) Separate Work Life & Home Life
Just because you work from home does not mean that you should be writing and email to a client with one hand and folding laundry with the other. There will be times when there is, and has to be, a cross over between work and home life, but you will be more productive with your work life and more motivated in your home life if you can keep them separate as much as you can. You don’t want to be working all day in your office and then spend the rest of the day talking about work with your kids. Give your family and friends your 100% of your attention, they deserve it. Work to live, do not live to work.
7) Take Regular Breaks
Taking regular breaks will keep your brain active and rejuvenated. It’s something I really struggle with as when I get stuck into something, I just want to get it done and get it off my to do list. So I have to make myself close my laptop and just take a break, even if it is just for 5 minutes. And if I really can’t take a break, for whatever reason, I keep myself topped up tea in my faveourte mug!
Photo credit: Victoria’s Cottage – www.victoriascottage.co.uk
8) Get Moving
If you work at home, you are probably like me sat in a chair for most of the time in front of a computer or sat in a chair making items to sell. Get up and get moving! When you take your break as mentioned above, get up and walk around, even if it is just to the kitchen to make a drink. Why not create 5 minute exercise routines that you can slot into your working hours to get you up and moving whilst also taking a break. The BBC has a new ‘Make Your Move’ campaign which you may find useful. Get that body moving!
9) Get Outside
Fresh air is so important to feel refreshed and revived, especially if you are having a stressful day. Take a break and go for a walk outside. You will feel better for it and you’ll be more relaxed and productive after.
10) Keep Hydrated & Keep Healthy Snacks Close By
It’s a well known fact that a hydrated brain is a productive brain, so keep water (or in my case tea!) on your desk at all times. Also when you get hungry, you get distracted so healthy snacks such as dried fruit, nuts or muesli bars are handy to keep in your desk drawers. If you want healthy snacks delivered, try a Graze box, they are a great for keeping at your desk. As you can see I am also partial to a sneaky black earl grey tea in my Doris & Co mug whilst working.
Photo credit: Victoria’s Cottage – www.victoriascottage.co.uk
11) Move Away From Your Workspace To Eat Meals
Don’t slip into the habit of eating your lunch or any meal at your desk. It’s a slippery slope from there onward to just moving into your office and living at your desk. Remember your home life and work life have to have balance. So make sure that you take a real break during your working hours and have your meal elsewhere in the house, or even better, take a sandwich to the park or go and meet a friend for lunch and then come back. Even if it is for just 30 minutes. Just leave your desk to eat your meal.
12) Plan Your Day
Whether you use apps on your phone, software on your computer or like me you are a planner or Filofax addict, find something that makes it easy to plan your day. I would not be without my planner. My planner is my brain in book form and I use it all day every day for both work and home organisation. I will be starting a new planner series next week on my blog so watch out for that if you want to see what I have in my planner, how I use it and also download some planner freebies!
Always update your planner or apps the night before so you can start each day ready with your task list.
13) Diversify Your Tasks
If you, like me, have set tasks that you have to do every day, try and diversify them as much as possible. Maybe do them at a different time of day or find a new way to do them, maybe even try new software or an app to make them easier to do. Wherever possible try to automate or auto schedule your tasks if you can, particularly if they are social media tasks. Apps such as Hootsuite, Buffer and Tailwind, all do a great job in helping with this.
14) Keep In Contact
Working from home doesn’t mean that you can’t have contact with customers and clients, or even work colleagues. We are in the age of literally hundreds of messenger apps and software, not to mention social media, VOIP, Skype etc. Wherever possible, try and video call too, it makes a real difference when you can see the other person or group when you talk. It makes you feel like you are all together and can be a real asset in business calls.
15) Stay Focused
Staying focused is hard sometimes no matter where you work but the distractions of home life (Should I put some washing on? What shall we have for tea? Have I paid that bill? etc.) can make focusing even harder. Just remember that if you get your work done without letting your mind wander too much you will get it done quicker and then you will have more time to do all the chores that you need to do after. Some people find ear plugs good for concentration, personally they drive me a little insane
16) Keep Motivated
Keep your self motivated by having some inspirational quotes pinned to your notice board or stuck on your computer with a post it note. Listen to your favourite uplifting music while you work can also keep you motivated. I listen to dance music as I work, it keeps my brain active and my toes tapping away under the desk
17) Know When To Call It A Day
When your brain starts to switch off, or you find yourself starting to make little mistakes, then it is time to call it a day. Whether you finish work early and just work longer hours the next day or you take a break and get up, walk away and come back and do something different… just know when it is time to call it a day. If you keep working you’ll end up getting more tired, more frustrated and in the end potentially making more mistakes.
18) Keep Tidy
Keep your workspace tidy and organised and always tidy up when you finish your work ready for a fresh start the next day. Sounds simple I know but starting the working day with a tidy desk is, in a small way like starting your working day with a fresh mind. Try it, it really works.
19) Take Annual Leave & Days Off
Just because you work at home does not mean you cannot take days off or holiday time as annual leave. I take off every half term to spend time with my kids and over the Summer holidays I take off 2 weeks (a week at the beginning and a week near the end). If I need to take a day off randomly for whatever reason I make sure I work the extra hours to make up for it over the next couple of days, just so my clients know that I am not taking the…. well, you know Everyone needs time off from work to recharge those brain batteries and allow us to do all the things we want/need to.
20) Love What You Do & Do What You Love
Probably the single most important thing about working from home, and working in general… Love what you do and do what you love. Loving your work makes the whole experience a lot easier, worthwhile and more rewarding. I am extremely lucky that I love what I do and I cannot imagine doing anything else.
21) Keep Positive
We all have days when things just go wrong. Whether you just have too much to do and not enough hours in the day or a day where technology just fails you and you get locked out of your email or your internet connection goes down etc. And, I admit, it is tempting sometimes to just think “I can’t do this anymore”. But you can. I really mean that, you can. Bad days are just that, it’s a bad DAY. Finish early if you need to, walk away for the rest of the day, get a good nights sleep and start with a fresh positive mind the next day. You can do this!
Whatever you do when working from home, do it with a smile, because remember… from small acorns grow mighty oaks and you are made of stern stuff.