Most of my friends think that because I don't work in an office, I sleep in, lounge around in my PJs, go shopping whenever I want, and meet people for lunch everyday, but that's FAR from the truth! I love working from home, but I still actually have to WORK! I've been working from home for about one year now and I've learned some hard lessons along the way, so I'm sharing my top tips to survive working from home!
1. Set a Schedule
I won't deny that I LOVE to sleep in. I'm a night owl by nature and if inspiration strikes at 11pm, I could easily stay up until 2am writing or planning an event. As someone who works from home, it's important to set and keep normal work hours- this will make sure you start and end your work day at a reasonable hour! To combat the lure of the snooze button each morning, I schedule a workout class first thing in the morning. My StudioHop membership is great because they charge you $15 if you miss a class, which is too high of a cost for me to miss. When I see an 8am class on my schedule the next day, it ensures that I get in bed by midnight (or at least try!). Morning workouts mean I'm up early and getting my day started on the right foot; after a full day of work, I usually have a social activity in the evening then come back home and keep working until midnight pretty much every day of the week (#nothealthy), but I'm trying to cut back, promise. Note: do not sit down to do one quick task at your computer before you get ready for the day, because before you know it, you'll look up and it will be 3pm and you'll have a headache because you haven't eaten yet. True story.
Full disclosure: inspiration struck and I'm writing this blog post at 2am from my bed (which brings me to my next point).
2. Have a Defined Workspace
I promise I normally don't write blog posts at 2am and I rarely work from my bed! In fact, I know that it's crucial to maintain a dedicated workspace that is separate from your main living space; when I started working from home, I moved my desk from my bedroom into my formal living room and created a small workstation by a window so I could have natural light during the day. I either work from my desk or my large dining room table when I need to spread out; having dedicated work space helps me focus on work right away instead of trying to setup and teardown a workstation each day.
3. Minimize Distractions
This could be an entire series of blog posts about mindfulness and daily distractions in itself, BUT for the sake of this post, I'm talking specifically about trying to reduce the distractions in your house that wouldn't be present in a corporate office. For example, I have to walk past the laundry room to get to my "office" and it takes focus to not convince myself to "put in a quick load of laundry while I work!" I have set work hours and after work, I will have plenty of time to do chores. I like to have a clean and organized space to work in and my first few weeks of working from home, I was so focused on creating a clean workspace (the entire house!) that I was getting upset at my roommates for not washing their one dish in the sink because I couldn't work until the house was clean. OCD, anyone? It didn't take long before I realized that I was being crazy and just had to focus on my workspace, not the rest of the house. I'm proud to say that unwashed dishes now have zero affect on me.
4. Get Dressed
Yes, get dressed. Every. Day. I no longer have a huge dry cleaning bill, because my "work wardrobe" is much more casual these days (not sloppy, just casual), but I still find it helpful to shower right after my workout and get dressed for the day. As I mentioned above, if I sit down at my computer before I'm fully ready for the day, I fall into the black hole of email and before I know it, half the day has passed and I'm still in sweaty workout clothes (gross.), so on my daily schedule, I literally write "shower + get dressed," which is semi embarrassing, but hey, whatever works.
5. Own Your Week
When you work from home, you own your day and make a daily schedule, but what about your whole week? You're in control of that too! Schedule different types of work on different days or schedule a specific day of the week for meetings, a specific day for lunch with a friend, and a specific morning for errands. It's true that working from home still means work, but it also allows me the freedom to make my own schedule for errands. I would much rather go to the grocery store on a Tuesday morning and spent 10 minutes shopping than a Saturday morning and spend 45 minutes looking for a parking space. Amiright? I'm currently working on maximizing my week to be more efficient; now that I send out a weekly newsletter on Monday (go ahead and subscribe!), I try to post a blog post on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is much more realistic than trying to post every single weekday and failing miserably because I didn't take into account how long it actually took me to write a blog post. Looking at where you spend the bulk of your time is so important, especially when determining rates for freelance work and having insight on how much time you ACTUALLY spend on client projects. Lately, I've been using a simple app called "Hours" to track my work on specific projects/clients. I highly recommend it for any freelancers or professionals who bill time to clients.
What about the dark side of working from home? It's true, working by yourself can get lonely at times, and some personalities are better equipped to handle being alone all day, but even scheduling one day per week to work from a coffee shop keeps me from getting too stir crazy. I do my best to break up my work day into manageable chunks of time because I know that staring at the computer for 8 hours is completely unrealistic for me. Short breaks, taking an actual lunch break (no digital screens allowed!), and standing up to stretch periodically are easy ways to avoid feeling restless at home.
Of course, exceptions happen, but having a daily and weekly rhythm to fall back on is paramount to successfully work from home. Do you have any other tips? Shoot me an email and let me know how you make it work!