When you work in an office, you want to get your work done so you can go home. You also want to get it done so you don’t get disciplined by a boss, or earn the scorn of your co-workers. But what happens when you’re acting as your own boss, and are already at home because that’s where your office is? If you’re like many people, you probably need a little extra help on how to work from home to find the motivation to step away from the social media sites, get away from the TV, and cut the socializing. To increase your efficiency and avoid procrastination, you must eliminate, or at least minimize, the distractions in and around your home office.
Isolate Your Home Office
While part of the appeal of working from home might be that you can literally work anywhere - including your couch - it is important to have space set aside that is just your office space. There will be times when you need to take a phone call, or even just focus, and it will be important that you can be by yourself, in a space solely dedicated to your work.
Your office should have a door that closes, a desk that is dedicated to doing your work - not paying your household bills, editing family photos, or stacking old magazines - and both artificial and natural light. The natural light boosts your mood and productivity, and the artificial light is there for the days when rain must fall. While it is important to have a window that lets in natural light, it shouldn’t be your focus.
Backyards and neighborhoods are full of distractions. Wacky neighbors, squirrels, and even clouds can distract your attention from your work if that’s the way you’re facing as you type. Sure, have a window, but make sure it’s not a way for you to avoid work.
In today’s world, isolating your office also means keeping away devices that bring in the outside world. Obviously, you can’t forgo the internet altogether, but you can limit it by ensuring that your phone is not next to you except when you need it. Put it across the room so you can hear text and call alerts that may be from clients, while preventing the temptation to start a fun back-and-forth text convo with a friend. And don’t even think about having a tv in your office unless you are a television reviewer or sports writer who needs one. Television is great, but it’s a timesucker and before you know it an hour of your day is gone.
Prevent Internet Distraction
As much of a distraction as television can be, we all know the internet is easily a thousand times worse. The internet is an absolute necessity if you work from home, though, and if you are a freelancer or run an online business, social media marketing and an always open email account are simply a fact of life. And, if you don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder or coworkers popping by to say hello, what’s to stop you from checking on Reddit or ESPN? But to work from home efficiently you cannot fall victim to the bajillion or so distractions available via the world wide web.
Thankfully, internet users know themselves and their tendency to distraction and have invented several tools for preventing just this kind of distraction. StayFocusd and Cold Turkey are two free apps that are particularly effective.
StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that lets you customize which websites to ban you from and for how long, so you can decide if you need access to certain websites for information/work for a day, and then change it the next based on your schedule and projects.
Cold Turkey simply blocks you from websites for a specified amount of time that you choose. It’s a tough one to trick into letting you access websites, too, so for those with weak willpower, Cold Turkey can be a valuable tool for keeping you on track.
Be Honest With Family & Friends
When family members and friends, especially those who are unemployed or retired, hear that you are working from home their instinct may be that you’ll now have more time to hang out during the day. You’ve got to be honest with them that you certainly will not. While you might have more flexibility to go for a jog mid-morning, or take your lunch break at 1:00 instead of 11:30, just because you work from home doesn’t mean you can go to the beach 3 out of 5 weekdays during the summer.
It can be tough to be honest, but it’s better to do it upfront than to try to weasel your way out of social events month after month. You know what kind of scheduling works for you, so if you are the type of person who can go for a jog mid-day with a friend and then jump right back into work, great. But if you know from trying to do so at your previous office job that it just throws off the rest of your day’s productivity, don’t risk it.
You’ve also got to be strict with people that just ‘stopping by’ during the day is not okay. Not everyone will have this problem out of the gate, but if it crops up over time put a stop to it before it becomes an issue. Would your parent or aunt stop by your office mid-afternoon just to say hi? Nope. Then why would they interrupt your workday at home? Set up times to have lunch, make sure you aren’t just locked up in your home office, but don’t become so lackadaisical that your productivity suffers because you are jumping up to answer the doorbell and make coffee for guests.
How to work from home is a matter of habits. Try to be efficient as it will make your workday go smoother, your projects get done faster, and in the end, it means you have more time for yourself, your family, and friends. Use the time you have set aside for work efficiently, and you will soon see the value in working from home.