Monday: “Working from home is the best!”
Thursday: “OMG, I can’t get anything done.”
This is the dialogue I used to have with myself when I first started working from home. As convenient as it is, it definitely comes with its own challenges. The two L’s that I consider the enemies of working from home are loneliness and laziness. If you work from home, there is no one to keep you company OR keep you on top of your to-do list.
However, it’s been three years since I traded my day job to work full-time as a freelance artist, and if I’m being totally honest, I don’t know that I’ll ever get a traditional day job again. The fact that I can walk to work is amazing, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about staying productive while working from home. If you’re also struggling with those dreaded two L’s, here are my top five tips:
1. Have a designated place to work
Not everyone who works from home does this, but for me, having a separate office space helps tremendously. When I step into my office (aka the “art cave”), my work mode turns “on” and I feel the pressure to get things done. There are deadlines written out on my giant calendar and half finished paintings on my desk that I cannot ignore. Having a designated room forces me to set physical boundaries to separate home and work, which is HUGE for me. When I’m at work (aka in the office), I don’t text or check my Instagram—I get to work. And if I’m home (aka in the living room/bedroom), I can fully step away. It’s like what they say: “Out of sight, out of mind.” Now I’m not always crazy strict about this—sometimes I’ll work on my kitchen island if I’m still having breakfast, and that’s totally fine. However, I think having a designated place to work is SO important for productivity.
2. Set office hours
This one goes back to my first point about setting boundaries. It may be tempting to work or rest whenever you want but I can guarantee that you’ll probably end up working MORE hours this way. It’s much more liberating to focus at work, and then clock off at a certain time and fully walk away. So, do yourself a favor and set office hours. A perk of working from home is that you can work whenever you want—but whatever time that may be, make sure you create office hours and stick to them.
3. Work by a window
As a visual person, the look and feel of my workspace is extremely important for me.
This might sound silly, but I feel like I work harder, better, and faster when my desk is by a window. Here’s why: the window allows me to see the weather, the time of the day without a clock, and ultimately be connected with the outside world. All of this makes work more enjoyable and also helps me work faster. I didn’t realize how big this was until we moved into our new home, where my office has two huge windows. They face our backyard where I can see trees blowing in the wind or my dog Rylie chasing squirrels. It’s an instant mood lifter and makes me feel less bored at work. Hey, it’s the simple things, right?
4. Be social
As an extrovert, I really hated working alone when I first started. Working eight hours a day by myself made me feel exhausted and depressed. There would be days when the only person I saw or talked to was my husband. After several weeks of this, I realized how unhealthy that was for the both of us, and that I needed to change my environment ASAP. Now that it’s been three years, I’ve actually grown to enjoy working by myself. However, I still realize how important it is to stay connected with people and your local community, so I’ll make an effort to schedule things throughout the week. I love getting together with other freelance friends and working at a local coffee shop. It’s so nice to have a change in scenery and to occasionally converse between breaks. Even if a friend isn’t available, I recommend working outside the office once a week.
5. Batch work
This is the hot tip everyone is talking about—batch work your to-dos! I’ve heard Jenna Kutcher, Gary V, Jim Kwik, and a few other people I admire talk about the power of batch working, and I’m totally sold. If you’ve never heard of batch working, it basically means to group similar projects and accomplish them in a sitting. This helps you stay focused on the task at hand without having to switch gears. When you jump from one project to another, you have to remember all the different things that are associated with each project, which takes a lot of brain power and can cause you to work slower and be less productive. With batch working, you can work smarter, not harder.
And those are my top five tips for working from home! Hopefully, they’ll help you have a more productive day.