Working from home can feel like a dream – you get to set your own schedule, don’t have a boss breathing down your neck all day, and can get things done while staying comfortable and relaxed.
The key, though, is actually getting things done. Anyone who’s ever worked from home knows that it can be hard to stay focused and manage your time wisely. With the help of a few key time management and organizational skills, you can burn through your to-do list in no time.
Have a dedicated workspace
It can be tempting to spend all day on the couch (or worse, in bed), but productivity experts say that the best way to stay on track is to have space in your house that’s just for work. This doesn’t have to be an entire room – a desk in the corner of the kitchen or living room will do just fine, as long as the area is quiet and free of distractions.
Sitting down at your dedicated workspace signals to your brain that it’s time to get to work, helping you stay focused and productive. Plus, having everything related to your business close at hand means you won’t waste time searching through the whole house for that note you jotted down on a conference call last week.
Make a schedule
Because there’s no office to drive to, it’s easy for work to bleed into all hours of the day (or night). Establish clearly defined “office hours” and communicate these to your coworkers or clients (so they know when you’re reachable) and to your family (so they know not to bother you).
Having a schedule will help keep you honest: if you’ve committed to being at your desk by 9:30, you can’t enjoy a leisurely breakfast and read the newspaper until 10:00. And if you know that 6:00 is quitting time, you’ll be more likely to stay on task during the day since you have a limited window in which to accomplish everything.
Some actors can’t really get into character until they put on their costume, and the same principle applies to “getting into character” as a productive worker. Since there’s no one around to impress, it’s easy to just stay in your pajamas all day. But many productivity gurus say that simply getting dressed in something you’d be comfortable wearing out of the house (it doesn’t have to be a suit and tie, but hey – you do you) can significantly increase your productivity and motivation.
Take regular breaks
Building breaks into your daily schedule helps you recharge your brain and regain focus. When a distracting thought pops into your head, it’s easier to set it aside if you know that you’ll be able to devote some time to it the next time you take a break. Some people like to set a timer and take a 3-5 minute break at regular intervals. Just be sure to get back to work once your break’s over.
If you work from home full-time, make plans to get out of the house and see people face-to-face, whether at occasional, in-person meetings with clients, or networking events for your local business community. Aside from making good business sense, getting outside of your home office “bubble” from time to time will help keep you sane.
Making evening plans – even if they’re not work-related – can also help you stay focused by giving you a hard stop by which you must finish your work. If you’re meeting friends for drinks at 7:30, you’ll be forced to stay focused and use your time wisely in the afternoon.
Keep in touch, but keep on track
You might feel the need to constantly check your email or keep Gchat or Slack open so that you’re always reachable. But don’t let your efforts to stay on the grid get in the way of your actual work. Expectations can vary depending on your work culture, but in general, if you stop what you’re doing every time a new email pops up, it’s hard to build up a head of steam and actually accomplish anything.
Try setting up an email filter so that only messages from specific contacts or that contain certain keywords will trigger a notification (this way you won’t worry about missing something important or extremely urgent). Then decide how frequently you want to pause and check your email – whether that’s once an hour or every 15 minutes.
These are some of the most effective time management skills used by professionals who work at home. But if you need a little outside assistance, then Ace-up’s business coaches can help you with even more productivity tools to help you stay focused and feel accomplished at the end of the day.