Working at home is great. You have seemingly endless flexibility, you can set up your work environment exactly the way you want it, and you do not have to deal with the compromises that you often make when sharing a workspace with others.
Since starting work with Echolibre in June of last year, I have learned a lot about how to work effectively and efficiently at home. I avoid the common pitfalls that make working from a home-office distracting and/or unproductive by the following principles:
Find a dedicated space to call your own
Before I began working from home, I had visions that doing so would involve lounging on the couch, sitting outside in the sunshine, and working pretty much anywhere other than a traditional desk, chair, small-office-plant type of environment. I quickly learned that I am more productive and organized when I have a dedicated work area. A dedicated space is any area of your house that is used for nothing other than your work – it doesn’t second as a dining room table, it isn’t in the middle of your living room, and it isn’t even a place to throw household mail. It is a place that you can always go to work without having to bother with the distractions of a normal household.
Don’t get me wrong, working on the couch, outside, or in book stores/coffee houses can be really beneficial. I’ve found that I can often jumpstart my creativity by working in a fresh place. But a stable, dedicated space is ultimately where I am most productive on a regular basis.
Create a routine and try to stick to it
Set up a daily/weekly routine. It is awesome that you can deviate from that routine when necessary, but deviate from that routine only when necessary. Constant delays to your schedule will only prolong the amount of time in the day that you are ultimately dedicating to work. Seemingly “little” things such as watching a bunch of novelty videos online will make it seem like you are far less productive, and you will have to work much longer hours in order to make up for it.
If you don’t tend to rise early, then go nuts and wake up at 9am, but do so consistently. You’ll find that with a regular routine, it will be easier to fit other activities in your schedule (see “Get out more” below). I challenge anyone to cultivate a healthy social life, regular exercise, and a work/personal life balance when their work schedule completely varies from day to day.
Get out more
If you’re lucky, your significant other will also work from home, so you’ll have at least some social interaction throughout the day, but this is not enough. Go out with friends, take your significant other out to dinner and a show, get a cup of coffee and take some time to relax in a public space. It is too easy to stay home, and you will begin to feel lethargic and uninspired.
Pajamas are the enemy here. You’re not going out, so you don’t feel like you need to be presentable to the world, and those flannel pj’s you have are really quite comfortable. It will be really tempting to stay in your lounging or sleeping clothes, but make getting dressed part of your routine. You don’t need to dress up in business-wear or anything, but at least wear clothes that you would wear out to family restaurant or to run errands. Wearing PJs all day should be an event that is worth noting – it should be something that happens infrequently enough that it feels rewarding to do so.
Love what you do
The easiest way to become unproductive, uncreative, and outright bored while working from home is to simply not enjoy the work that you do. Half of your life is spent working, and never is this more evident than when you spend the vast majority of your time in one place. If you don’t absolutely love what you do, then it will be that much more difficult to avoid the myriad of other things that you prefer to do at home in your free time.
Plus, you only live once, so why waste any of that precious time doing something that you do not find rewarding?