Ah, the joys of working from home. If you are in this position yourself you may have let out a sarcastic laugh just now. Why? Because you understand the frustration it can be when also juggling the management of a household and kiddos while trying to do it. Since I have been doing this for over a decade, I figured perhaps there is some insight I can offer. With that, I am sharing my top 8 tips for staying productive when working from home.
Scenario A. All you do is work it feels like. You roll out of bed, you go straight to your desk and you work. You eat for the first time around 1:00 PM. You skip out on an invitation to have dinner with friends because it feels like the world will crumble if you leave your computer. Or, heaven forbid, a potential client emails you! Then you roll back into bed around 2:00 AM just to start the cycle all over again in a few hours.
Scenario B. You thought you would be working from home. However, you are pulled away from your desk throughout the entire day. Your spouse calls asking if you can throw a load of laundry into the wash. Your house phone rings constantly. Friends want you to join them for a lunch date. Before you know it, the kids are getting out of school and the rest of your day is spent in mom mode. (For my fellow homeschool mamas, check out this post specifically about managing a business while homeschooling your kiddos).
Either of those sound familiar?
We are temporarily living in 1500 square feet as a family of seven. There is nowhere to truly be alone so I understand those of you who are in tight quarters and wondering where in the heck you can create an office space for yourself. Use a corner in your bedroom or makeover a closet to open for an instant office.
Take the time to figure out the best approach that will give you a space where you can be productive. Preferably one away from the main traffic of the house to reduce distractions and interruptions. If you add a desk to your bedroom, make sure you make your bed every day before sitting down to get things done. And also make sure you clean up your desk at the end of every day. It will make all the difference, I promise!
This is one that took me a while to learn the value of. When you work from home, it is easy to become a bit lazy and fall into bad habits. I used to love the simplicity of throwing my hair up, donning some comfy sweats, and snuggling up to my iMac for the day. However, it was very easy to shift to my laptop and enjoy my comfy bed while multi-tasking with Netflix. I mean, I was dressed for it, right? However, I decided to try getting dressed for the day consistently to see what it would do for my productivity. I’m sure you know where I am going with this.
You would never show up to an office or a board meeting in your sweats so why show up for yourself like that? Getting dressed every day complete with hair and makeup helps me to feel better. It helps me to feel professional. Give it a try for a few days and see if it helps you get focused on work and stay in productivity mode throughout your day.
This is especially helpful if you have kids. Being ready for the day means that you are able to leave the house at any moment. School pick-up, dental appointments, emergencies, etc. It actually reduces wasted time so that I don’t have to stop working to get ready to leave the house. Not to mention, you never know who you are going to run into. Even in the school pick-up line! Why would someone commission you for your services or collaborate on a project when you can’t even get yourself dressed?
As I have grown my brand and demands have increased, I have had to get very real with myself as well as those around me. There are expectations and things I have to accomplish every day, it is not a choice. This is one of those bad habits I have had to break over the years so if you are just starting out, be sure and listen in closely.
It’s very easy for people to think you are available for anything and everything when you work from home. This is the part where you have to set some boundaries. My family knows that when I am “going to work” it means that I am unavailable. Obviously, when my husband is away at his job and I have the kids at home with me, this has to adjust. It’s why I am up so early to tackle several hours of work before my kids are even awake. I then break to handle their studies with them and then get back to business afterward. If it’s a longer workday, when my husband is home he knows that he is on duty so I can wrap things up before family dinner and the entire evening routine.
Try and figure out the best solution for your situation and your family. Perhaps you have the ability to hire a part-time nanny who can come into your home and handle little ones while you work for a specified amount of hours each day. If you are unable to hire outside help or it’s not your style, make sure you get really disciplined about when you can work and how to make it happen. Am I naturally a morning person? Not in the slightest. However, I have had to train myself to develop a solid morning and evening routine because it is how I make it all happen between business and kids.
When the baby goes down for a nap, use that uninterrupted time to work. This means you need to remove distractions in order to make those hours really count. During the time I am working, I do not take personal calls, I don’t make last minute lunch plans, I don’t run errands, and I don’t do laundry. I work and I work as hard as I can. Make your hours count as an entrepreneur. Whatever doesn’t get done at the end of the day that needed to falls on my shoulders and mine alone.
I have been through every scenario in this regard – new babies and no help, husband working in the home and then away from the home – you name it. I wasted so much precious time because I didn’t buckle down. I didn’t push myself harder to develop a solid routine and take my work seriously. No excuses. Make it happen for yourself.
This is another one I struggled with for a long time. It became increasingly worse when my husband and I made a huge leap when he walked away from his corporate job to pursue his own dreams a few years ago. For those first few months, I worked like a dog. From sun up until sundown. I worked because there was never an end in sight to the deadlines and what needed to be done. One piece of advice my husband gave me when he saw how stressed I was – the work will never be done. There will always be something to do and something that has to be left on your desk until tomorrow. You will never finish everything. How true that is!
Before you start each day, write down five things you MUST accomplish. These are the things that are most important and need your attention first. If you end up accomplishing more than toast yourself for killing it. And then if you have the capacity and time, accomplish some more for the day. Either way, you can sleep soundly knowing that you accomplished those things that needed to be done so they aren’t hanging over your head.
Don’t set unrealistic expectations and don’t kill yourself over trying to do it all. The beauty of owning your own business and working from home is the flexibility. Don’t squander it and don’t take it for granted. Work reasonable hours, set modest goals, and see your productivity increase while your stress levels decrease.
There are not enough fingers and toes to count the number of ways distractions can disrupt our days. Emails, text messages, Instagram notifications, blog comments… the list goes on. This is where block scheduling can become an amazing tool when utilized correctly. It takes time to discipline yourself to follow a strict schedule, but it is truly my best tool when trying to be as productive as possible.
Another way to minimize distractions is to really minimize them. When I start working for the day, I turn my phone on silent and turn it face down on my desk. This way I only see notifications when I want to see them and when I am ready for them. It also allows me to not get caught up in text conversations.
I also only tackle email at the beginning and at the end of the day. I do not answer emails as they come in. Email is the biggest time waster. A necessary evil that needs a tight rein!
When deadlines are looming and we have a lot on our shoulders our instinct is to hunker down, power through, and get it done. However, did you know that it is scientifically proven that taking breaks throughout the day is more beneficial and can actually increase productivity? It is so incredibly important that we keep our minds stimulated and processing. I loved reading this article which really breaks down the science of it all.
I find myself becoming unfocused after staring at my screen for too many hours. Having the mid-day break to do studies with the kids is a big help. Getting outside for a short walk and to enjoy some fresh air does wonders. It’s a healthy positive and one we need to make sure we are doing more!
Juggling parenthood while running a business can be tough. Especially in this climate when the kids may be home with you virtual learning or perhaps your spouse works from home now as well and it is not what you are used to. We have made sure to discuss as a family what my needs are when working from home and to set expectations for everyone. When Mom is working, there are no interruptions if Dad is home. When my door is closed it is closed for a reason. If I have a longer day, my husband will sometimes take all of the kids out of the house to give me some quiet time to tackle what I need to.
Be sure and sit down and set boundaries with your children depending on their age. Make sure they know that just because you are home doesn’t mean you are available for anything they might want. And with those boundaries comes a deeper respect for what it is that you do as well as stronger and healthier relationships all around. Being stressed out as a mother seeps into all areas and affects us in the worst ways. Setting those boundaries with your family and communicating your needs will bring you greater joy and peace as you juggle all the things.
Making up for lost time on this one, but I am only getting older. And I can’t waste away in the name of my job. Nor do I want to. I have really taken this to heart over the past few years and have vowed to turn bad habits into good ones. Before you start each day, do something for yourself. Do something physical. Do something for your health. Do something that will make you feel alive and well. I love doing a low-impact ab workout along with stretching my entire body before getting ready for the day (followed by a more intense workout in the evening hours because #75Hard). Maybe it’s getting to the gym every morning. Maybe it’s a yoga class you love on specific days of the week. Or maybe it’s starting your day outside in the fresh air on a morning walk.
Doing something before your day officially begins will help you tackle any stressful situation or deadline that might come your way. You can’t serve from an empty cup so pour into yourself first.
So there you have it! My 8 tips for staying productive when working from home. Remember to respect yourself and your business enough to set a routine, create boundaries, and practice self-discipline. It will only make you more productive and create a more healthy work/life balance as much as one can create. Not to mention, you can serve your family in such a better way!
Do you work from home? Have you discovered something that helps you stay productive and on top of your game? I would love to hear about it!