I’ve been lucky enough to work at home part- or full-time since 1990. For the first ten years of that period, I worked for a large company and was able to work in my bunny slippers two days a week. Being accountable to my boss and the people who worked for me was great motivation to stay focused and be productive, even though no one was physically able to see what I was up to. Working for myself since 2000 has required a new level of focus – only I know whether I've met my objectives for the day or played hooky. If you're a “home worker,” these tips will help you stay focused and productive, even if no one else is watching.
Evaluate your work area. Although it's important to have easy access to the equipment and supplies you need, the beauty of working at home is that you don't necessarily need an entire room dedicated to work, and you don't necessarily have to work in just one place. For example, my “official” office is a nook in my basement, but often I work at my dining room table, or on my deck so I can enjoy seeing or being in nature. Find a space in your home that will not only accommodate the equipment and supplies you need, but will also allow you to focus on work while still enjoying your surroundings.
Have regular office hours. When you work at home there's often temptation to keep on working into the night – after all, there’s always something you could work on. Consider setting a time to close up shop, and at the designated time, turn off your computer, stop replying to texts and e-mails, and let work-related calls go to email. Your brain will appreciate the break, and your friends and family will appreciate your full attention without the distraction of work activities.
Keep work and personal tasks separate. Sure it only takes a few minutes to throw in a load of laundry or make a phone call to schedule a doctor's appointment, but when you interrupt your workflow to take care of personal tasks, you potentially waste a lot of time ramping back up to get into work mode. If you need to take care of personal tasks during your workday, schedule regular times to take care of them – knowing you have time carved out for these things will allow you to feel confident they’ll get taken care of and help you resist the urge to interrupt yourself throughout the day. If you have kids or pets who might disrupt your workday, consider getting help from other family members or professionals to take care of them during work hours – sometimes a closed door or a “mommy/daddy’s busy” admonishment just aren’t enough.
Build in people time. One of the complaints I often hear from home workers is the isolation they feel from working solo. Re-energize yourself by building “people time” into your day or week – meet a friend for lunch, make time for personal phone calls, or bring your work to a coffee shop. Or save money and travel time by simulating the coffee shop atmosphere at home with sites/apps like Coffitivity.
No matter whether you work at home or in an office, your focus shouldn’t be on how much time you spend working as much as on how much important work you accomplish. Here’s to your success!