Working at home can be tricky. While there are many perks to working from home, there are also so many distractions that can take you away from the actual work. But with a little planning, you can have the best of both worlds. Here are 9 tips to make working at home run smoothly:
1. Establish a morning routine: When you commuted to the office, you probably had a morning routine. Continue one now. “Get up, shower, eat breakfast, then go to work even if that just means going to the part of the house where you do work/have your computer,” says Robert Gilbreath, vice president of marketing of ShipStation.com.
2. Stick to a schedule: Remember you are going to the office, albeit your home office. “You know what time you start. You know what time you end. You know that this is your period for high productivity,” notes CEO and career coach Lee Evans, of employment site Free-Job-Search-Websites. You turn to various tools to help keep you on schedule. “Use time trackers like Klok to make sure you are staying on track. A lot of times, it feels like you have put a full day of work in, but between the kids and other household duties, it might turn out that you haven’t. Klok keeps you honest with yourself,” suggests Brandon Kay, co-founder, SmartIntern. Or, he offers, “sign up for a service like Motivateer, which features a daily phone call to ensure that you are staying motivated and on track.”
3. Factor in break time: Get up from your desk and do something else. In a traditional office setting, you have your co-workers to mingle with. At home, you have to make down time as well. “Give yourself a ‘break time’ in the morning for 15-30 minutes and in the afternoon for 15-30 minutes, and limit your laundry, cleaning and other households tasks for those times,” says Nora Schaper, president/owner/operator of Bodylish body care, which she runs out of her home.
4. Make to-do lists work: Use a more interactive to-do list that you can create one online. “There are many productivity tools that can help you create a successful to-do list. A properly utilized to-do list will keep you on schedule during your work day,” says Evans. “My favorite is MS OneNote. Another one is Evernote, which is a free and easy-to-use product. There are a number of free online list makers, like Scribbles. You can also create a list using your Outlook calendar.”
5. Use blocks: “Block like activities together… If you have to make calls, make all of them for an hour and nothing else. If you have to write, turn off your phone and close your 15 other browser windows,” advises Amy Wright, who founded the blog Mom CEO.
6. Make your office comfortable: Have an office you don’t mind spending time in; one that is conducive to productivity. “Keep your office environment well-organized. Try to only use if for work, so that when you sit down, you know why you are there,” says Evans. Have a separate space, if possible. “A room that is set up as only your office with doors that close is the ideal situation. Being able to close yourself off from the household distractions can really help,” says Gilbreath.
7. Give yourself deadline: If you need help keeping the deadlines, there are a lot of productivity tools that can help. “I use Cool Timer, a free alarm for the PC, and set various alarms to match the time that I should have completed a task. Cool Timer allows you to describe each alarm, in case you forget which timer you are responding to,” offers Evans.
8. Make lunchtime count: Don’t chow down while typing on your computer. “Eat your lunch away from your desk,” says Schaper. Go into the kitchen, dining room or outside to give yourself a break from the office. When you return, you will be more productive.
9. Spring for a sitter: You may be spending a little extra money, but if you are on a tight deadline and need to be undisturbed, hire a sitter. “Nothing is more distracting than kids vying for your attention. Even if you have to change your schedule to have blocks of ‘kids-free’ time, like working nights after they’re in bed, you’ll be more productive without the occasional screams and sudden wondering about why they got so quiet,” says Wright.