Some call it living the dream. Others can’t imagine how you’re able to get anything done. Whatever your thoughts are on working from home, one thing’s for sure: it takes commitment. Working from home is not for the faint of heart. In some ways, it actually demands more focus than a day at the office. Need an escape from your open-plan office, or think you might want to get a taste of the agile work life? Here are nine ways to make working from home work for you.
1. Keep a Routine
I cannot overstate the power of this tip. If you’re working from home, endeavor to outline some kind of rhythm for yourself throughout the day. That doesn’t have to mean you work the entire time, but try to outline a few things you do every day that keep you on track. That could be taking a walk around the block every few hours, only checking email once an hour, planning lunch meet-ups with friends, or taking a break in the afternoon to hit a yoga class.
2. Have a Start Time…
And on that note, try to start around the same time each day. It’s fine to deviate from the plan for meetings, classes and engagements, but starting and stopping around the same time every day will keep you in the habit of checking in and getting started on time. Further, recognize that even though you’re working from home, you’re still on the clock (whether it’s a company or client’s clock or your own matters not — time is still money, even if you’re spending it in your pajamas), so do your best to be available when the rest of your clients and co-workers are.
3. …and an End Time
Just as important as it is to start at the same time every day, it’s also important to have a hard quittin’ time, too. Unless you’re deep under a deadline, know when to call it. Some days, the ideas and the focus just won’t be there, and that’s okay. To be frank, that’s one of the biggest benefits of working from home, if you’re able to make your own schedule — you get to manage your time in a way that makes sense for you, and don’t have to feel chained to the rigidity of a 40-hour work week. Work when it makes sense, and stop when it doesn’t.
If you make your own schedule, make it work for you. Work when it makes sense and stop when it doesn’t.
4. Start With a Pick-Me-Up
A workout, a hot breakfast, coffee, or a morning podcast — whatever you choose, pick something that you can give yourself every morning to signify the start of the day. I never really feel like I’ve gotten to work until I’ve had breakfast and a cup of coffee, so I try to get these things out of the way before I get too deep into anything.
5. Get Dressed
This is just my opinion, but I tend to think my output is better whenever I take the time to get ready for the day as if I were going to an office. Getting out of my pajamas tells my brain it’s time to work, and it also makes it far more likely that I’ll squeeze in a few errands or meetings throughout the day, too.
6. Turn off the TV
Even if you’re one of those people who swears they can effectively multitask (I call bull on that), as someone’s who’s accidentally lost herself (and her deadline) to the rabbit hole of Bravo television in the early afternoon, I can’t stress enough how distracting “evening things” (TV, organizing, running around town, etc.) will be during your at-home work day. Do your best to remove temptation, and just leave that sucker off until you’re done with work.
7. Create a Workspace
Nothing kills work-from-home productivity like working in an uncomfortable environment. Trying to sort through the chaos of papers, dishes, books, toys and clothes can be a nightmare when you’re trying to carve out a clear space to work. If at all possible, designate a home office space and keep it separate from the rest of the house.
8. Find a Community
It might sound counter-intuitive, but if you’re working from home, find yourself a community of people to team up and work with. This could be a group of coffee shop regulars, an online community or Reddit thread, or a co-working space — whatever you need to find some people to chat with throughout the day. Working from home can be a dream for focus, but a nightmare socially. Set up an outlet and take breaks to be social now and then.
9. Treat It Like a Job
This one goes without saying, but it’s easy to forget. If you’re working from home, fight the urge to let friends who are off for the day deter you from keeping your schedule. Save long lunches for your days off, and suggest friends stop by at a time when you aren’t so busy (a.k.a., after working hours).
Tell Us What You Think
Telecommuters, how do you making working from home work for you? We want to hear from you. Give us your tips in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.