Virtually everybody has an idealised vision of what it’s like to work from home; spending all day in your pyjamas, taking a (very) leisurely commute to the kitchen for a full-on breakfast before settling down to a comfy, blissfully boss-free burst of productivity.
Working when you want, whenever you choose, taking an afternoon stroll with the dog – you name it, the fantasy is a very tempting prospect for those who spend their days trapped in the workplace.
But the reality of working from home is rarely all roses.
While the freedom, flexibility and independence are all huge positives, hurdles including difficulty concentrating, distractions, problems with motivation, loneliness, boredom and declining productivity can prove problematic.
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From children demanding attention precisely when deadlines are due, to low moods resulting in waning motivation, staying on top of your workload and striving to be at the top of your game can be tough for those of who work at home. But getting into your groove is perfectly possible…
These top tips from veteran “work-at-homers” will help you banish boredom, dispense with distractions and reach peak productivity whether you choose to suit up or stay in your pyjamas…
#1. Set Work Hours
Although flexibility and respite from the confines of the “daily grind” are part of what makes many people begin working from home, having set “office hours” will help you get more done in less time.
You don’t need to work a conventional 9-to-5 day, but having a set structure for your work days will help you focus and get more done.
Ploughing through for “however long it takes” will rob you of your hard-earned evenings and leisure time when there’s lots to do, forcing you into unhealthy patterns of stress and sleep.
This will quickly adversely affect your motivation levels and productivity.
While working late is occasionally unavoidable, make sure you have a definite clocking off time and that colleagues, clients and contacts are aware of your hours to ensure you maintain a healthy balance and set boundaries.
Having a set start time is also very helpful.
It’s not always easy to build up the motivation to begin your working day, even when you work in your employer’s HQ.
At home getting started is even harder. Instead of making yet another cup of tea, set yourself a start time and stick to it to cut down on procrastination.
Setting alarms in sync with your working hours may help you keep up with your concrete schedule.
#2. Set Boundaries
If you’re working from home and have family members in the house, staying focused can prove problematic – especially when you have children.
Ensuring everybody is aware of your working hours (you may want to consider sticking these to your home office door or using a “do not disturb” sign) will help cut down on interruption. But this approach isn’t fool proof…
Having a separate space in which to work, ideally with a door you can open and close depending on your availability will help make the distinction between “you at home” and “you at work” clear to your family.
Employing a childminder or babysitter to provide childcare during your most focussed and productive hours will also help you get more done if you’re simultaneously looking after youngsters while working from home.
If you do work at home with little ones, make sure they understand that you are only to be disturbed in emergencies.
This Guardian article describes how one homeworker told their children they could only interrupt if there was “blood or smoke”!
#3. Don’t Snack or Clean
We all know how tempting that fridge can be, especially when we’re bored and we know that last night’s leftovers are in there waiting…
But snacking during your working day won’t just expand your waistline; it will also eat into your bottom line when it comes to time.
Frequent fridge raids can seriously add up time-wise and distract you from the tasks at hand.
That’s why it’s important to exercise restraint and avoid snacking as much as you can. Keep healthy snacks at hand in your home office space if the temptation is too much to bear.
Cleaning and tidying can be equally tempting for some, more virtuous, homeworkers.
It may feel like you’re squeezing more into your day, or that you’ll be more productive once you remove the niggle of a dirty pile of laundry, but these little tasks also add up into serious time drains – and it can be hard to know where to stop.
Make a conscious effort not to do any housework during working hours to keep you focussed and on track.
#4. Use a to do List or Task Planner App
Whether you use Todoist, Trello, Wunderlist, Google Keep, or anything in between, having a daily task list to work through will help keep you on top of your workload in the face of any distractions or motivation meltdowns.
If you’re self-employed, playing around with a range of different apps until you find a version which fits you and your work style could make a world of difference to your productivity and your organisational skills.
Do you respond well to structure and pushing your limits?
You could even try something more radical like Pomtodo which incorporates the Pomodoro technique (based on working in 25 minute “sprints”) into a more traditional to do list application.
#5. Leave the House
From building a daily jog, walk or gym session into your schedule, to taking an evening classes and making “outside” plans with friends and family in the evening, it’s important to leave the house regularly when you work from home.
It’s only too easy to develop a bad case of “cabin fever” as a home worker, which can result in declining productivity and poor motivation (not to mention some pretty crazy eyes…).
Getting out and about as much as possible outside of your scheduled working hours will help you stay fresh and positive about your professional set up.
Do you work from home? Do you have any top tips which make your working life more productive? Share your ideas with other home workers below.
Author Bio: This is a guest post by Alex who works from home as a digital marketing and social media consultant for companies like Traveling Vineyard.