As an entrepreneur, (and even as an employee, working from home during this pandemic) spending most of your time working from home can mean it is a challenge learning ways to stay productive and motivated. Having done work from my home for years, there are some techniques that I’ve learned in the area of time management for working from home, which I’ll lay out below.
You’re alone most of the time. There is no one looking over your shoulder, watching what you are doing. You are setting your own schedule. So it can sometimes be a challenge to stay focused. Here’s how to do it :
Setting up a great working environment
The first thing you want to do is set up a great working environment for yourself that is conducive to getting a lot done. You need a designated space, wherever that is, that is consistent, and that ‘feels’ as much like an office as possible. You don’t want to be doing work on your bed with your laptop in your lap, for example.
Find a corner in your living space or dining area. Or maybe you have space to allocate a whole room, such as a study, to it.
As this is YOUR space, you can also get creative with how you lay it out. Why not make it a motivating, exciting space that you enjoy being in, and feel pumped about going into every day?
Set it up in a way that motivates you. You could hang up inspirational quotes that motivate you in moments when you don’t feel like doing anything. You could keep a chalkboard (or chalkboard sticker) on the wall, and use it to write down your main goals for the day, or a declaration to yourself that sets a positive intention for the day.
You could look for ways to bring colour and vibrancy into the room you’re working in. Perhaps you may want to put up photos of loved ones. Whatever motivates you, create it in your area. Have fun with it.
It’s also great to keep it clear and clutter free, so that you can be organized and stay focused on the task at hand.
Don’t have any other papers on your desk other than the minimum needed for the task you are working on at any given time. This allows you to concentrate on just one task or project at a time, without being distracted by others pulling for your attention. (Multitasking is NOT productive).
Also, make sure that it is comfortable space – you don’t want your neck or back to be hurting after a few hours at your home desk because your chair is not the right height or is uncomfortable. If your budget doesn’t allow you to get an expensive ergonomic chair, then use a pillow for your back to rest against, and use boxes underneath your laptop to make sure it’s at the right height for working.
As a rough guideline, when working at your keyboard, you want your wrists to be straight, and your hands at your elbow level or slightly below.
Planning your day
The most productive people plan their day the night before, (or at least first thing before starting their work day.) I learned this concept from Brian Tracy years ago, and it’s a great one. It sets you up in the morning knowing exactly what you need to do and being able to get into it quickly and with focus.
You want to create a list, but don’t make it more than about 6 items at most. The reason is that you will not get through more than around 6 items in one day, and if you are constantly creating a daily list of 10 – 15 items, it will get demoralizing never achieving everything on your list.
Instead, keep a master list of everything that needs to be done, but on your daily list, place 4-6 items only. Then pick your TOP 3. These are the 3 main things you have decided that you MUST get done in your day. They are your MIT’s or Most Important Tasks.
Number them in order, and then start immediately on the Number 1 task first thing, and focus only on that until it is completed. Then move onto the next. You will find that doing it this way will enable you to power through your most important priority tasks, the things that will most move your forward in your business.
Dress for Success
You’re probably looking at this headline and thinking, ‘Whaaaat?! You’ve got to be kidding!’. It’s so easy, when working from home, to succumb to the temptation to work in your pyjamas, or in tracky pants, no makeup and a messy hair do. I get it. You’re thinking, ‘No one can see me. What does it matter?’. That’s not the point. It’s not about others. It’s about how YOU feel about yourself.
Have you ever noticed that when you get dressed up in an outfit you feel great in, and make an effort with your hair, makeup and general appearance, that you FEEL better? You feel more confident, more ready for the day and more professional. You think better of yourself – and have greater self-respect. Well, we are a product of our thoughts and our feelings. So what we THINK and what we FEEL then impacts our behavior and our actions.
It becomes what we create.
So the reality is, that if you feel good, you are going to bring that energy to your work, and you will be far more productive than if you’re not feeling great about yourself because of how you look.
So even though you think that it doesn’t matter how you look because you’re not in an office, it really does matter, I assure you. Make the effort, dress up, and you’ll be ready and more energised to do great work.
The great thing about not working in an office with others is that you are not interrupted by people walking by your desk to ask you questions, disturbing you in the middle of an important project.
The only thing is that you may be interrupted by family members instead! Or, because you’re working from home, you get to be the designated person available for plumber visits, electricians and parcel deliveries, right?
If you have children who also want your time, schedule it in with them by using time blocking. Have set periods when you tell all family members that you need to work without interruption, and then set periods in the day when you are available for them.
If you want to have certain times during your working day when you need to be extremely focused on a task that requires intensive thought and concentration, pre-warn them – shut the door and put a sign on it if you need to – or if you can’t work in a separate room then make sure they know beforehand that this is your time to be fully focused on your work.
Separate work and personal life
If you have a separate room where you do your work, then this is easier to do. Don’t let your work bleed out of control into your personal life. We all have times when we may want to get some extra things done in the evenings, but generally, you want to have strict boundaries with yourself for when you’re working, and when it’s time to spend time with loved ones.
Overworking leads to diminishing returns in terms of productivity, so there is not a lot of value in continuing to work once you’ve hit around 40 hours of work in one week. It’s also not much of a life when it’s all work and no play 🙂
Taking time for yourself and to have fun actually helps you to refresh, reignites your creative genius and allows you to return to your work refreshed and more productive again.
Master the working from home dynamic
So to sum up, there’s plenty of benefits in working from home, and although lonely at times, you can definitely be very productive while working from home. Keep yourself accountable with lists and goals you can check off, and possibly even build in rewards for yourself for accomplishing certain tasks or projects, especially difficult ones.
Find your own space, make it conducive to productive work, get dressed and ready to kill your day. Here’s to getting more done while working from home!