I love working from home. My parents own their own business and both work from home, so the perks (and pitfalls) have always been clear for me to see.
But if you’re not a self-starting go-getter (am definitely not) it can hard to get into the flow. I tend to oscillate wildly between spending the day hunched over my desk for ten hours and spending all day having coffee with friends, cleaning, and other necessary-but-in-no-way-work tasks.
I would say it took me a good year to really get the balance right, so don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t quite figured out your routine yet.
And if it turns out that working from home isn’t for you, then get yourself to a coffee shop, or hire an office space, or try this awesome technique of creating your own at-home coffee shop.
Anyway, here are a few tips that helped me be productive at home:
1. Schedule your day around extra-curricular tasks
One of the greatest procrastination techniques going is cleaning the house.
Not only can you make it fit any time frame (from 5 mins to probably a year) but you get a clean house out of the bargain. And it’s hard working in a messy house.
It just is.
And no one can tell you off for cleaning.
You’re still being productive, yes?
If there’s no way you can get to work without having tidying up, then schedule them into your day. Clean the house first, and plan your meals for the day.
Even better, have a half-hour cleaning session before you go to bed. I don’t do this, but I could really use the time I spend cleaning on a morning to stay in bed or sit on the bed and start at the wall. You know, morning things.
If procrastination is your game, break up your day with other tasks.
Work for three hours in the morning, then go for a run.
Work for another hour, then woohoo, it’s time for lunch.
You can use an afternoon break to go a get anything you need for dinner.
2. Set hours (but be flexible)
Quick question — do any writers here actually work 9–5?
I find writing exhausting, so I tend to work a maximum of 6 hours a day. Any more and I just produce crap.
But that isn’t really my point here.
I plan to work 6 hours per day. Whether I do 8–2 or 9–5 with breaks or 2–8 depends on….whatever. All that matters is I’ve done my time.
Sometimes I set myself tasks instead of hours — usually, if I’m doing things like preparing blogs or creating Pinterest images because I can’t really get into a flow like I can with writing, so I have a tendency to dick about on my phone.
And sometimes you sit at your set desk all day and nothing happens, and then at 4 pm everything falls into place and you’re off, typing like there’s no tomorrow. Accidentally worked for twelve hours one day? Cool, you can either take tomorrow off, or be a real geek and get ahead with next months blog posts.
I personally like to ‘save up’ days off so I can take advantage of the three sunny days we get per year in the UK.
3. Reward yourself
If you complete your task list in three hours instead of six, you take yourself a nap. This is the beauty of working from home, and it should be celebrated.
What you mustn’t do is complete a three-hour task in three hours and reward yourself.
You need to get a feel for how much you can plausibly do in a day and stick to that most of the time.
But sometimes you’re just…on it, and 2,000-word blog post comes pouring out of you in an hour.
Such feats deserve recognition, in the form of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in bed at 3 pm.
4. Work to a to-do list
When I first started working from home, I had grand ideas about being able to churn out 10,000 words a day.
I mean, I can, but they’re crap.
Now, I work to a to-do list. I set up my planner for the week and list all the articles and other stuff I need to get done and divide it up over the days.
Since I work elsewhere 4 days a week, I try to stick to only writing one article on the days I work full shifts, and three on Wednesdays when I only do a couple of hours.
Thursdays, my work from home day, usually comprise of three blog posts and two hours working on something like an ebook or a Youtube video.
The point is, I don’t need to waste half an hour thinking about what I’m going to write about. The blog post is already planned and prepped (I outline my blog prepping method in this post), so I just need to write the body.
I also add in non-worky things onto my to-do list. Last Thursday, for example, I had THINK OF WHAT TO GET DAD FOR HIS BIRTHDAY written as the first task.
Please don’t leave this post thinking I’m a naturally organised person. I’m not. I’ve had to train myself to plan EVERYTHING otherwise nothing would ever get done or remembered.
5. Set aside admin time
Because NOTHING saps time like admin.
Admin will vary from person to person, but I like to keep on top of the financial sides of things (filing receipts, and invoices, and all that dull stuff), everyday things like dentist appointments, and also blog things like updating affiliate links, running your blog through a broken link checker website, and any design tweaks you want to make.
Having time set aside for this (an hour a week is normally plenty) means that you can keep a running list of things you need to do, and you don’t need to worry about finding time to do it because it’s already set aside.
The best thing about this? Every few weeks you’ll have a week when you have NO admin tasks. Nap time, bitches.
6. Be kind to yourself
Like I said at the beginning, it took me a YEAR to get into work from home routine that worked for me. It’s amazing that I managed it within a year — I am QUEEN of sitting down and doing nothing.
You may find that laughable, but it took me a long time to realise a few things:
- If I have even a glass of wine the night before, I’ll be useless the next day
- If I go to visit my mum I may as well write the day off. She sells homemade greetings cards (my dad’s an artist) and is currently optimising their site for SEO. Which is no mean feat for greetings cards.
- I can waste a whole day cooking, so I only cook easy meals.
It sounds ridiculous, but I’m afraid it’s true. You’ll find you also have some day-stealing activities that you just…can't do if you have a deadline.
It might take you a few tries to identify exactly what it is that’s sapping your time, but you’ll get there.
And it’s all worth it to spend the day in your jim-jams.