Dec 17, 2014

How to Be Productive and Successful While Working from Home

Even though I currently have two full time jobs and my own home business, I worked exclusively at home for four years and loved it.  During that time, I made many mistakes and definitely learned from them enough to know what works and what doesn't work.  When you start working from home, it's a lot of trial and error, seeing what works for you and what you feel the most comfortable with.  I will tell you one thing, I needed a lot of advice and tips when I first started on my WAHM journey!  This is why I am compiling all of what I learned and sharing them with all of you! If you have any further tips for Working from Home, please post them in the comments below!

Get dressed every morning.

I know, I know.  The temptation to work from home in your pajamas and bunny slippers with your bed head/messy bun is so overwhelming.  I've been there, done that.  Doing this will only make you more tired, want to go back to bed and definitely won't help you get into the working mode.  You don't have to get dressed in full-on work gear, unless you have a Skype meeting, but just throw on a pair of jeans, yoga pants and maybe a t shirt or sweater.  Make yourself feel like you are going to work because this will increase your productivity on a daily basis.  If it makes you feel better, you can still wear your bunny slippers. 

Minimize Distractions

Turn off the TV, stop playing Candy Crush and work.  I've been there before -- you're bored, there's downtime and you grab the remote to put the TV or a movie on.  Downtime always sucks but once you turn on the TV or grab your phone to play a game, say goodbye to your motivation and productivity.  Once you're distracted, you're distracted.  Instead of doing something completely unrelated to work during your downtime, do some research on new things that are going on in your industry, browse some new potential clients that you can reach out to, or maybe get some organization done.  Either of your work space, files, e-mail, etc...  If you really think about it, there is probably plenty that you can do during your downtime!  

Wake Up Early

Sleeping late is heaven, I know the feeling.  I would love nothing more than to get up, have some coffee, get my kids to school and then go back to sleep for an hour, or two (or 5), but you can't.  I mean, you technically could but it wouldn't help your productivity! (Or your internal clock!)  When you're working from home this temptation is strong but fight it!  I know you can fight it!  Your body will normally wake up when it feels like it's well rested, so go with it.  Listen to it!  I know you might still feel tired, but you just have to get used to being awake.  Have some breakfast, grab your coffee, take a shower, read the paper and then get to work.  I can't stress enough how much going back to sleep will mess up your body and your productivity.  

If you're not used to waking up early, you will have to transition into it.  Keep setting your alarm for a half hour earlier each day until you wake up at the time you want to wake up at.  It's hard to get your body used to it, I know, but do it for a month and it will become a habit!  (I find that rings true!)  

When I solely worked from home I would follow a normal schedule as I would have if I worked outside the home.  I would wake up early, I would still shower and I would get to work.  You have to get in the mindset of thinking of working from home just like working at a job.  :)

Prioritize & Set Timers

Take a few minutes every morning to sit down and create your To-Do list for the day.  This method may not work for everyone, but I am a very visual person so seeing what I have to do and crossing out things that I've already done is very motivating and helpful to me.   

I place my To-Do list in a place that I can see it every time I look at it.  Put it on a main section of your desk, tape it on your wall in front of you, put it on your bulletin board, use a sticky note and stick it on your monitor.  Justdo not put it in a drawer, in your purse or somewhere that's hidden.  You know the old saying, Out of sight, out of mind. 

Now, once you've written that list, go back through it and prioritize it.  Put a 1 in front of the most important task that you need to get done, a 2 next to the second most important thing and so on.  (You get my drift!)  Also note next to the task how long you are going to give yourself to get that particular task done.  I use an app called 30/30 that times your To-Do list.  All you have to do is enter the name of the task, how long you want to spend on it, and the app will let you know when that time is up.  Setting timers helps you from spending to much time on one project.  If you're anything like me, without a timer you will end up getting carried away and lose track of time on just one task.  

Clutter versus a Clean Workspace

I'm definitely not a compulsive neat freak but I'm also not a messy pig either!  Most of the time I'm somewhere in between both (just don't ask my mother because she would tell you that I'm the latter!).  When it comes to my workspace, however, I can most definitely be a compulsive neat freak.  This is mainly because I feel more productive when my home office is actually clean and organized.  When it's a mess of papers, toys, clothes, etc...  I just feel overwhelmed and find myself concentrating on the mess more than on my work.  Invest in a receipt scanner and don't let them pile up on your desk!  Scan what you feel you need to scan and if you need physical copies, store them in a photo box or envelope somewhere on a shelf.  Scan as many physical papers as you can and store them in the cloud (drop box, google docs, google drive, box, etc...) so you can access them at any time, they will be searchable and accessible from anywhere.  

Make sure that your desk only has things pertaining to your business on it.  Sure you can have some pictures of your kids or some personal objects, but don't clutter it too much or place distracting objects on your desk.  You need to stay focus to be successful in working from home.  

Think of Working from Home Like a Regular Job

Designate certain work hours for yourself whether or not you're working full or part time from home.  Write down a schedule for yourself and stick to it.  (Of course, if an emergency comes up you can stray away from those hours.)  The important thing is to not schedule appointments during work hours (if you can help it) and don't make spontaneous plans for lunch, the mall or grocery shopping while you're in the middle of your designated work hours.  Would you do that at an actual brick and mortar job?  Probably not!  Try to plan any appointments or activities for outside of your hours, if at all possible!

The reason I say this isn't just for yourself and your motivation but also for your clients.  I let my clients know, up front, what my availability is before I start working with them.  I let them know my office hours and what times they can reach me by phone, e-mail or instant messenger and I'm there for them during those hours.  If you make plans and decide to disconnect and your client can't get in touch with you when they need you, that's a problem.  You could possibly lose that client and get a bad referral.  Now, I know things come up that you have to attend to, so if this happens it's important to record a message on your voicemail, e-mail your clients or turn on an auto e-mail message so your clients know that you had an emergency and aren't ignoring them.  You want your clients to feel like they are the most important client that you have.

Designate yourself a certain lunch hour as well.  Give yourself an hour and stick to that lunch hour!  This will help you from forgetting to eat and getting too hungry and binging and this will also keep you from eating too much throughout the day.  

Take Breaks

Do I sound contradictory?  Maybe I do, but even at a regular full time job you're entitled to breaks!  If you work a normal 8 or 9 hour work day (at a regular job) you're usually entitled to two fifteen minute breaks and an hour lunch.  Get up and take a short walk, go stretch your legs, go grab a quick coffee at Starbucks or a snack, just take a short break.  Yes, you do need to stay in the work mode but you also don't want to overwhelm yourself and your brain either. 

Set Realistic Goals

I'm a dreamer and I do admit that openly.  I am one of those people who set unrealistic goals for myself just so I work harder to achieve them and that's good on one hand.  On the other hand, if your'e one of those people who will stress yourself out if you don't reach those unrealistic goals, that's bad.  You need to set goals for yourself that are attainable in the amount of time that you have or want to have.  Tackle one to two big projects per day and supplement your day with some smaller projects that aren't so stressful.  If you try to take on too much at once, you will overwhelm yourself.

Don't be afraid to say no.  If you already have 2-4 large clients and you're already getting overwhelmed, it's okay to say no to a new large client.  Don't feel like you'll lose business if you don't take the client on because you won't!  Your current clients will still spread the word about your business, you will still get plenty of referrals, and the client that you said "no" to will respect your honesty.  That's why it's important to network and have other colleagues who you could refer the client to.  If you refer your client to another professional in your field, that professional will be forever grateful to you!  They will probably even pay it forward one day when they have a client that they can't handle.  

Change the Scenery

If you have a day with no large projects, try to work from a different location.  If the weather is nice I would suggest to bring your laptop outside and work from your patio.  You could also work from Starbucks or another coffee shop to get out and be around other people.  Maybe bring your laptop into the living room where your young children are playing instead of locking yourself in your office.  Again don't do this too frequently because you don't want to let distractions keep you from working, but every once in a while changing the scenery is very healthy for you.  (As long as you're still working hard and not slacking off!)  

Invest in your Office

I don't mean invest in terms of spending a boatload of money but more as in investing in your business and future.  You don't have to spend a lot of money to re-do a room.  You can get cheap book cases and filing cabinets from Walmart or Target, you can get a nice desk from Ikea or Target, etc...  It's important for you to enjoy your home office or you won't want to work.  Make it professional  but homey and comfortable, make it calming but make sure there is enough storage for your profession.  Do you need filing cabinets for important files?  Do you need a lot of book shelves for books, manuals, folders, etc..?  Do you want a couch in order to be able to move around while you work?  Think about what you want and need for your office and start planning out what would make you the most comfortable and happy.  After all, this is your workspace! I wrote an article back in 2012 about Creating an Office Space for WAHMs and this article has been viewed over 6,500 times.