It seems like everyone is quick to say how much they would love to work from home. I’ve been lucky enough to work from home for the past 22 years and have loved every minute of it! While others are stuck in rush hour traffic, all I have to do is walk 18 steps to my office. The benefits are numerous. There are, however, some realities that are very important to be intentional about avoiding and some traps I want to avoid at all cost.
Early in my work-from-home career I read to always “dress like you’re going to the office” so you will “feel successful.” I didn’t want to “feel successful” I wanted to BE successful. Personally, I was not a big fan of this particular tip because I loved the freedom of making calls in shorts and a tee shirt on my patio or out by the pool. Back in those days, I used the new technology of a cordless phone that had great reception by our pool – so I would spend a few hours in the sun everyday making phone calls. I believe it takes action to reach success, not just dressing like it. But most list I read still have that one tip to get up and dress for success, so there may be something to it? You can determine how you dress, to me getting to wear shorts and a tee shirt is one of the great benefits of working from home!
On to the tips…
1) Get Out!!
While working from home has a ton of benefits, you can quickly turn into a hermit if you are not careful. Everyone needs and craves human interaction. Ask people to go to lunch or meet for coffee. Look for opportunities to volunteer. For me, I try to eat out for either lunch or dinner (and often both) at least one meal per day. If I didn’t, I would go stir-crazy from the lack of interaction. You have to be around people in order to be productive and have a healthy balanced life.
2) Get Some Exercise
I am talking to myself when I write this. For years I was so focused on work and taking advantage of having a successful career that I found myself sitting at my desk and being on the phone all of the time. I would literally get out of bed, walk to my desk, sit down and work for a few hours before breakfast or showering. After breakfast and a shower, I would go right back to work and spend the larger part of my day just sitting. In time, productivity greatly declined, my energy greatly declined, my mood greatly declined. It eventually affected my health in a huge way and I had to face the reality of what I had done to myself. Get out! For me, I got a personal trainer because if I am paying someone and if I have an appointment, I’m going to never miss that appointment. My energy and productivity are back! Seriously, make an effort to get exercise every single day. Everyone in your life will benefit, and well, you get to enjoy it most by being healthy.
3) Have A Dedicated Work Space
Yes, that work space can be the kitchen bar or dining room table, but where are you going to eat? Find a space that you can dedicate solely to work. It doesn’t have to be an entire room or even a dedicated office. For me, my desk is a built in fixture in my “man cave.” The only thing I use my desk for is work, so it doesn’t get cluttered with everything else. It’s vital to have a work zone. That way when family sees you are there they know that you are working and not to be disturbed. We work from home for a variety of reasons, but having discipline and boundaries are a must for success.
4) Leave Me Alone!!
Ok, so no, you do not want to scream “leave me alone!” all day long to your family or to your friends. One of the things you’ll quickly feel is that because you work from home, your friends and family will automatically think you do not have a “real job” and can talk on the phone all day long or can get you to go run errands for them. If you own a truck, you’ll be asked to help people move during the week. So communicate with your family and friends and remind them that you do have a real job and have to be productive in order to succeed. Communication is key in this aspect. Set boundaries and ask friends and family to respect your hours.
5) Make A Daily To-Do List
If you do not own your time, it will own you. If you do not tell your time what to do, it will control you. Having a to-do list will help ensure you knock out the details that have to be done and help you realize how much more productive you can be by working from home. I always felt like I could get as much done in four hours working from home as I did in eight hours working at the office. That gives me four extra hours to truly make a huge impact! Set priorities, execute and watch that list shrink every single day.
6) Reduce Web Clutter
This is going to vary depending on the type of job that you do. For me, social media is an important facet to my job, so I have to spend some time engaging others and interacting with others online. It’s networking. However, that can quickly turn into entertainment and I can become a zombie and quickly zone out and the next thing you know I’ve watched the to 10 funniest videos on YouTube, the past season of Modern Family and looked at a friends’ old college albums. Be very intentional to not get caught up in the great black hole that is the World Wide Web. Pinterest. Facebook. LinkedIn. Blogs. While these are all great and powerful tools, they can leave you spending hours after hours of unproductive time. Organize your online time like you would organize any other part of your life.
7) Respond to Phone Calls & Emails In Batches
Again, this is going to vary depending on your roles and responsibilities, but emails can suck you in and be unproductive. For others, they may be the lifeblood of your company. By dedicating batches of time to responding to emails and telephone calls, you allow yourself the freedom to work on other projects without the interruptions. There was a point in my career where I was just sitting at my computer constantly checking my email – while avoiding the money making tasks I needed to be doing. You have to be aware of how you work best and what can become a time zapper. I now like to respond to emails in waves so I can best utilize my time for more important or more time sensitive issues.
What are some of your best work-from-home tips? I’d love to hear them!