For a few weeks, I've been out of the office and working from home after having surgery. This is the longest I've actually ever been working from home and let me tell you, it's a whole different ball game than actually being in an office. In the past, working from home has meant working in my pajamas (which hasn't changed) and working from the bed (also hasn't changed). This has also meant being surrounded by distractions from the TV to constantly wandering to the kitchen to graze (or stare at the contents of the fridge every half hour, expecting a fresh plate of enchiladas to magically appear in there). It has been a work in progress to learn how to work from home and actually stay on task to check things off of my to-do list. I've figured out a few tricks that help me and what I can do in the future when I can eventually freelance full-time. So whether you're a freelancer or someone who works remotely for your job, here are five tips on how to actually get shit done while working from home:
- FIGURE OUT YOUR HOURS
When are you most productive? I may be far from being a morning person, but I actually work best right after I wake up. The minute I start wandering around the house, I become less productive. If I wake up, grab my laptop, and start working, I can get things done in half the time, even if it's at 6:30am (actually, especially if it's at 6:30am). When 4 o'clock rolls around, do you start getting distracted and sluggish? Then shift your hours to wake up a little earlier and finish your day during the early part of the afternoon. Are you a night owl who can bust work out like a boss in the evening? Figure out what works for you and stick to your own version of the 9-5. (Maybe your version of the 9-5 is more like 5am-1pm or 12pm-8pm.) Just remember to keep it consistent for your body's sake and also for any clients and/or coworkers you have. That way, they know what your office hours are and when they can reach you.
- MAKE A TO-DO LIST
I. Love. Lists. It's the best way for me to get things done. I can't even function if they're digital lists. I have to be able to write them down and cross them off as I finish each task. In high school and college, getting a planner was useless for me. I would use them for a week and then never touch them again. Once I started working at an agency, I got a planner from Sugar Paper and I use the heck out of it. The calendar section works well to have a monthly editorial calendar at a glance, photo sessions and concerts I'm shooting, as well as due dates for things I need to get done for work. The notes section for each day of the week really helps me create a list of what I need to get done that day or ideas I have for things in the future. The best way to actually get things on your to-do list is to get the major things out of the way first. As Rachel Gadiel puts it, when you have a difficult or daunting task on your list, you will inevitably do anything in your power to avoid it and put it off. Prioritize your to-do list, figure out what those tasks are, and then get them out of the way at the beginning of the day or week. "Once you start, you’ll have built momentum which you can use to propel you forward so you can keep going!" TRUTH. I can definitely attest to that.
- LIMIT DISTRACTIONS
Having a TV on can be one of the most distracting things for me. If I'm editing pictures, I can dig having Food Network or Cooking Channel on in the background and be completely fine. If I need to read or write, though, I need silence. If you know having music playing or having the TV on distracts you, turn it off! That's what DVR is for, right? Use your lunch break to whip up a meal and catch up on 30 to an hour minutes of TV time to see what The Pioneer Woman is up to or catch up on the latest episode of Scandal.
Going back to #1, really do let friends and family know what your office hours are. Sometimes, people don't see working from home as "working" and think you can spare 5 minutes here and there or even an hour to chat or hang out. Sure, it's fine to pop out for lunch or a quick phone call to chat. That's healthy! Take a break! But don't make that a daily habit or else you'll start to get less and less done.
Wherever I am, my phone is always nearby. Seeing texts and notifications pop up make me want to constantly check and see what they say. One of the best features on my iPhone that I absolutely love is the "Do Not Disturb" feature. While I'm working and need a project to have my full attention, I'll set my phone to "Do Not Disturb" so that it doesn't light up, vibrate, etc. I don't even feel tempted to look at my phone unless it actually goes off, so having that feature at the ready cuts down on distractions.
- DESIGNATE A SPACE FOR WORK
When I'm working on editing pictures, writing blog posts, or anything for work, I'm usually parked on the couch or in my bed for hours. I have a goal to eventually have a designated office space at home, even if that just means having a desk area to work from like I do when I'm at work. I know this has been incredibly helpful for others, especially if they get properly dressed first, because it makes them feel like they're actually going to work. It's a mindset thing, really. Feel prepped to get shit done, and then actually git'r'done.
- MAKE THAT SPACE "YOU"
What inspires you? What gets you motivated? What do you need at the ready to get things done? Is there a quote that makes you want to conquer the world? Do you need post-it notes or a to-do list by your side? What makes you WANT to come to this space to work? What draws you in and makes you feel productive, gives you that "let's get shit done" mentality, and gets you pumped to take on the day? You have to make sure that after you create the space, it speaks to you and makes you want to go there to work. Personalize it and make it your own based on your wants and needs. I have a board on Pinterest that I keep handy for when I eventually have an office or designated space for myself so that I can take ideas from different people on how to make the space speak to me and get me motivated to tackle my to-do list.
What about you? Do you work from home? Leave a comment and let me know what works for you and helps you stay on task!