For just over 2 years now, I’ve worked from home full-time. And this is the dream, right? To be your own boss, managing your own time and schedule, and to no longer have to sit in traffic on your daily commute.
But with the freedom of a flexible schedule, so comes the challenge of staying productive and focussed without rigid structure, or a boss or team member to be accountable to.
That’s right, it’s all up to you now, baby.
So here’s my guide to keeping the productivity levels high when you’re working from home.
Be Prepared for the change
Prior to leaving my previous job, I had fantasised about what working from home would look like – sitting in our front sunroom, looking out to the ocean whilst tapping on my keyboard. Though all of this is now a reality, I hadn’t quite prepared for how different things would be when working alone. All. Day. Long.
Though I’ve now learnt to love my quiet, solo days, it was initially a huge transition from working in an agency with over 20 coworkers – having others to bounce ideas off and office buddies to chat with whilst making a cuppa in the kitchen.
Now, if I ever feel like I’m suffering from cabin fever, I will:
- take 10 minutes to stretch or dance around my office
- work from a café
- call a friend and go for a walk
- schedule a co-working day with a buddy who also works from home
- attend a professional networking event or workshop to connect with fellow creatives
- organise regular catchups with my inspiring network of female creatives (with rosé).
It’s these little things that help to ward off the cray. Trust me.
Planning Your Week
Some girlfriends in my community love their colour-coded digital calendars. I, however, love Asana.
On Friday afternoons I plan the following week and write a list for Monday morning.
I break each day into:
- must-do’s: client work, deadlines, admin, invoicing, phone calls and meetings.
- self-care essentials: exercise, yoga, coffee dates and any other activities that keep me feeling balanced.
- the “big picture” stuff: I’ve set a handful of large goals to achieve over the year, and have broken each into small, achievable steps. I always set time in my schedule to work on these, to keep me on track and heading in the right direction.
Though schedules do change, it’s important to approach each week with direction and intention for a happier, balanced, goal-kicking outcome.
Create your perfect routine (and stick to it)
One of the great things about working from home is having the flexibility and freedom to manage your own schedule, working the hours that suit you and your lifestyle.
I’m an early bird by nature, and prefer to kickstart my day before sunrise. A typical day for me looks something like this:
5:15 AM: I roll out of bed dreary-eyed (wondering why I do this to myself), pull on my yoga pants in the darkness and head to a pilates/yoga/cycle class.
7 AM: High on post-exercise smugness and endorphins and ready to take on the world, I head home to make my husband and I smoothies for breakfast and to shower. It’s worth noting here that I usually ‘dress for work’. By no means am I pulling on a pencil skirt and a blouse, however I avoid wearing sweats or PJs as I find these make me feel sluggish.
8:30 AM: After a quick review of my weekly planner, I turn on my computer, open my inbox and look for anything important that needs to be dealt with or responded to immediately. If the day is looking clear, I close my inbox (no more nasty distractions) and start working through the day’s list. As a priority, I work on any creative projects or my “big picture” tasks first whilst I’m feeling fresh.
I also love this Spotify playlist called Good Morning Focus.
11:00 AM: Before I break for lunch, I re-open my inbox, responding to anything urgent and flagging emails that need to be replied to by the end of the day.
12 PM and beyond: after lunch my day continues in a similar fashion, continuing with any creative work if my brain lets me, or shifting to admin work if not.
Before closing my laptop for the day, I reply to my the emails I flagged earlier and make any adjustments to my calendar for the remainder of the week.
By no means do I stick to this schedule with military precision, but it gives you an idea of how my day typically flows. And because working from home can bring so much joy, I embrace the freedom it gives, meaning:
- if it’s a hot day, I’ll often have a quick dive into the ocean at lunchtime
- if I’m feeling frustrated, distracted or uninspired I’ll go for a walk, grab a coffee and clear my head
- if I’m in a funk, I’ve got PMS or things aren’t working out for me, I give myself permission to take a morning/afternoon/whole day off, and will reset the next day.
Learn to fight the distractions
Yes, they can really mess with your productivity levels when you’re sitting at home in front of your computer.
If you find yourself checking Facebook, constantly standing in front of the fridge (#guilty) or diverting your attention to the latest Anthropologie sale (ok, #guiltyagain) then it’s time to look at how to add some structure to your day.
I’ve tried a number of working styles over the years, and the one that works best for me is working in ‘sprints’. If I’m feeling incredibly inspired and I just can’t stop creating, I don’t use this method. However, on those days when I need some structure to get me on track, this is a great technique.
To work in a sprint:
- Sit down at your desk with a task in mind, whether it be writing a blog post, recording a masterclass or writing a course module.
- Set your alarm for your first ‘sprint’ – I usually work in 40-minute slots, though you may want to work in 30 minutes blocks. Find what works best for you.
- Eliminate any distractions (such as your phone or email), start your clock and get working. Work solidly during this ‘sprint’ until your alarm goes off.
- Now it’s time to reset – get up from your desk, make a cup of tea… whatever you need to do for the next 5 minutes before you start the next round.
- Now it’s time to rinse and repeat – keep working in this mode until your task is complete.
Some more tips to keep you focused:
- I close my inbox when I’m in creation mode, whether it be writing, designing or strategising.
- During my ‘sprints’ my phone is turned to do-not-disturb mode.
- I have completely disabled any notification pop-ups on my laptop (most importantly, Facebook).
Do you work from home? If so, what techniques have helped you? Myself and this wonderful community would love to hear from you!