For those of you who didn't know, I've recently started working from home as a freelance social media consultant and all round blogging whiz. The move has been tough and there is a lot of hard work to be done. One of the hardest parts about this all has been settling into the right routine when it comes to working at home. As I was having such a struggle with this, I thought there must be so many of you that have similar issues! So I asked the lovely Lise Cartwright from Outsourced Freelancing Success to write a post with a bunch of tips for us all.
As a self-confessed entrepreneur, you’re likely someone who’s working from home, having kicked off your corporate heels in favour of comfy shoes, practical clothing and coffee breaks as often as you like throughout your work day.
To be effective as a blog and biz owner, you know you’ve got to have a plan… so you’re always mapping out your days and you (generally) know exactly what you’re meant to be doing and when — only it NEVER seems to pan out the way you scheduled it!
For some reason, you’re well-thought-out plans just never seem to gel and instead of staying productive, you’re juggling housework, personal errands and the occasional friend emergency. Your business is suffering and you can’t for the life of you figure out what’s not working.
Never fear, I’m here to shed a little light on this, because having worked from home for over 4 years now, I’ve learned what the time-sucks are, what strategies to put in place to avoid wasting time and how to say no when you really want to say yes.
1) Plan ahead
I know this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t actually do this.
What I want you to do is grab a wall calendar and map out (roughly) what the next 3 months are going to look like in your business or blog.
This allows you to do two things:
- Take some time to think about what you’re doing and be intentional about your business/blog goals and tasks
- See where there might be some clashes, where you’ve got personal stuff happening and where you know you need to take time off
Make sure you’ve got public holidays mapped out - if you’ve got kids, check when they are off school too. Include social events you’ve already committed to and, if you have a partner, you might want to check-in with them about anything that may have slipped through the cracks.
By having these 3-months mapped out, you can quickly plan for any issues arising and be on top of things rather than chasing your tail.
2) Designate an office space
When I first got started as a freelance writer, I didn’t have a spare room to utilize as an office space. Instead, I’d write from the couch, from bed and hit the library when I was getting cabin fever.
As time went by, this just wasn’t working for me at all. It was hard to stay motivated working from bed, and heading to the library became a chore; having to lug computer cables and notebooks can get heavy!
When I sat down and thought about it (it was just my fiancé, now hubby, and I), we never used the kitchen table to actually eat meals at. It was only used as storage for all our ‘stuff’ or for when we had dinner parties.
So I took a section of the kitchen table and turned it into my dedicated office space.
The moment I did that, it made an instant shift in my mindset. I now had a dedicated “office” and a space where I could leave all my work stuff. This meant that I could get started straight away, rather than have to pull my laptop out, fish out my notebooks from my bag and plug in all the cables… mind-numbing and demotivating at the best of times!
If you don’t have this yet at home, make it a priority, so that your mind can click into work-mode faster. It also provides a clear separation between work and home, which you need when you’re spending all your time there.
If you need some home office inspiration, Zoe has a great post about this here.
3) Schedule in downtime
I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but I’ve found that if I don’t actually schedule downtime into my work-day, then it just doesn’t happen.
When you’re first setting up a business, it can take up a lot of hours, and when you’re doing what you love, work can become addictive. And while you might be doing what you love, if you don’t get a bit of downtime away from your work, it will quickly consume you and turn into something you don’t love... in the form of unhappy kids, spouses and friends, not to mention unhappy clients because your work is not as good as it normally would be if you were happy.
Schedule at least an hour for yourself each day, unplug and relax. You’ll feel a lot better and your friends and family will also get to experience the happy you rather than the stressed, exhausted you.
4) Utilize the right tools
There are so many tools available to you that will allow you to manage your time more effectively, that you really have no excuse for getting shit done!
I personally use a combination of tools to ensure that I’m getting the most out of my working-from-home-hours, so maybe one of these will click for you:
Here’s how I make the most of these tools:
- Todoist is my day-to-day to-do list. I create projects that match what I’ve got happening in Freedcamp and then schedule related tasks to them throughout the week. Everything is color-coded (LOVE!) and I can quickly see, at a glance, where I’m spending my time. I can also do a quick check against my 3-month calendar on the wall to see if there are any potential conflicts I’ve missed.
- I use Freedcamp to manage all my client projects and personal projects. It allows me to set up task-based lists with deadlines and assign them to others if needed. I can upload files that relate to the task and I can see everything in a calendar view if I want. Trello is very similar, it just comes down to personal preference.
- The Sunrise Calendar app brings it all together. You can connect a number of these apps to your Sunrise Calendar and get a quick overview of EVERYTHING that’s going on, including connecting your Google Calendar with all your personal stuff.
- I use The Self Journal to write down my goals, to account for every of my day so that I’m not wasting time (this doesn’t mean I’m working all the time, it just means I’m keeping track of what I’m doing and when) and keeps me focused because it allows me to be creative as well, drawing and writing snippets of information when I need to.
Honestly, I would be lost without these tools.
Figure out what tools work best for you, but use SOMETHING! Failing to plan is planning to fail.
5) Create a chore roster
I don’t know about you, but the minute I started working from home, was the minute that all the household stuff (washing, folding, cleaning etc) kept slapping me in the face, demanding my attention!
This really depends on your household setup, but figure out a roster. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you have any more time than you did when you were working a full-time job, right?!
I had a frank chat with my hubby (we don’t have kids just yet) and told him that I was not responsible for the sole upkeep of our home. He agreed and we came to a happy compromise… he does the washing, I fold it and put it away and I take care of the vacuuming. He looks after the rubbish and dishwasher and the rest we just figure out when we feel like it.
This works for us really well and ensures that neither of us feels like we’re the sole cleaner of our home.
Figure this out early on, otherwise it WILL lead to some heated arguments, which doesn’t make for a very productive home working environment.
6) Get out and about often
As much as I love working from home, if you really want to remain effective, you’ll schedule in some away time too.
Staying at home 24/7 can lead to a very dull life, which is why it’s important that you get out of the house at least once during the day, otherwise you’ll go stir-crazy from looking at the same four walls, day in, day out.
Schedule a coffee chat with a friend, take lunch with another or hit the park for some exercise.
Getting outside more often will also boost your creativity, so make sure you have a notebook or smartphone with you at all times so you can jot ideas down as they come to you.
7) Take regular breaks
If you’re sitting at your desk for long periods of time, you could be increasing the risks of some pretty major health concerns… This is why I utilize an app called Focus@Will, it’s a timer-based app that plays music. I set the timer for 60 minute intervals and when I hear the ‘ding’, I know it’s time to take a five minute break.
When I’m working, I generally block out 3-hour chunks of time and within those three hours, I’ll take two five minute breaks and after the 3-hour block, I’ll take an hour out to get up and move. I’ll typically do my exercise during this time, or schedule my personal errands.
If you don’t take regular breaks or switch from a seated to standing position often, you could start to feel pretty crap by the end of the day, and long-term, it could lead to health issues, such as heart disease. This is why it’s so important to take regular, consistent breaks. Your body will thank you for it.
If you follow these tips, you’ll have no problem working effectively from home. In fact, implement just one or two and you’ll notice a huge difference by the end of the week!
How do you keep productive when working from home? Let me know in the comments below!