Working from home is both a dream and a nightmare. On the one hand is the desirability of working in your pajamas with a 20 second commute. But on the flip side is the reality of constant interruptions, limited space, and distractions. If you are struggling to be productive from a home office, try the following:
HAVE A SET WORKSPACE
Designate a space that will be used for work. Make it look professional, or in some way different, from your regular space. The subtle cue to the eye of a hanging work schedule, client binders or action files can put you in the mindset to work. Make sure to have all the supplies you need to work in this space to minimize the chance you will need to get up, walk away, and potentially get distracted from the task at hand.
KEEP WORK & OFFICE FILES SEPARATE
If possible, have one file drawer for work and one for home. If you are space constrained, consider using a rolling file box or file ottoman just for business. This goes for supplies as well. To properly track expenses, keep your office supplies (paper, notepads, pens, etc.) separate from the stock that is used for home purposes.
SET WORK HOURS
While this may seem difficult, it is very important to have a schedule for when you are “working.” Setting – and then clearly communicating – “work” hours provides predictability for you and for your friends and family. If friends know you are working from 9-11am every morning, they will be less likely to call home and interrupt you. If you can predict your schedule, you will have an easier time balancing work & home tasks (e.g.” I’m always working Monday, Wednesdays ad Fridays, so I will only schedule household maintenance on Tuesday and Thursdays.”) Finally, avoid tackling housework or personal chores during work hours. Keep work time sacred, as if you are in an office far away from home.
GIVE FAMILY MEMBERS VISIBLE SIGNALS
Whether you close the door, hang a sign, or put on a hat, find a way to remind family members of all ages that you are working… and hence, should not be interrupted. This is difficult with little ones, but they too can be taught to look first. If you are watching your children and working at the same time, be sure to take frequent breaks so you can reward children who are trying to hold off and not interrupt you.
HAVE A CLEAR AGENDA
One of the problems of working from home is that you never “leave.” Work has a tendency to stare at you, beckoning for attention. Be sure each day to have a clear list of what you need to accomplish, and when you have either completed the list, or reached a stopping point, walk away. Be sure to clean up at the end of the day to avoid the risk of little hands/dogs/unsuspecting family members misplacing or damaging an important item.
Combining work and childcare can be challenging. Consider hiring childcare, even if it is only for a few of your working hours. Do your easier work when little ones are underfoot, and save the conference calls for a time when someone else is in charge.
The overarching theme here is to create an artificial separation where it really doesn’t exist. By segregating your space, supplies, attention and time, you can make working from home an efficient and affordable alternative.
What is your best tip for working from home?