Working from home is totally different for me now that the kids are in school, when they were home I worked at night and during nap time which wasn’t very efficient and went against my golden hours (more about that below). But you know what, with focus and organization it totally worked. I actually really enjoy working at home and actually find I’m about 90% (really technical with that evaluation) more productive and focused (depending on the task) then I am in an office or a coffee shop – I know this is not the same for everyone and I’m probably a little strange (I’m okay with that). Kids or no kids (strange love for working at home or not), there are a few things I do to keep myself focused and on track while working at home.
GET RID OF DISTRACTION. Play music to drown out all of those distracting noises (and, not talking about children here). I’m talking outside traffic, construction, neighbors, maybe relaxing chirping birds? Drowning out those outside noises with music can do wonders for wandering mind. If the kids are home, some quiet music can be helpful to focus – but quiet enough that you can still hear them. Stay away from social media – physically move your phone. I like to use my phone for playing music so it’s occupied and then I’m not grabbing it to check social media. But moving it to another area totally, is even better – out of sight out of mind. As important as social media can be for work, it’s crazy distracting – save checking and updating it for lunch time (heck even, schedule times in your day to check and update your accounts) or at least after your golden hours (more on those soon).
MUSIC WITHOUT LYRICS. Listening to music helps drown out distraction, and it can help get you in the zone. Shoot for music that is mostly instrumental, try to avoid music that will have you singing along. As awesome as it is to work to music you love and want to sing too, it’s also a tad distracting. I like using Songza for my work hours, because there is a playlist for everything/every mood.
FIND YOUR GOLDEN HOURS. Think of it as your golden years but in terms of hours in the day. Your golden hours are the time when you are the most focused and productive. Maybe you’re a morning person, like myself. Or maybe the evenings are when you can get in the groove. Either way, find those hours where you are at your peak and focus on work only during that time. Leave all other tasks for the rest of the hours in the day.
SET A DAY FOR BORING TASKS. Who likes cleaning up and emptying their inbox? Not me. What about all those admin tasks you always push to the side, that end up piling up and totally overwhelming you later on? Choose a day, once a week that is dedicated just to those less exciting (boooooring) tasks. Call it admin Monday or Friday, this is also good because it gives your brain a bit of a break and you will probably feel extra pumped for the next day (which will consist of no boring tasks).
STAY PUMPED. Eat, don’t forget to eat – I say that because I do all the time, I get in the zone and totally lose myself. Start your day like you would at an office, take breaks and enjoy the fact that you work at home – because it’s awesome. Make time for the gym, a workout or yoga, even schedule it in and make it a priority. Do what you (it’ll probably be different for you) need to do stay pumped and happy in your day (setting a day for boring tasks is mighty helpful).
PLAN YOUR WEEK. On Sunday nights, make a rough list of the things you know you’ll need to do and get done for the up coming week. Then using your preferred phone calendar (I like the Sunrise calendar app), block time off (set appointments) for specific tasks, errands, meetings, etc. It’s easier to plan your week when you have it both visually laid out and even have set alarms, no over planning and over booking.
DAILY TO DO’S. Break down that rough list of to do’s you made on Sunday night and create one for the day. I like to make a list for the next day at the end of the current working day (sounds sorta like a puzzle). I create a LIFE TO DO list, things I need to do around the house and things I need to get done for the family. And a WORK TO DO list for the day. This is just for the day though, so be realistic and don’t over do it on the long (large task) list making.
CLEAN UP. Working at home means there are tons of distractions around, having a messy or untidy home is the top of my distractions list. I personally have a tough time focusing when things are in disarray. I like to try to tidy a bit before I leave to take the kids to school, then when I get back home, I run around and do a quick 15 min tidy – no longer or it will creep into my golden hours. Then I can sit and work, without the messy distraction (hopefully).
STAY ORGANIZED. Key for working at home, organization. Keeping both your work area organized and your thoughts (if that even makes sense). Organization really is the key to staying focused and on track. I think a few of the points above really play into keeping your thoughts organized: Keep and update your (realistic) to do list (weekly and daily lists), set a day for those boring tasks. And if you clean up even a quick 15 min tidy to start your day, your work area should stay organized. Keep a note pad with you (when you go out or stay in), with your to do lists so you can add, mark off and write new things down as they come.
SLEEP WELL. No matter where you work, it’s next to impossible to stay focused and keep productivity up when you are tired. So instead of focusing on keeping your eyes open, give yourself a bedtime and try to stick to it. And if you are like me and have trouble sleeping, read my Diary of a Non-Sleeper maybe there is something in there to help you get enough zzz’s.
Since the holidays are knocking at our door, this HOW TO KEEP SUMMER AWESOME (AND PRODUCTIVE) post is pretty handy to keep work going while you are having fun when the kids are home – just minus the summer and add in winter, but tips still work.