As the old saying goes, “a man’s home is his castle” but what if the castle is about to house a place for work?
Working from home is a great opportunity to build a career that affords you work-life balance. However, if you’re not careful, the balance could be tipped in favor of work and disrupt home life.
Here are 10 tips that will allow you to productively work from home without turning the roof under your head into your old brick-and-mortar office.
1. Don’t Work From Your Bed
Just because you are working from home does not mean you can work anywhere. There are areas in your home that can and will inhibit productivity. One of them is the bedroom. This isn’t just an opinion; the reason is supported by research.
The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University believes that working from the bed will weaken the mental association between sleep and your bedroom.
According to a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, working with computers before bedtime will reduce the amount of melatonin that you produce. Melatonin is a hormone that influences your Circadian or sleep/wake cycle.
The bedroom is for sleep and relaxation. To ensure a good night’s sleep, keep computers and other devices off the bedroom’s premises.
2. Stay On A Consistent Schedule
One of the perks of working from home is that you get to set your work schedule. You don’t have to follow a 9-to-5 or a 6 – 8-hour work schedule because you have the benefit of having flexible hours.
Plan your schedule one week ahead. If you have family obligations – your daughter’s piano recital, your son’s soccer game, picking up a relative from the airport – mark them on the calendar. Then, plan your work schedule around them.
Another option is to find the hours of the day where you are most productive. Oftentimes, these are the hours after you have taken care of the day’s other activities such as taking the kids to school or attending to banking duties.
The most important thing is to stay on a consistent schedule whether it is 9-to-5, 6 am to 12 pm or 1 pm to 7 pm.
By doing so, you are dedicating time to get actual work done. You will be more focused and committed to accomplishing the day’s tasks.
3. A Home Is Still A Home – Dedicate A Space For Work
The bedroom is not the only area in the house that you shouldn’t work from.
Here are a few more areas that you should not set up office:
- Living Room – You might get tempted to lounge around your comfortable sofa or watch the latest Netflix movie.
- Kitchen – The refrigerator, oven, microwave, and cupboards are just a step away. Not only will you lose productive hours but you will gain excess weight.
- The Family or Recreation Room – Ping-pong table? Dartboard? Billiards table? Pinball machine? Video games? These are great activities to do with the family but 100% detrimental to work.
If you are committed to building a work from home business, then dedicate a space for work.
- Buy high-quality furniture
- Buy a computer that is set up only for work.
- Give it the look and feel of an office – wall clock, filing cabinet, and whiteboard. More on the whiteboard later!
Keep the home office off-limits to everyone during work hours.
4. Use A Task Management Software
To be more productive, embrace technology. Integrate a few digital tools into the workflow to help organize tasks and stay on top of deadlines.
You can find many wonderful software programs on the Internet that are very effective and come with a free version. At Mountaintop, Asana is our preferred task management software.
Asana is easy to use and has features that make it the ideal tool for collaborating with remote teams. Every time a project is posted or completed, an email notification is sent to designated team members.
5. Install A Whiteboard In The Office
The whiteboard is an old school office fixture that is simple, basic, and yet, continues to significantly contribute to productivity in this day and age of apps and smart technology.
Research has proven that writing with pen on paper improves cognition and helps establish a stronger connection between you and the task compared to typing on a keypad. The same can be said when writing on a whiteboard.
Before ending the workday, write your goals for the following day on the whiteboard. There will be no guesswork. When the alarm goes off and after you’ve had your first cup of coffee, you know exactly what you’re going to do.
Upon entering the home office, the whiteboard will be the first thing you’ll see. It will seem that your built-in laser sight has been triggered and you can’t wait to zero in and complete your targeted goal.
6. Remove All Forms Of Distraction
Once you’ve set up your home office with the right furniture, a spacious workstation, and the latest computer, there is still one thing left to do.
Remove all forms of distraction which include your mobile phone, video game portable console, social media, and other websites that have no relevance to your work.
Unless there is a scheduled audio-visual call, we suggest closing Skype. Oftentimes, your contacts will send you messages. Most of these messages could just be personal in nature.
The constant blinking that notifies you of these messages can be a source of distraction.
As we suggested earlier, the home office should be a no-entry zone during work hours. Unless it is an emergency, ask your family and friends to refrain from knocking on the door.
7. Update Your Tasks As Needed
Even if you’ve written down the day’s goals the night before, don’t hesitate to change or update your tasks as needed.
Business is unpredictable.
For example, a client may request that you prioritize a project because he has a very tight schedule. It is also possible that a client whose project you designated as “Priority Number One” will ask you to put off additional work until further notice.
Remember that one of the biggest benefits of working from home is that you don’t have a boss because you are the boss. You call the shots and that means you have full control over your work schedule.
Yes, write down your tasks/goals the night before but adapt a flexible work schedule.
8. Don’t Work In Your Pajamas
It may feel nice to get out of bed and go straight to your home office but what you wear can affect how you work.
For one, dressing in office clothes will set the tone for the day. Similar to why you should not work from your bed, dressing up creates the proper mental association – pajamas are for sleeping, office clothes are for working.
You don’t have to put on a tie or a dress suit. Wear something informal but appropriate enough for a Skype audio-visual call with a client or your remote team.
9. Exercise During Breaktime
Sitting for long periods may lead to chronic pain or discomfort on your back, shoulders, and neck. Working on the computer for long stretches can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
You need to get the blood circulation moving from time-to-time. If you spend 90 minutes working on a task, take a 30-minute break after and use the time to do some light exercise and stretching.
You don’t have to go to the gym or change into your workout clothes. Perform sets of 10 repetitions of squats, pushups, and situps. Get in a quick 10-minute yoga or Pilates session.
10. Use An Alarm Clock Or A Timer
Sometimes we get so engrossed in what we’re doing that we lose track of time. An alarm clock will be your constant reminder that “time’s up!”
Productivity is all about quality work. It’s not about the number of hours spent but how you spend those hours.
You should also remember a very important reason why you made the decision to work from home – so you can spend more time with your family.
Once the day’s work hours have been completed, shut off the home office PC then change from your office clothes to your stay-at-home clothes.
Over the next few years, expect more people to work from home. As an entrepreneur, you save up on rent, avoid the inconvenience of the daily commute, and become more productive. However, your home should still feel like home.
Think back to the time when you worked 9-to-5 in a traditional office. When work became stressful, you couldn’t wait for the clock to strike five so you can head out the door and drive to the waiting and loving arms of your home.
You wouldn’t want your home to be a place for stress. It will affect your relationships with family and defeat the purpose of working from home.
Do you have other tips that will improve productivity for those who work from home? Please share them in the comments section below.
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