It’s time to consider making your ‘home’ work productive and professional. You have given working from home a lot of thought. You have done your research, dipped your toe in the water. Now you are more than ready to make that transition. But what do you do next?
Here are a few things you need to do to help make working from home a productive career.
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In spite of how appealing working in your pajamas may seem, it can also be detrimental. Although you won’t need a power suit, you still need to shower and get dressed. This offers a psychological feeling of professionalism. And sorry. But unless your heating system went out and it is 20 degrees outside, sweats are not considered professional attire.
Set Up Your Office
Setting up an ‘official’ office or office space is also another psychological trick to feeling more professional. It sets the stage for ‘leaving home’ and a entering a ‘work atmosphere’. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a separate location from the rest of the home.
If at all possible, you need to locate your office in a room with a door. This way, you can close it, which signifies you are working. If you do not have an extra room, choose a corner of the living room or a place at the dining room table. My office space is in the corner of a rarely used guest bedroom.
Make sure you have some type of desk and/or work space. With a laptop, you may feel that just placing it in your lap and sitting on the couch will suffice. But in time, this affects your posture, which will also affect your physical and mental health. It also doesn’t present your psyche with a sense of professionalism.
Be sure to have the standard supplies on hand. Remember that you no longer will have access to the supply closet at work, so keep plenty of pens, pencils, computer paper and paperclips nearby. Also consider purchasing extra ink cartridges. There is nothing worse than printing out a proposal, and running out of ink half way through the project.
Step away from that area or leave the room for breaks and lunch. When your work day is over, close the door, or turn off the computer and put papers and office equipment away. This may mean using a portable bin or a filing cabinet, if your office is on the dining room table.
Make a Schedule and Stick to It
Once your office is set up, sit down and determine what your office hours will be. Your start time doesn’t have to be fifteen minutes after you have gotten out of bed. Take your morning routine into account. Take a shower and get dressed. Fix coffee. Make lunches and take the children to school. But once those things are accomplished, make it a point to go to work.
Choose a convenient time for lunch. Eat healthy. Schedule an exercise class. Get a few household chores done, or just sit and read or knit. But definitely move away from your office area. This can help you clear your mind, and be more productive in the long run.
If you are a blogger like me, your hours can be a bit more flexible. But I still have to maintain a schedule. If the work doesn’t get done today, I end up putting in a lot of early morning and late night hours the rest of the week. I still struggle some days getting dinner on the table at a reasonable time some days. But I account for that by having plenty of meals ready to go in the freezer.
Other positions, such as medical billing, bookkeeping and appointment scheduler may be positions you can do in ‘time blocks’. But if you are good at your job, your inbox will be overflowing, and those time blocks will start to get bigger and bigger. A strong schedule will help you to be productive within your schedule.
Maintain That Schedule
To be productive, you need to maintain your schedule. If you work for an outside company, more than likely your hours will be set. In most cases, it will be 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, with a morning and afternoon break, plus a lunch hour. These breaks are approved ahead of time. At this point, you can reroute calls, step away from your desk, and do what needs to be done.
If you work for yourself, you need to still treat your business professionally. Consider ahead of time the hours you will work, and stick to them, with only rare exceptions. And learn to be flexible. You do not have to put in 12 hour days. Learn to be productive within the time you have.
Setting a Productive Schedule
My profession is three-fold. I am a writer, a blogger and a homesteader. This means I have to create a daily schedule that can accommodate all three, and still be productive. My day usually looks something like this:
October to March
6:00 am Shower, get dressed
6:15 am Cleaning Walk Thru
6:45 am Respond to emails and Social Media
7:00 am Feed & water animals
7:30 am Devotional
8:00 am Blogging: writing & scheduling posts, SM sharing, creating images, etc.
10:00 am Housework, laundry, etc.
11:00 am Personal time (lunch with friends, errands, etc.)
1:00 pm Writing: book, newspaper columns, etc.
3:00 pm Break
5:00 pm Dinner
6:00 pm Personal Time
9:00 pm Devotion/bed time
Learn to be Flexible
I am sure you noticed – that schedule applies to only half the year. From April through September, my schedule shifts for the seasons. My mornings are consumed with homesteading work that cannot be done in the winter months. When it is warm, I have hay to cut, gardens to tend, animals that need yearly worming, vaccines, and other attention.
Nine months out of the year, whether spring, summer, winter or fall, I have to add milking to my daily chores. Once the milking is done, I have to care for the milk. And at some point, I still have to process all that milk.
The most difficult time to juggle and stay productive is from the day the garden is ready to pick until the day I cover the garden with mulch for the winter. Unfortunately, I have yet to learn how to train my vegetables to only ripen on a certain day, at a certain time. Instead, I am at their mercy. And when vegetables are ready, they have to be picked, washed, prepped and preserved.
Having a homestead, even if it is just a few chickens and a garden that feeds your family throughout the year, is a serious consideration when choosing a stay-at-home position. This is also true if you are a homemaker and taking care of a family. You need to keep a firm, but flexible schedule to keep everything running smoothly.
You may need to take time at the end of the day on Friday to work up a schedule for the next week. This way you can easily add in the ‘extras’, such as a school program, lunch with your Mom, taking time to visit a sick neighbor or getting involved in Community activities.
You also need to schedule time for exercising, at least to some degree. One of the biggest issues of working from home is becoming sedentary. It is necessary, for both your physical and mental health as well as productivity that you get some form of exercise during the day.
Schedule a 10 to 15 minute morning and afternoon break. Get away from work and move. Take a walk down the block, or do a few exercises in the living room.
It is an easier proposition to eat healthy when working from home. Instead of grabbing a snack from a vending machine, keep fresh fruit, yogurt or granola on hand. Rather than leaving the office and grabbing a burger, you can toss a salad or eat a sandwich.
Eating healthy isn’t just economical. It also helps with productivity. Greasy fast food, processed vending machine snacks and sugar-laden candy bars may give you a quick high, but will only make you tired and less focused in the long run.
Take a Day Off
As with most jobs, working at home can quickly and easily produce burnout. Before I learned to create a schedule and stick with it, I have teetered on the brink of it. And it can be a very dangerous precipice.
Because of that experience, I learned to make Sundays a day of worship and rest. Our minds and bodies need this down time so we can be productive during the week.
Other than the Mastermind meeting, I also take Saturdays to complete outside chores, run errands, or just generally spend time with the Country Boy.
Occasionally, I schedule a day mid-week to go to lunch with a friend, run errands, or just do something fun. Getting my mind off of work and onto something more pleasant helps to clear my mind and increase my productivity the rest of the time.
How to Balance Productivity with Well-Intentioned Interruptions
One of the first things you are going to encounter when working from home is the ‘expectations’ others have. Just because you are ‘at home’, doesn’t mean you have all the free time in the world to visit, shop with friends or have lunch with Mom. Your location may be an office in your house, but you should still consider yourself at work – which you are.
Training others to respect that can be like walking a tightrope. At best, they will understand quickly, and respect your work. On the other, it will be a wobbly and treacherous fight to the landing on the other side. Keep in mind, they wouldn’t call you to chat if you worked outside the home. They should offer you the same respect when you work from home.
Be up front with your friends and family. Let them know the times you will be working, and the times you can take a break. During working hours, do not answer the phone to anything non-work related. If for some reason you do, be polite, but ask the friend or family member if you can get back to them after work. This may need to be done continuously for a while, until they fully understand you are serious.
There are some Exceptions
If you are a parent and the school calls about a sick child, you have no choice but to go get them. If you get an emergency call, you deal with it. This is no different than working outside the home. And, if you are like me, you do get the occasional call that your cows are ‘visiting’ the neighbors again. That is when I am doubly grateful I can work from home.
Just be judicious about which calls to consider important enough to get you out of your office. Trust me, there are days when a lunch invitation from Alona can get me up and away from my computer in a flash. But I make sure I don’t make a frequent habit of it, even though I would prefer having fun to being stuck behind a computer.
Now your office is set up, your schedule has been created and you know how to deal with interruptions.
Stay tuned for the next Post: Choosing the Best Home Business for You!
Did you miss the first in the series? Check it out here!