Most people dream of being able to work from home. What is not to like about the idea of foregoing a work wardrobe and avoiding those heavy traffic commutes? Right off the top you are saving a couple hours of your time, so that should enable you to be far more productive, right? Not necessarily, because there are a number of challenges you will have to overcome that will eat away those couple of hours and more if you don’t take steps to avoid them.
First of all, it is really easy to fall into the trap of sleeping in and ending the day early when you do not have the accountability of a time clock and an employer breathing down your neck. It is also easy to think of countless reasons to take a break throughout the day. The way to overcome this is to recognize that your day should be on a schedule the same as if you were at the office. That doesn’t mean your schedule can’t be flexible, but you’ll benefit if you set up a schedule and adhere to it as much as possible.
For some people, the opposite problem happens – the work day begins to grow longer and longer. Setting a schedule will help you keep balance in your life so you don’t burn out and come to regret working from home.
Keep in mind that your work day most likely doesn’t have to be 9 to 5. Figure out your most productive time of the day and adjust accordingly. If you must also connect during the day with others, you might start or end your day outside of typical business hours so that you have a certain amount of time you won’t be distracted.
Your surroundings can have a huge impact on your productivity. Just as you are expected to keep an organized work space at an office, you should do the same at home. Even though nobody else sees it, you certainly do and studies show that a cluttered space makes it more difficult to focus and conduct work. Peace and quiet are also advantageous, so taking steps to eliminate or at least reduce aggravations can go far to making your time more productive.
It might be tempting to plop down on the couch with your laptop with the television on, but that is a big mistake if you want to function at your best. Also, while it is tempting to work in your pajamas, if you do not feel like you and your family are taking your work seriously, you may want to dress as though you are going to the office. Once you and your family are on board, you may be able to relax your wardrobe later on though.
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is controlling distractions from family and friends. It can be very difficult to get them to understand that you are just as unavailable as you would be if you were at the office. While they wouldn’t call you numerous times a day if you were at a job location, suddenly they think it is perfectly fine to do so when you are at home. The key to keeping this from happening is to set boundaries right at the beginning.
Have a dedicated work space, preferably with a door and a do-not-disturb door hanger, and make everyone privy to your work hours, whatever they may be. The more people you have that would disrupt you, the more likely you will benefit by a more structured schedule verses a flexible one. For example, you may like to do 9-5 on Monday and 6-2 on Tuesday, or some other changing schedule, but that is hard for others to relate to.
Another thing to overcome when working at home is that you may no longer have someone driving you on with goals and tasks. While you still have the goal to make an income, unless you set out specific plans you could wander aimlessly and not be as productive as you could be. As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It is far better to take the time to set up daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and long term goals so that it is easier to set up tasks to achieve them.
This step is much like formulating a business plan. Don’t just think about them, write them down. Put them where you can see them as reminders and also as a gauge so you can see whether or not you are on the right track. A bulletin board is an excellent way to accomplish this task. One method is to write separate tasks or goals on notes affixed to a cork board. Remove each as you complete them and move to a completed section so you can see what you have left and all you have already accomplished.
When it comes to planning, don’t forget to set up rewards as well. It makes it a lot easier to stay on task if you have something to look forward to. Make sure the reward fits the accomplishment however. It should encourage you to push past your comfort zone by just a bit, but not be so difficult that it discourages you. While you are at it, this is a great way to engage your family too. If they know that if they leave you alone during the week that they get some special family time on the weekend, you’ll not only meet your goal but you’ll be training them to respect your work day time as well.
Some distractions are pretty common to most everyone that is working from home, but others are quite individual. The important thing is to recognize what your distractions are and come up with a way to overcome them. For example, if you continually log into Facebook “for a few minutes” that turns into far longer, consider getting an application on your computer that locks out your ability to go onto that site (or any other that tempts you) for certain hours of the day. You could also set up your time on Facebook as a reward, such as allowing yourself 30 minutes after every 4 hours of work – and be sure to use a timer!
The long and short of it is that it takes a certain amount of self-discipline in order to successfully work from home. You must make yourself accountable to yourself since you likely have nobody else to answer to, except perhaps clients. For others to take you seriously and respect your profession and your work time, you must take it seriously first.
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