Working from home is a lot harder than people think it is. Sure it has its perks but, at the end of the day, there is a job to get done and we have to make sure it does without walking past our room and being tempted by our comfortable bed!
Since I’ve been working on S&T full-time for two years, I’ve gotten caught up in the downsides to working from home and have come up with a few ‘rules’ or ‘tips’ on how to be the most productive when working from home!
Get dressed every day.
Even though you are you’re own boss, there is something motivating about getting yourself ready for the day. Since S&T has been up and running, there have been plenty of days where I am tempted to stay in my comfortable pajamas and opt for the whole ‘I’m just going to write this blog post from bed’ mentality. Historically, I am able to get the post done but it’s how I feel afterwards that is the problem. I am in a more ‘relaxed’ mentality as opposed to the ‘let’s get stuff done’ mentality that I prefer to be in for work. I am much more productive and less stressed at the end of the days where I get myself ready for work, go in to my office and do those posts, get back to emails, file away important documents, go through mail and recent shipments, etc. at my desk.
Set your working hours.
This tip is for my fellow entrepreneurs. We have to set our own working hours for our own sanity. Our culture glamorizes the ‘girl boss’ epidemic we’re seeing rise up and, while I’m all for women being badasses, I’m also worried about what this whole ‘good things come to those who hustle’ will do to our mental state, families and relationships in the next few years. I think we should keep focusing on setting goals and going after them but I also think we need to be a little better to ourselves and the people around us in the process. To do that, I think structure is key so, set working hours. Those working hours may be more than most people who work for the man, and that’s fine, but allow yourself the time to rest and allow yourself the time to wake up in the morning without reaching for your phone to check your email or how your latest Instagram performed. Take your dogs for a walk. Make breakfast. Grab lunch with a friend. And, at a certain time in the late afternoon, stop working. Allow yourself to do OTHER THINGS. *gasp* Heaven forbid!
Know how you’re wired.
Everyone’s clock is wound just a little bit differently in terms of productivity. My productivity hours are 7:00AM-1:00PM and then again from 6:00PM-12:00AM. Unless I have a shoot planned to take Instagram photos or an appointment, I opt for a short nap in the afternoon to recharge or enjoy some downtime on the couch to read. After focusing all morning, I need that little break for my brain to get back in to work mode. I’m thankful to be able to determine my own work schedule. I know that’s not an option for everyone but the takeaway I want y’all to have is to always do the highest priority items on my to-do list when I’m typically MOST productive.
Prioritize your to do list.
To piggyback off of the last tip, I have found that it’s important to keep a running to do list. I keep mine updated in my Notes on my computer. I italicize completed tasks and move it to the top of the list of items that still need to get done. When I start my day, I look at the items that I have left to do and I bold the five things that I need to get done during that day then order them from highest priority to lowest priority with asterisks.
Okay, so I pulled this old to do list as an example. As mentioned, the italicized tasks are completed tasks and I continue the to do list by writing in regular font below the completed tasks.
In the morning, I look at my to do list and rearrange the list as needed based on what really needs to get done during the day. Then I bold the five most important items that I want to get done in my morning work session. Clearly, my to do list is a mix of professional and personal items that need / I want to get done but, I typically prioritize work first and put personal items in that lower priority spot because …. typically, those are items I can do while accomplishing another task. For example, scheduling Fish & Chips for their boarding appointment is lowest priority and can be done while I am driving to the Town Center to go to Lululemon. Does that make sense? I also try and put the highest priority on the tasks that I need the most mental energy to do [i.e. writing blog posts] and save the easier mental tasks for a lower priority. I hope that helps!
Time block to assist in getting the most done in the least amount of time.
When you’re looking at the tasks you have on your agenda for the day, set a realistic time limit that you want to get that task done. Then, when you are beginning that task, put away anything that distracts you from getting tasks done [i.e. your phone], set your timer for that realistic time limit, and get to working! If you do this, you will be amazed at how many things you will be able to get checked off of your to-do list!
Get yourself organized!
If I didn’t have file folders in my filing cabinet for certain documents or drawers & baskets in my office closet designated for certain items & products, I would be a very scatterbrained individual who barely gets anything done. If you’re constantly digging through a mess of papers or trying to find something to get a task done, your productivity level is going to drop and your stress level is going to skyrocket. Set aside time on a weekend to sort through the mess and get yourself organized. It definitely takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. It’s actually taken a trip to IKEA, the Container Store, Office Depot and a lot of weekend hours to get my office the way I want it but it’s getting there and I finally feel like it’s a place where I know I can efficiently get stuff done!
Do your best to minimize distraction.
Our phones are our biggest distraction. Am I right? Or am I right?
If I don’t have to make a phone call or post anything to social media, I put my phone in my room and set a reminder on my calendar to help me with my time blocking. However, if I have a conference call set, I keep my phone at my desk but do my best to not respond to anything that pops up while completing tasks. It’s really difficult but the timer that is set keeps me focused.
Set a structure to your calendar.
My weekly calendar used to be a recipe for disaster and disappointment. I would schedule three appointments on complete opposite ends of town, tell myself I’m going to shoot with Miguel, and also write a lengthy blog post. Now, I make an effort to plan things out a little more so that there is more of a structure. Mondays and Tuesdays are my work from home days, Wednesdays are my appointment days, Thursdays and Fridays are shooting days. I make up anything else that needs to get done on Saturday and Sunday but this structure has helped me my sanity immensely.
Hire people to help.
This tip is, again, for my fellow entrepreneurs. In hindsight, I should have done this much earlier than I did. Ever since I opted to go full-time as a blogger, my to do list was longer than what I could realistically get done in a day and, if that’s the case, you need to hire help. If you are working 90-hours a week and you are still overwhelmed by your to-do list, you need to hire help. It’s okay if you can’t get it all done. I don’t think we’re wired to be able to run a business single-handedly. I think we’re wired for community and to lend a hand to another to see what we can come up with. I think two is always better than one. So, hire someone to help you but – this could really be another post in and of itself – make sure you’re hiring the right person for the task at hand or you’re just going to end up being even more overwhelmed with what isn’t getting done!
Working from home definitely has its perks but, eventually, you start to get cabin fever and feel a bit isolated without the typical accompaniment of co-workers. I do have an assistant but she can and is able to do a lot of her job for me from her own home office. She stops by throughout the week and we have our weekly meetings but I don’t have someone working alongside me everyday! So, to prevent me from feeling like a hermit, I make it a point to plan a lunch date with a friend once or twice a week as well as opt to go work at a coffee shop on one or two mornings! Cabin fever is no fun so you have to stay ahead of it, especially us introverts! [It’s so hard for us to WANT to go out and do stuff, but it’ll make you feel better!]
I hope this post has been helpful. Do you work from home and think I’ve missed a key tip? I’m all ears! We all know some days are harder than others and I’m all about new ways to be better! 🙂 xo.