For many people, the thought of cutting the daily commute from 30 minutes to zero minutes is quite tempting. This is something a lot of people dream of doing because cutting commute time would reduce stress and increase their productivity. That’s what makes working from home as a freelancer or telecommuting so appealing and economical. And if you’re a freelancer or run your own new business on a small budget, it’ll likely prove to be the best starting point.
Even when you are working at home, the hours can fly by quickly and before you know it, it’s 5:00 and time to “close the office” for the day. You feel like you’ve “had a great day” when you get everything done that you set out to do; you feel like you’ve “had a bad day” when you just didn’t get everything that you intended, perhaps because there were unexpected interruptions or maybe a project took longer to complete than originally planned. Even with all the technology available to us, it’s still important to plan our time and track our progress to stay focused and accomplish what we want to do.
Here are the 7 rules you need to stick to if you really want to get stuff done from your home office:
Keep Strict Hours
The first mistake you can make is to start shifting your work hours around household demands such as vacuuming or doing the laundry. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean the rest of the world is.
Keep in sync with your peers and target audience. Set a specific start-time and quitting time each day and stick to them. Get an early start. Starting too late in the day means less productivity and you’ll feel like you haven’t accomplished as much as you intended for your day. If you get an early start, you are less likely to miss out on opportunities for new work and to accept more clients.
Brief Your Housemates
If you live alone, you can skip this step. But, for many people who share their home with family and/or roommates, it’s important to the success of your business to inform them of your work hours and requests. If you don’t set boundaries, your workplace may quickly become a hangout or even a playground for young children, not to mention constant interruptions that interfere with the concentration you need so you can focus on productive billable work.
Set Up a Space That Works
This step is crucial. If you work from home and don’t have a set space for your work alone, things can quickly get overwhelming and disorganized. Not only is it important to have a designated "office" in your home to keep all of your equipment, files, and stationery supplies in one place, it’s also motivates you to enter the “I’m at work now,” mindset. Finding a suitable, quiet room in your home that will be most effective in your productivity.
Create an Atmosphere that Inspires
One of the best parts of running things from your home? You can literally set it up any way that suits you. Turn the AC way up or keep the room temperature comfortable and toasty. If you prefer to work in bright lights, go for it. Work better with music in the background? Go for it – but play the music at a low volume level so that it’s not overpowering when you are on the phone with a client.
Stay Far Away From Temptation
At an office building, you don’t have the option to watch the 6th season of Game of Thrones. However, at home all leisure activities are right at your fingertips, and there’s nothing really stopping you from playing Candy Crush for about 30 minutes too long. Use your time wisely. The 6th season of Game of Thrones and Candy Crush will be there once you’ve finished (and you’ll enjoy it more.) Take breaks every 2 hours but limit them
only to 15 minutes. The intent of the break should be to give you a short diversion from the work for you to get away from your desk to walk around, stretch, and get a snack or cup of tea or coffee. When the 15 minutes are up, you’ll feel motivated to focus on the work you were doing.
Plan Your Days
When you’re your own boss, you don’t have to take orders from someone else. But you should give yourself structure and take that structure seriously. While everyone works differently, it’s always a good idea to break down your daily tasks, hour by hour, day by day, week by week. Keeping a clear calendar will help you meet deadlines and keep stress minimized. And don’t think a task is too small to add to the list – even ‘send an email to client XYZ about project ABC’ warrants a place in your daily task list. While you’re scheduling things, don’t forget to make time for a good lunch and even some time to clear your head. Use reliable online tools like Trello, Google Tasks and more to get you on top of things.
Meet with Your Clients Away from Your Office
Sometimes, changing things up can make all the difference. For a lot of people working from home, it can be energizing to go out and meet/talk with a client in a place that isn’t in their home office where most of the communication is by phone or email or Skype. Bringing your laptop to meet a client at a cafe can help you break the routine, and also give you a chance to interact with other humans (something that might seem desirable after a while.) Best of all, it can help you do some networking, possibly bringing you new business.