With the awful weather (which didn’t actually turn out so bad around here, thankfully) in the area this week there were a lot of business closed and people urged not to leave their houses if at all possible. This meant a lot of working from home for those who could. There have been many articles written about it in the last few days such as this one from The Huffington Post. As one who works from the kitchen table on a regular basis, I felt I had a bit of knowledge to share for those who are not used to it and could suffer a day of total unproductivity if not prepared.
Here are some tips:
Plan ahead. If at all possible, plan your day the night before. I like to plan whatever possible for the whole upcoming week the Sunday before, though of course many things change or get added as the week goes on. Then each night plan the next day in more detail so I know what needs to be done and what to expect. This helps to designate enough time to each project and make sure you will be able to get everything done each day.
Keep a running list. In addition to the days schedule, keep a running list of all the specific tasks you need to get done that day. Update it constantly each time there is an email you will have to get back to later, a phone call to make, or a new task that pops up, so that you won’t forget anything or get off track. Once the list is finished you know you accomplished everything you were meant to do in the day.
Start with coffee. Be sure to get up and out of bed at a reasonable time to begin your day at the time you normally would. Working from home is not the same thing as an extended weekend. You still need to work and people will be expecting you to be available at the same time you normally would. Get out of bed, make a cup of coffee, and get settled with your computer, phone, and any other supplies you will need at the kitchen table or a clear workspace (probably not the couch unless you’re very disciplined).
Structure your day as normal. Always read the news online before getting started? Take lunch at 12:30 every day for an hour when you’re in the office? A 10 minute coffee break or a 5 minute walk up and down the hallway at a certain time to get your blood flowing? Do it at home too. Stick to normal routines so your day feels much the same and the afternoon wont drag or the day get away from you before you realize. Definitely don’t forget lunch- just because you’re working from home does not mean you don’t need a mid-day break (and nourishment!)
Keep out distractions. Don’t turn on the TV. Even if you think you just need some background noise, it will cause a distraction. Listen to some music instead. Don’t tell people you are working from home if it means they will call to chat or drop by. Not everyone understands that this is still a work day and essentially the same as if you were in the office. Don’t let yourself think of household tasks that need to get done. Pretend you are in the office and the household tasks are still out of reach. It’s easy to think you’ll just throw the laundry in or pick up the living room real quick. But unless this is during a scheduled break, it is taking up work time and ends up becoming a larger distraction than you originally think.
What do you do to stay focused and get work done from home? Do you like working from home or prefer an office?