Five Tips for Working from Home and Getting Things Done

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Life is filled with distractions.

And work life is no exception. It seems there is always something willing to take our minds away from spreadsheets, emails, and meetings. And if you work from home there are even more distractions fighting you tooth and nail throughout the day…

The laundry is piling up, the dog needs to be let outside, and of course the television is constantly calling your name. So, how do you combat these constant disturbances, stay motivated, and get things done?

Here are my top five tips for working from home and, more importantly, getting things done while you’re there.

1. Establish a space in your home that is solely for your business. This could be as dedicated as a whole room, or as small as a tiny nook (just make sure it has a door). It doesn’t matter what the size, as long as it is large enough for you to get your work done, and you feel comfortable working there routinely. *Bonus Tip: Don’t be afraid to test out various areas until you get it right.

Take me for example. I have set up my office on the far side of my bedroom, even though there is plenty of space for me to move into a much larger room. I feel comfortable and more inspired in my small nook than a larger dedicated space, so I went with what ‘felt right’ rather than what seemed more practical at the time.

Find the space that works for you, and you’ll be well on your way.

2. Set ground rules. Establishing a boundary during “work hours” with family members may sound silly. But it’s necessary. This means letting family and friends know that you’re not available to “chat” during your work hours on the phone or in person, unless it’s lunchtime (or some other time you decide).

And if you have children or a spouse at home while you are working, set boundaries with them as well. “Sweetie, I’d love to play with you, but mommy’s at work right now. I’ll come get you when I am finished, and we can play then.” I know this may be a hard one to follow, especially if your children are small, but do the best you can.

3. Make a list and set a schedule. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your to dos, making a list can really help. And if you have reoccurring tasks, creating a schedule for yourself would be beneficial. So, once you’ve laid out your tasks and set a schedule, take things one step further: write it down so you don’t forget. I recommend using a simple calendar tool like Google Calendar or iCal (for Macs) for tracking important tasks and sending reminders.

Note: Studies show that your brain is in its most efficient state when you first wake up in the morning. So, you may want to think about doing your most important or creative tasks right when you wake up, and save emails and blog posts for later in the day. Those “mindless” activities like filling out shipping labels, might be best left until the afternoon. But everyone is different. So again, figure out what works best for you and take it from there.

4. Make the most of it. When you are feeling especially motivated, make the most of that time. Get a jump start on client work that’s not due for weeks, write and schedule some blog posts in advance, or organize your supplies now so you can work more efficiently later. When those more challenging days roll around, and trust me- they will, you’ll be happy you did this.

5. Get out. If you’re feeling cramped or unmotivated and can take your show on the road, than do that! Get out of the house and find somewhere else to work for the day. This could be some place like the library, a small cafe, a quiet park, or even as close as your own backyard. When you eliminate the distractions of home, by physically removing your self every once in a while, it can be a HUGE motivator.

So now that I’ve shared my tips, I’d love to hear yours. What tricks have you picked up along the way for successfully working from home?

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Brittni Mehlhoff specializes in marketing the work of talented artists and designers for the curated handmade marketplace she founded in 2008 called papernstitch. She is also the creator of the goal setting and tracking guide, Track This!, which is filled with actionable worksheets, charts, and questions, designed to help you figure out the true goals for your business.

Comments

  1. great post. number 3 is part of my usual routine. I try to prioritize what is the most important of things and then cross things off as much as possible.

  2. I do all these things. My biggest issue is to stop working will that last twitter find the right person. Will this last tweek on a picture for my shop make it perfect? Am I reading the right business posts maybe this new idea will be the one that takes off etc. You can see how a person could work all the time.

  3. Thanks for your feedback Bernice and Jonathan. Glad you found this helpful.

    And Brandi- Yes! You hit the nail on the head. That is one of the toughest parts of working from home… it’s SO easy to work ALL the time because you can’t really get away from it (unless you’re not home). One of the trade-offs for sure. But sometimes it helps to just close the door and turn off the light, and try to leave your “work brain” in the office at the end of each day.

  4. This is helpful and it makes me realize how much I need an effective workspace. Right now I either work from my couch in my tiny studio apartment (the only comfortable seating) or on the spare desk in my husband’s office (where I’ll usually get tasked with other work). Great article!

  5. Too funny Brittni-I recently wrote a very similar article as this one, but I like yours more! The point I love is about finding the space that works best for you, even if it’s in an unconventional spot. This year I moved my desk to our living room, which has much more natural light than our den & it has worked wonders for my attitude & overall joy in loving what I do…so glad I came across this blog.
    All the best to you!

  6. Hi Brittni,

    Great tips.

    To me, the most important one is making a list and set a schedule. I find it hard to work without this.

    I can manage to work anywhere in the house; at the kitchen, in the living room and sometimes even in the bathroom (actually in the bath tub). But, only as long as I have a to-do list.

    I walk for an hour every single day, that’s another very important part of my daily routine. This way I know that I won’t feel cramped and unmotivated (because I know that I will get out and walk at a specific time).

    - Jens

  7. Great post, Brittni!

    Hmm, my tip would probably be to take a weekend off once in a while. Set up an auto-responder on your e-mail, turn off the computer and phone for 2 days, and just re-learn what it means to RELAX! ;)

  8. Love all these tips!!!! Space, boundaries, productivity, play!

  9. Great tips! I am SO not a creature of habit, so it was quite a challenge when I left the corporate world and started working out of my home to stay on some sort of routine. I especially love Tip #5: Get Out – a few hours in a cafe each week really helps with my creativity.

  10. Cool post:)

    This week my kids are home for spring break. So, I’ve made the local library my “office”. I planned my schedule out at the end of last week, and planned blocks of 3-4 hours each day where I go to the library with projects or client work. Then, I just get down to it!

    Working from home can be rewarding, but I do best when scheduling my time ahead.

  11. Jessica Kohler says:

    Am I breaking Rule 1 if my home office occasionally doubles as a guest room?

  12. Looove this post, great advice! Thanks Laura!

  13. Great.
    Thanks

    I will add:

    Work for 90 mints, focused, then take a break for 15-30 mints, the most important is that during the 90 mints Focus, no phone no mobile no bb no iphone no emails. Distraction lowers ur IQ

    That what works best for me, esp home office is more difficult than the “real” office

    Good luck everyone

  14. I work from home and my workspace is ridiculously crowded in the middle of my family room but I like it that way. There are large windows & sliding glass doors at the back of our house that allow for lots of sunshine.

    I also have a dog that barks very loudly any time squirrels go in her backyard but I’m quick to laugh it off with my customers when I’m on the phone. Since the name of my business is Tail Wags Helmet Covers, I remind them that I’m a dog lover. Customers need to know that I’m “real”.

    I make a point of walking my dog for at least one hour every morning before starting work. This seems to help focus my mind and clear my head of distractions.

    Generally, I work LONG hours (often 12 plus hours per day). As a business owner, I’m always “Open”. Although this can be tiring, I keep a balance by allowing myself to book manicures or lunches with friends in the middle of the day occasionally. It helps to break up the routine and isolation of working all day by myself. If I’m particularly tired, I will also take a quick “power nap” mid afternoon. It’s a skill I learned at university that allows me to re-charge my batteries and give me the boost I need to work till late at night.

    Although I haven’t necessarily followed your suggestions for working at home, I think what’s important to keep in mind is that everyone needs to find their own balance. What works for one person isn’t necessarily the same as what works for someone else.

  15. Lindsey E. says:

    I can’t remember for the life of me where I learned his – some “productivity” article or 4-Hour Work Week, I think. For every hour of your work day, work on ONE specific task or project for 45 minutes, and then break for 15 minutes. Use that 15 minutes to checking emails, returning phone calls, in this case, walking the dog. This has really helped me remedy that “multi-tasking syndrome” of starting a bunch of projects but never finishing them and feeling overwhelmed. I struggled with that in and out of office types.

  16. I love being able to work in my pj’s but sometimes I find it hard to feel really professional until I get dressed. So, that is my tip for those days when you are attempting something new and need some extra confidence – put on some appropriate to your awesome self clothes.

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