How to be productive while working from home
Working from home, setting your own schedule... it sounds like the dream. And for the most part, it is, but it does come with its own unique set of challenges.
I've worked from home for around two years now, and here are just some of the things I've found to be absolutely invaluable.
1. Adjust your schedule to suit you
When I first went freelance, I was so paranoid that people would think I was slacking because I was working from home, so I kept my hours as close to a traditional job as I could. I was at my desk for 9, and I worked consistently until 5:30pm.
It didn't work. I've always been less productive after lunch, and being at home with no colleagues to spur me on (or distract me) only made this more prominent. My concentration suffered and I just felt guilty and stuck.
So I changed my schedule. I work best at the "bookends of the day" - first thing in the morning and last thing at night. So I do the bulk of my work from 7am-12pm, have lunch, and then do another couple of hours of less intense stuff (scheduling tweets, replying to emails) until about 2:30/3. Then I stop. I work out, read, see people or watch a show. Then if there's still more to do, I'll dedicate an hour or two to it in the evening.
Everyone is different, so pick the hours that work best for you. It's easy to feel "guilty" if you're not working the same hours as everyone else, but there's no point in ploughing on and on if you're simply not doing your best work. The best part about working from home is flexibility, so make the most of it!
2.) Use the Pomodoro method
If you've never used the Pomodoro technique before, it basically means working for 25 minutes and then having a 5 minute break. After four blocks of 25 minutes, you get a 15 minute break.
I use this during my afternoon slumps when I'm struggling to concentrate, or if I'm doing a task that's really tricky. 25 minutes is a small enough time period not to feel daunting, if you try, you can concentrate on anything for 25 minutes, and there's always an end in sight. You can get a surprising amount done in small chunks, and the discipline will help you to stay on task and not procastinate (one of the deadly pitfalls when you have no boss!) It helps me to structure my day, focus, and have those all-important breaks to check social media, stretch or have a snack.
3.) Keep in touch with the outside world
When you work alone, it's easy to become insular and feel a bit detached.
To combat this, I attend industry events and schedule regular client calls. I also listen to a lot of podcasts (like Sara Tasker's Hashtag Authentic and Emma Gannon's Ctrl Alt Delete) from those in the same(ish) industry, take part in free webinars (Hilary Rushford from Dean Street Society offers some nice one around online businesses and Instagram, as does or Marie Forleo from B-School) or take courses relevant to my job (i'm currently doing a free creative writing course with the Open University and planning on studying for my TEFL).
Not only will this keep you motivated and inspired, it'll give you those learning opportunities you take for granted in an office, and keep your knowledge base fresh. Things like this are also great for those days when you might be struggling with a spot of cabin fever!
4.) Get a new hobby
Take up something new that involves you getting out of the house a lot. When I worked in an office, there was nothing I wanted to do more after a full day (and hour-long) commute than come home and collapse on the sofa. But when you work from home, you've already been in all day. There's no line or separation between your work space and your chill space, so you might find yourself craving stimulation or activity elsewhere.
Most weeknights I go to Tantra Fitness, where I do workout classes and pole dancing. The studio is a bus-ride away, so I leave the house at around 4:45 a day for a couple of hours. It's progressive (there's 6 levels to pole, and I'm on 3) so gives me something to aim for and focus on that's outside work, and it gets me out of the house and meeting people. As I'm always busy, it means I really enjoy the time I do have at home to chill, like the weekends.
I also love to mix up where I work; coffee shops and the library are great options. If your local uni library is open to the public, this can be a nice environment too. I also recommend co-working spaces (Suite Genius and L'Atelier are two lovely Vancouver options).
5.) Figure out the tools you need to work best
Having tools in place to help you work will go some way to mirror the infrastucture of an office, meaning you'll feel more productive and supported in your daily tasks. I'm usually a plain old pen and paper gal, and couldn't live without my Kate Spade planner, but there are some digital tools I use to keep myself in check. Here are some of my favourites.
Slack - How I communicate with clients, and send and receive files on a daily basis.
Trello - I use this for time-tracking and project management.
Evernote - I keep ideas, images and notes here and they're synced across all my devices.
Canva - How I design logos, blog images and social media graphics.
Grammarly - As a writer, I use the paid version to make sure all of my work is flawless, but there's a great free version too if you want to spotcheck your emails and important documents.
Drive - Where I keep my old images and videos.
Hootsuite - For tweet scheduling.
Mailchimp - For building and tracking email campaigns.
VSCO - How I edit my photos for Instagram and my blog.
Unum - For planning my Instagram grid.
Squarespace - The CMS for my blog.
Analytics - How I keep track of traffic and blog stats.
I hope this post was useful if you also work from home! If you have any tips and tricks, I would love love love to hear them.