Have you ever seen that comic from the Oatmeal on working from home? If not: go read that gem really quick.
It’s not secret, working from home can be great. You get to set your hours, you get to eat when you want, you don’t have to deal with *that* coworker (whether that means the really hot coworker who distracts you or the one who smells slightly off… there’s a million definitions of *that* coworker).
Years ago, I started working from home. I started with one college class at a time being transferred to online courses until basically my entire Senior year was online.
It worked out at the time because I still had roommates, a relationship, and all my friends from college close by so my social life didn’t suffer.
Then, graduation happened. Student loans started coming due, relationships ended, friends movies away. The freedom of working from home (or anywhere, really) was still amazing, but that Oatmeal comic became true.
The internet is both the greatest tool of our generation, and also the biggest distraction.
So, like any Millennial, I went to Google to figure out how to balance this whole “work from home” thing.
Every single article started out with, “Dress like you would at a normal job!”
Look, I don’t know about you, but I started my business so I can wear sweats when I feel like it. Jeans feel suffocating, and I do not need the extra reminder that my diet is currently off-track. This isn’t to say that dressing up is dumb. Dressing up is great! Few things feel better than a well-fitted power suit.
The point is, wear what you damn well please because productivity and business-sense is a frame of mind, not an outfit.
First off, if you’re struggling with productivity at home, this post from Ash Ambirge is the best thing on the planet. YOU’RE WELCOME.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not some productivity expert who has it all nailed down yet. So far, I just manage myself and not a team (yet), but things will change as they go in that direction.
Let’s just dive in.
1. Turn. Off. Those. Damn. Notifications.
Have you ever been talking to someone who is constantly receiving text messages and you can see in their face that they’re not paying attention to what you’re saying? Yeah, that has to stop. But just because you’re alone doesn’t make constant notifications and distractions okay either. Yes, I get it, scrolling through social media makes the work a little less lonely because you’re like “Look! I’m being social! I liked my cousin’s pictures!”
However, the last thing you want is to start getting into the habit of scrolling through social media every time you’re creatively stuck. I’ve dipped in and out of this horrible habit through the years and I’m well aware that a “quick break” leads to 30 minutes (at least) down the drain.
Even if you absolutely need notifications on because you’re waiting for someone to get back to you to proceed, at the very least save 60 minutes of un-interrupted work time in your day. If possible, stretch it to 90. No phone, no email, no social media, no news… Nothing. Just focus.
I write every single morning by hand and work on projects that are the most important to my long-term career.
Seriously, put your phone in another room if you have to. They’re addicting and you need to keep your distance when it’s time to focus.
2. Make a firm end of your day.
I break this rule constantly, but I do have a weekly schedule set up to where I have goal end-of-the-day times. Have a wrap-up routine where you write down what you need to accomplish tomorrow, thoughts about today, anything bugging your brain… all of it.
When you’re done with your day, actually be done. Don’t just stare at your ceiling at night thinking about all the things you need to do.
The only exception to this rule is if you’re in a serious creative groove. Ride it out, keep going. They don’t always happen often, so when they do, appreciate them.
3. Make a schedule.
While I don’t agree with putting jeans on, I do agree that you need some kind of schedule and routine to follow. It took me YEARS to make this happen because I kept confusing structure with orders.
Make a list of every category you have in a week.
For example, each week I need to fit in: client calls, client work blocks, blog post work blocks, working out, walking my dog, eating food, when to be in bed, a tech day off, and anything social that week.
Schedule it all out. Test it for a week or two, make notes, and adjust. My schedule adjusts every season because the weather here in Denver changes a few factors, but it took me a while to learn how my body likes to operate.
4. Go out into the real world.
Go to sporting events, go to the bar, go see your close friends. Seriously. GET. OUT. Even if you just go work at a local coffee shop for a bit.
Through the years, I got into ruts of working TOO much at the sacrifice of my social life. Friends of yours will only tolerate your busy schedule for so long before they just stop calling.
Sometimes I work so hard I realize that the only times I’ve gone outside for the past two months was walking my dog. Look, I love my home, but GO. OUT.
5. Once you have your priorities for the day, don’t let anything get in the way.
You’ll get a million “URGENT!!!!” emails throughout the day. (Please do not use urgent in an email title unless you’re actually dying.)
6. Learn from the experts.
Ramit Sethi has some of the best tips I’ve ever read about working from home. You can read it: here.
What are your working from home tips?