By Susan Payton
While there’s a certain glamour around having a home office (no commute! work in your pjs!), the fact is: it’s not for everyone. Some people simply can’t ignore the siren song of Netflix or a fridge full of junk food, and so they can’t be productive working from home.
On the other hand, it does take some discipline and self-training to get the most out of working from a home office. Having done so for 10 years, I’ve picked up a tip or two along the way.
1. When You’re Working, You’re Working
I don’t care if the dryer is buzzing. I’m not answering. I get into work mode when I’m in my home office and stay there. If you have kids at home, get someone to watch them. You can’t succeed with your business if you don’t take it seriously, and that starts with acting like you’re at work, even if you’re working in a closet surrounded by winter coats.
2. Dedicate a Space
Speaking of that closet/workspace: it’s super important to have a specific spot carved out for your office. If you open up your laptop on the couch one day, then the dining room table the next, you don’t really have a “home” for your home office. Even the corner of a room works, but it should be permanent. Ideally, you have a door to shut yourself off from the rest of the house.
3. Pick Your Productive Hours
If you’re not productive 9-5 and your business allows for it, choose the hours when you work best. That might be after the kids go to bed until midnight. Or during naptimes. Build your work schedule around home responsibilities so the two never compete.
4. Run Errands During Breaks
Some might be shocked that I am making this suggestion, but hear me out: I often go to exercise classes or do my shopping mid-morning. A) I don’t have to compete with everyone else that goes after 5:00 or on the weekends, and B) getting out of the office often provides clarity on a project I’m working on. I’m uber productive when I get back. And because I can pick my productive hours, I can have some flexibility around doing other things.
5. Pick Your Top 3 Priorities
Whether you work from home or elsewhere, you likely have a stack of things that need doing on any given day. Try this: when you wrap up for the day, identify the three most important items on your list for tomorrow. When you come into work in the morning, you have purpose. Once you finish those priorities, work on the rest of your list.
6. Don’t Isolate
Okay, as an introvertive writer who hates working out of a coffee shop, I’m not always practicing what I preach here. But working from home can be lonely. I have friends who wouldn’t survive without human companionship 40 hours a week. So if you need other humans, get out. You can run those errands like in #4, work from a coffee shop if that works for you, or attend networking events to meet other business owners.
If you’re still struggling to make working from home work, consider renting office space elsewhere. It’s of the utmost importance that you have a system that works for you and don’t try to force it.