Excerpted by SHRM Blog by Eva Del Rio, SPHR
Q: I’ve always dreamed of being my own boss and working from home. But I’ve been on my own for over a year and –even though I like it- I also find it very challenging to stay focused. I know you write about the workplace, but I wonder if you had any personal productivity tips for those of us who are self-employed and work from home.
A: Why, yes! You see, for most of my life I had a regular job with regular hours. Then, about 10 years ago I decided to become “my own boss”. I had visions of working in pajamas and doing what I pleased.
But as you’ve found out, working from home is not all pie-in-the-sky and bunny slippers. Here are some suggestions:
Have a morning routine – Get up around the same time, have coffee, breakfast, exercise, meditate, whatever. After that, and –this is important- get dressed and groomed. Sure, you can dress comfy, but have some rules (no sweats, lounge wear, or slippers). Even if no appointments or video calls are scheduled, you should look presentable to yourself. It’s psychological, it’s about for your own self-regard. When you catch a glimpse of yourself during the day, you should like what you see.
Know your productive times – I’m a morning person, so I protect mornings to work on the hard stuff. Meetings and phones calls are scheduled for later.
Set work/life boundaries – Don’t pay bills or do laundry when you should be working. At first, I thought, “Well I need a break, I might as well do this one chore.” But it didn’t work, I often got distracted, off-track and it required effort to return to “work mode”. Same with checking work email before going to bed. Don’t.
Create the right environment– Assign a dedicated workspace and add those things that make you productive. Music playlists (depending on the task); a plant; a view or some nice pictures. A clean uncluttered desk. Quality work tools. Whatever gets your productive juices flowing.
Beware the freedom of the internet – I’m online way too much. To work, to socialize, to learn a recipe, to watch a movie, to consume news (I’m a junkie.) So, this is still a daily challenge for me, working on it.
It can get lonely, so get out of the house and meet other people – whether it’s attending professional events, a business social or serving on boards, it’s important not to become isolated. Even if you enjoy working alone. I belong to a business incubator where I attend a regular weekly meeting with peers, and it anchors my schedule.
Working at home may not turn out to be the ultimate work fantasy we envisioned, but I still prefer it to a regular day job. In time, you probably will too.