For many modern professionals, working from home definitely has its benefits. Working from home every once in a while is a luxury that our respective companies afford us. But which environment actually allows us to be more productive: the home office or the office office?
Working from home is a benefit coveted by many employees; there are no traffic snarls, no weather delays, and no drama over the perfect thermostat setting. Working outside of a traditional office setting does, however, create challenges for maintaining a consistent level of productivity.
Here are ten tips for about how to be productive and happy working alone,
1. Commit to a schedule
Just because you have the freedom to work anytime day or night, you must recognize: The rest of the world is working nine to five. There are times when you would prefer to work at night or on the weekends, but in reality, keeping a schedule that aligns with your customers and the partners you rely on is extremely important. Being available is crucial to your success. So even though, yes, you have freedom — you should work with the system at large.
2. Maintain a calendar
Setting due dates and actually putting them on my calendar helps to complete projects. Set goals each day that you can actually achieve. By all means, plan big. But really, it’s going to take you little step after little step to get there.
3. Have a dedicated office area
Someplace you feel comfortable and secure. Of course, you need the right equipment — the tools necessary — to conduct your business. Ideally, this will not be an area where you also sleep or spend a lot of time with your family; conflating work space with personal space can bring work stress into your sleep or relaxation habits.
4. Act as if you were leaving the house
Just because you work alone doesn’t mean you don’t need to mentally prepare yourself for the day. For me that means waking up early, having a cup of coffee, taking a shower, getting dressed, shaving, etc. Basically, all the things I would do if I were going to leave the house.
Claude Delgado, founder of D Graphic Solutions, a print brokerage in Los Angeles, starts every morning dressing as if he was going into a formal office, tie and all.
“It is important because it sets the mindset that I’m in a place of business and I am a professional,” he says.
5. Communicate with others regularly
Working from home can get lonely. So make sure to contact others through Skype and other forms of communication. Creating opportunities for personal contact outside your home really is important. Try incorporating taking a walk or another form of exercise during the day. You may want to go outside of your house to work for a while. Try heading to a coffee shop or to the library and working there, if it won’t be a distraction to you. Sometimes just having other people around can help you get more done, especially if they’re working too.
6. Reward yourself
Whatever it is you do, it is guarantee that there are some aspects of the job you enjoy more than others. Do those things in the morning. Schedule preferable tasks in the afternoon.
7. Take breaks
It’s pretty easy to roll out of bed and walk up to my office. I have a bad habit of dropping in throughout the weekend. I can’t help myself. But let’s be real. Your work will always be there. If you’re an entrepreneur, your day is never done. Force yourself to walk away and goof off.
8. Stop sitting
Sitting is the new smoking, haven’t you heard? I for one agree. I’ve developed pain in my neck and back due to poor habit. So now I try to get up throughout the day. I walk around. I stretch. I get on the bicycle. Do anything but sitting all day long! It’s a terrible habit.
9. Keep your work space clean and free of clutter
If you’ve worked in an office building before, you’ve probably noticed that it’s cleaner when you come in the next morning than how it was left the night before. If you haven’t noticed, then you probably would if it hadn’t been cleaned. Messes are distracting.
10. Stock your pantry with healthy snack food
The fridge is always right there! Have snacks around that will fuel your day. Take the time during your off-hours to plan healthy, simple meals and snacks just as you would if you were commuting and set times to eat. Your body and time-management plan will thank you.
11. Reduce Web clutter and activity on social media
It’s hard not to check Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn during the day. We all do it. But set some boundaries. Check before work and maybe then again at lunch. If you wait until the end of the day to follow up, you’ll find you’re more productive.
Web browsers allow users to keep dozens of tabs open at once, and while that is nice if you are doing research on a work project, it can be distracting if one of your tabs is always on Facebook or ESPN. Get rid of your HootSuite tab or your Facebook tab; only keep the tabs open that you really need for your business.
12. “Leave” work at the end of the day
The majority of people go home to get away from work. You don’t have that option. Make sure you still maintain a careful work-life balance. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you should be working all the time while you’re home.
Working alone takes discipline, that’s for sure. But knowing you have the freedom to set your own schedule, to take the afternoon off or to walk outside is extremely rewarding.