How to actually be productive when you work from home
Having been a freelancer for my entire career, as both a holistic personal trainer/Pilates specialist and a digital writer/content creator (typical milleniall slashie) I’ve spent many days with one location as my “office” – my home.
Though I longingly gaze upon the Instagram feed of The Wing and have become increasingly intrigued by the prospect of joining a co-working space, for the practicality and cost-efficiency thus far, working from home has been my modus operandi.
For those in a traditional 9-5, working from home appears to be the dream, and to be honest – it is pretty damn good. However, with the scope to go from bed to work in the space of one large step, you have to become pretty disciplined with yourself in order to get shit done. The lure of the sofa can pull you in for a quick break and suddenly you lose yourself to a Netflix binge for the entire afternoon. At the same time, the lines between work and home become completely non-existent, making it difficult to distinguish when you can switch off and when you can keep going.
Self-motivation is the guiding key principle to being productive when you work from home, but if you find motivation has left the building, following these simple steps can help you create more output from your home office set-up.
1. Create “work” hours
The main lure of freelance life is embedded in it's potential for flexibility. The concept of presentability and work hours become irrelevant when you are working for yourself – 'cos girlboss is right there, all day and night! However in order to enhance productivity and create a semblance of work-life balance, it is important to define your day by creating a schedule. This may not look the same day to day, or even week by week, as your work load will often fluctuate, but creating a overarching schedule and outline for your day will give you a productive start.
2. Define your work space
Working from your bed may have its appeal – on day one – but spending all day lounging in your PJs in the duvet isn’t good for your physical, nor mental, health. Carving out a space in your home or apartment is important to give you a foundation from which to work from. In our apartment, I opted to design a high bar bench to function as our dining table, which then doubles as my standing work desk – bonus: it's much better for my posture. We have also created a desk space in our spare bedroom that is certainly not fancy, but define and carves out a specific "work" space. This additionally helps motivation and productivity, as you feel like everything has it’s place and you have a clear zone in which to get creative.
3. Take proper lunch breaks
With no colleagues around suggesting you pop out for a quick bite, the temptation is real to munch on lunch as you continue work. Skipping the break and scoffing down lunch in front of your laptop, not only frizzles out your brain by not allow moments of rest to recalibrate, but additionally, this form of mindless eating can really stress out your digestive and nervous systems. Instead step away from the screen and give yourself a moment to fully enjoy your well deserved break.
4. Schedule in workouts and meetings for key OOO times
One benefit of working from an office is knowing when you pack up and leave at the end of the day, you can come home to your sanctuary and unwind. For us home office folk, the lines between home and work are super blurred. It's normal to feel a little crazy when you spend 24 hours in any one space, so to break up the monotony of being in the same spot all day, everyday, make sure you schedule in meetings, business coffee catch ups and even your workouts around times you know you tend to feel a little "cabin feverish". I like to ensure I'm out of the house first thing in the morning and again late afternoon when I would be 'clocking off' to break up the day.
5. Find your magic hours
Early riser or night owl, you generally know when you feel most alert and productive across the day. The key is to hack these hours to use them to your advantage and schedule the tasks that require the most attention or focus in that time. I work best and am most creatively minded in the morning, finding I have a lull in the afternoon. For that reason I try to ensure I am up early (getting in a workout) and then finding space to write or tick off the most important tasks in the AM. I’ll then use the afternoon to plan, edit and complete tasks that do not require as much creative juice!
6. Set guidelines for guests
This point is really for those who live abroad where out of towners like to come and visit. It's a blessing and curse to have that spare bedroom always available and as completely wonderful as it is to have guests visit, when your home doubles as your office it can become a real sticking point for feeling maintaining productivity in your workspace. The best tip is to ensure guests know that your home is your workspace, so if they are staying during work hours, those boundaries need to be respected. Generally any visitors would be more interested in sightseeing and get out and about in any case, but some guidelines mentioned before arrival can ease any awkward encounters during visits.