Working from home is a privilege, but it can quickly turn into a pain if you aren’t organized enough. You tend to overwork yourself and promise more than you can handle.
I am not a morning person, my kids usually wake me up. I’m not a night owl either, these days I’m severely in need of sleep. I try to organize the time I have as best as I can. Of course, there are days when priorities dictate the rhythm, as well as lazy days or days when I don’t feel like doing anything. I work best on weekends, when my home is more quiet, and go on family trips in the middle of the week. I have perfectly adapted to the startup rhythm, but I could easily adapt to anything. It’s all in our minds.
The first tendency when you start working from home is to overwork yourself. You feel obliged to keep the 8 hour day, and you feel obliged to do magic around the place because you spent the whole day home. Don’t do that, it’s going to overwhelm you before you know it.
Here are my tips & tricks for maximizing your productivity
1. Try to divide your day into time slots. Don’t go for a fixed schedule, you’re not in an office anymore. Working from home is all about flexibility. I have working time and family time, plus me time when I’m lucky enough. I make it a rule to have all 3 meals with the girls. As a bonus, that’s how I make sure I eat. No burnout risk.
2. Lists are a must. No matter the form, they help you remember everything you have to do and stay organized. And if you’re like me, there’s a lot to do and you can’t afford to forget something. I am so meticulous about this that I have a separate planner/notebook for work, home, blog, other projects. I also use Google Keep and Wunderlist. I love it when I’m at the supermarket and tick off items on the list. Writing things down means you are holding yourself accountable. It will help you focus your thinking, and that translates into focused action. Remember you want quality, not quantity. I am now able to finish tasks that would take me 2-3 days in just a few hours, and it all has to do with having clear goals, a clear plan and focusing.
3. Alternate when you lose inspiration (not to be confused with multitasking). The lucky thing about being the master of your own time is that you can rotate your activities, you don’t have to go on working on something if you don’t feel like it. You’re not at the office anymore, so you can stop pretending. It makes you human, it doesn’t mean you’re slacking or procrastinating. Take a break to read, work on another project or task, clean the house, do some shopping, or whatever else. That’s why I said no fixed schedule. Pressure helps very few of us get extraordinary results. The rest need harmony.
4. Try to plan at least one trip outside each day. You can combine more activities, like shopping and paying the bills, to save time. But it’s important to get out of the house every day. I love evening walks with the family. Whether you take your child to the park or you go out just to buy a loaf of bread, you’ll definitely feel refreshed.
5. Use deadlines & prioritize. Gradually, you will learn to estimate close enough the time it takes you to finish something. Use that to your advantage. Procrastination and distraction are your worst enemies. Being productive is a choice that belongs to you only, it can’t be influenced from the outside, just like staying motivated.
6. Include time for e-mail & social media in your daily plans. Those are two activities that swallow up a lot of time, especially if you work in the creative field. Social media can help you stay updated with your industry, it doesn’t have to be a waste of time. It’s entirely up to you how you use social media. Facebook for instance has 2 magical buttons: save link & unfollow. Use them wisely. And how about the lovely Instagram feature called Bookmark?
7. Make time for your family. Spend quality time together. Remember the whole point of working from home is to spend more time with your family. Make sure you’re present when it matters. And when your child needs you, leave everything aside. It’s not the end of the world. They won’t remember how hard you worked on that business plan, but they will remember you were there to patch their scraped knees or to chase them around the livingroom while making monster sounds. Taking a day off is a must once in a while.
8. Make sure you get enough rest. Resting is your fuel, and without it your frustration will get the best of you and you will lose focus. You won’t be fully productive and you will soon feel burnout creeping in. So try to unplug as often as you need. And FYI, staring into a screen, even if it’s for fun, doesn’t qualify as resting.
9. Create/designate a working space & keep it uncluttered & organized. If you feel comfortable using a desk, do that. I use my bed as desk, and I love how I can spread everything around me. Clutter is stressful, so I try to avoid it as much as possible. Less is more. As a rule, once I start working I close the door and get detached from everything else.
10. Have someone help you with the household and children. While it may sound snobbish, you need it more than you realize. You’re not Superman or Wonder Woman to do everything. Most people share how they work when the children aren’t at home. But what about the long holidays and those cases when you have a toddler who isn’t going anywhere yet? Or what if you’re homeschooling your child, like I have just started to do this year? Working from home means you have to work, look after the children, cook and keep everything in order. And run a couple of errands too, if it’s one of those days. It’s impossible for a single person to do all that and keep their wits about them.
11. Learn when to say yes or no. You don’t have to go out all the time just because you can, and you don’t have to take on projects all the time. Balance is key. There are a lot of variables and unpredictable things you have to cope with as they come. Leave room for them.
Working from home is all about discipline. You won’t always be productive or in top shape, but you have to train yourself to work even then. Being organized and productive means you use time efficiently and you have more time left to do the things you love. It’s not about waking up earlier or keeping strict schedules. After all, that’s why you don’t have a regular 9 to 5, right? So you can be the master of your own time. As long as you meet deadlines, you are free to organize your day however you think best. I wake up at 9am or later every day, if I woke up earlier I’d have a headache and I would be incapable of doing anything all day. A lazy morning is a great start to a productive day. Focus comes in doses, and in between you can be as slow (*cough* or lazy *cough*) as you want. Just know that there is no universal recipe, and what works for someone doesn’t work for everyone. Find your own rhythm and stick to it.