In today’s world, working from home isn’t simply a perk for entrepreneurs who can’t yet afford their own office space. More and more, America’s workers – both entrepreneurs and employees – are working from the comfort (and connectivity) of their own home.
My business, Penn Ultimate Consulting, has allowed me the opportunity to work from home when I’m not at meetings or working in restaurants or other client businesses.
Because we live in a world driven by technology, we can stay connected to our clients, associates and colleagues from anywhere without missing a beat.
The perks of the WFH arrangement are immeasurable: waking up right before you start working, foregoing the showering/grooming routine, and of course, CUTTING THE COMMUTE! Need to throw a load of laundry in, or spend your lunch break on a treadmill? No problem. Working from home provides many perks, but I’ll tell you what, working from home provides numerous challenges when it comes to staying focused and productive. I confess I often struggle staying on track and not getting distracted.
That is, until I really stopped and trained myself to work effectively at home. Turns out my life and home are filled with a lot of (awesome) distractions: beautiful weather, a comfy couch, a refrigerator full of food and an annoying teenager, just to name a few. Do you know how long it’s taken me to write just two paragraphs of this blog??
So how DO you stay focused and productive? These six methods have really worked for me.
WAKE UP EARLY! Waking up “just in time” may be tempting – I mean who doesn’t love to sleep as long as possible. But guess what? It takes about two hours for your body to wake up and adjust to its best concentration level. As you probably know, it’s easy to feel groggy when you first wake up. Create a routine focused around getting up two hours earlier. For me, it’s working out. You can make a nice breakfast, get a workout in or for you OCD folks, clean the house! The point is, set some time aside in the morning to do something for you. That way, by the time work comes around, you can focus more carefully on what needs to be accomplished.
GET DRESSED! One thing that has helped me a lot is getting dressed like I’m going into the office. It doesn’t have to be a suit, just as long as it’s something I’d wear out of the house. There is a definite psychological advantage to getting into “work mode.” There’s a reason they refer to pajamas and sweats as “loungewear.”
PLAN YOUR DAY! This is a must for me. I’m usually aware that my plate is pretty full,, but I still struggle to keep those important tasks at the forefront of my mind. I’ve been forced to keep a strict schedule in which I plan out what I need to accomplish that day. I’m old school, so I use “planners,” but there are several apps that help you keep on track. One of my clients uses Pomodoro Timer. Check it out.
CLEARLY DEFINE AND OPTIMIZE YOUR WORKSPACE. (Read: Don’t work on the couch!) Set aside space that is solely used for work. Even if you don’t have office space, use a kitchen or dining room table, or better yet, put a desk in your room. Also, keep your workspace clean and free of clutter. Messes are distracting. If this isn’t motivation enough, studies show that over time, your desk can collect more than 400 times the bacteria than what you find on your toilet seat.
TALK TO SOMEBODY! Communicate well and often with colleagues. Doing so keeps you in touch with what’s going on in the office. You can communicate through email or instant messaging, but I recommend the phone and/or video conferencing.
LEAVE ME ALONE! Eliminate as many distractions as possible. If your family is around, let them know you’re at work and can’t be bothered. If you can’t find something to keep your kids distracted, you might need to consider child care for various parts of the day. Music may or may not be a distraction, depending on how you’re wired. TV on the other hand, should not be an option.
PUT YOURSELF ON TIMEOUT! Take a break. Staring at a screen for any significant period of time makes me certifiably insane. Take a bike ride, run around the block, go jump in the ocean or just do something else for a while. Human interaction is good. Go have lunch with friends, co-workers or your significant other. Just get out and recharge from your newfound productivity.