After nearly six years of full-time self-employment, I can safely say I’m someone who knows about working from home. And it’s not easy!
I often find people are envious of the fact that I work from home and that I’m my own boss. Believe me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
In order to work successfully – and productively – from home, you need to be REALLY disciplined and REALLY organised. And REALLY determined to succeed, even if that determination takes years. I’ve been blogging for nearly eight years, and freelance for nearly six of those. And I’ve only just started to earn what I’d call “a decent wage” in the last year or two.
But much of that is down to the fact that during the last couple of years, I’ve organised myself enough to be able to work as productively as possible whilst avoiding sleeping in, wearing my pyjamas all day and constant online window shopping.
A lot of people ask me whether I get distracted being at home, but personally I found working in an office more distracting. I’m someone who likes to chat, so being with other people meant I stopped to chat. A LOT. But on the other hand, I also like to knuckle down and get work done (when it suited me of course!), so THEN being in an office with people who wanted to chat to me was incredibly frustrating at times.
So yes, I’m aware of the hypocrisy of that statement, but I didn’t say I was perfect!
Therefore I’m actually much happier when I’m on my own and can organise my time as I wish, doing things when I want to do them and not have to chat because I can turn off my phone and close my email Inbox until I’m ready. I’m LESS distracted at home because chatting to people is my big distraction.
Luckily Riley tends to sleep pretty much all day in between his walks and his food, so he’s somewhat lacking in conversation. (Doesn’t mean he’s not distracting just by lying there looking gorgeous and wanting cuddles, though.)
But whatever your situation – whether you’re blogging full or part-time, freelancing and setting up an office in your own home, or able to work at home one or two days a week away from the office – here are some tips that I hope will make your working from home a lot easier and more organised.
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1. Get a proper workspace
Ensure you have a dedicated working space. Apart from the fact that you’ll feel more “at the office” when you have a proper desk, you’ll do long term damage to your back and shoulders if you’re hunched over a laptop on the sofa or your bed. (I used the sofa for a month before we set up my new desk when we moved house last year – my shoulders and neck were killing me during that time.)
Make it as clutter-free as possible and decorate with real plants (keeps the air clean too), good lighting and a proper ergonomic chair with lumbar support and adjustable back, height, etc. (the more you can afford to spend, the better it’ll be for you). Sitting at a chair that looks pretty on Instagram but gives you serious spinal problems is a terrible idea: pretty pictures on the ‘gram aren’t really worth chronic back pain, are they…?
If you HAVE to have a pretty chair, get yourself a lumbar support pillow to help your back. It’ll thank you for it.
2. Replace your commute with a walk to work
Go for a walk to replace your daily commute – you can then start work when you arrive at the office (home). When I worked in an office I always used to go for a (minimum) 20-minute walk at lunchtime, and before work too if I got there early enough. Getting out of the house before you start work not only wakes you up, but it gives you time to think about the day ahead. Then when you get home, that’s your “commute” done – you’ve arrived at work. Make a cup of tea and get started.
The great thing is it also means that YOU HAVE TO GET DRESSED. Staying in your PJs all day is the joke that freelancers can never seem to shake off – it’s easily done! But if your routine involves getting out of the house for half an hour first thing every morning, then you’re already up and dressed.
Unless you’re the type of person who’s happy to be seen out in public in your unicorn onesie and a pair of trainers. In which case you’re a hopeless cause ; -)
3. Routine is key (boring but true)
I know it sounds boring, but working from home isn’t about eating cereal on the sofa and watching Homes Under the Hammer, doing whatever you want whenever you feel like it. I’ve been there, done that… you soon find time runs away with you and you get used to being unproductive. Endless bowls of muesli and daytime TV do not an empire make!
If your work allows, do particular tasks on particular days. As a blogger I stick to specific days for types of posts – accounts and admin catch up on a Monday, outfit posts on a Tuesday, the ShareAllLinkUp on a Thursday, etc. – it’s easy to lose track of what day of the week it is otherwise and it’ll have a knock-on effect in other areas of your life that need to be structured.
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
If you have your own desk get a large drinks dispenser (like the large glass 5l Kilner jars) to keep hydrated. I always used to think “I’ll just make sure I go downstairs to get water, that way I’ll move AND go get the water!” – what happened was that I didn’t move AND I just got more and more dehydrated. I wasn’t moving and I wasn’t drinking – the dispenser means you will, at least, stay hydrated and be more likely to move because (you guessed it) you’ll need to wee more often!
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how important it is to stay hydrated: you’ll avoid headaches, improve alertness and concentration, get clearer skin, flush out toxins, keep weight off more easily, improve your mood, need I go on…
5. Move, move, move
So following on from no.4: you HAVE to get up and move regularly. It’s been proven that sitting all day and not moving will have detrimental effects to your health, so set hourly alarms to make sure you move regularly. My Fitbit is absolutely brilliant – it buzzes and tells me when I haven’t done enough steps that hour and I have 10 minutes to move my lazy arse.
Staring at a screen too long will also affect your sight, giving you dry eyes (we blink less when staring at a screen) and “digital eye strain”, known to cause headaches, blurred vision and even shoulder pain (this is turning out to be a happy post, isn’t it?). So get up and move, don’t look at your phone, and look at something long distance. Or go for that lunchtime walk I mentioned…!
6. Set particular times for reading and replying to emails
If you don’t set times for emails, you’ll find yourself getting distracted when you’re meant to be doing other tasks (or trying to meet deadlines), especially if you have notifications come up on your phone and/or desktop.
Close your email tab and only open it at your allotted times. If you think it will help, set up an auto-reply that explains that you only look at your emails at X time of day so people know when you might be getting back to them.
If you have a Gmail account, there is now a “Pause Inbox” button – when you click Pause, new messages will stop arriving in your Inbox. They will be held in a special label until you are ready for them. Perfect for stopping distractions and that “ooh what’s this email from Asos and a special offer code all about” situation.
7. Stop for lunch
Taking a lunch break doesn’t just mean grabbing something to eat whilst barely leaving your laptop – it means STOP working, and EAT. It’s important to both eat as well as rest during the day, so step away from your laptop (and phone!) and grab something healthy to eat. I sometimes watch one episode of a box set during my lunch hour – it forces you to relax and take your mind off work and deadlines.
8. Don’t let friends and family drop by or call
Make sure friends and family know what days and times they can call you – and not to just drop by. It’s easy to feel like you’re being rude if you want to tell them not to pop in for 10 minutes for a cuppa (especially when 10 minutes turns into an hour or two), but they’ll respect the fact that you’re ‘at the office’ if you explain it to them.
My busy days are Tuesdays, and unless it’s urgent my mum knows not to call me on a Tuesday. My parents also live a three-minute drive from our house, and they respect the fact that I’m working during the week so never drop in unless they’ve called and checked it’s okay first.
The last thing you want is to be entertaining people when your head’s going crazy wishing they’d go because you have a deadline that’s coming up. It’ll set you up for a very unproductive rest-of-the-day and probably have a knock-on effect for your evening and family time… no one wants that!
9. Ensure you communicate with your “colleagues”
Despite what I said above, it’s really important not to let yourself get isolated. Social media can be a great way to stay connected to people, but it’s all too easy to get distracted with videos of baby hedgehogs and hilarious memes. As a blogger I’d recommend a WhatsApp group for a small group of your closest blogger friends. If you have a work question there’s bound to be someone who can answer your question straight away, or give advice if you’re trying to negotiate terms with a brand, for example.
Depending on your line of work – and especially if you’re a freelancer rather than doing the odd day at home away from the office – it may be more tricky to find a group of “colleagues” to connect with. Consider local business networking groups, or even just working from a local coffee shop one afternoon a week. The feeling of being surrounded by people, even if you’re not communicating with them directly, can be enough to stop those feelings of isolation.
So if you find yourself typing All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy over and over again, you might want to get yourself out of the house as soon as possible…
10. Minimise distractions when meeting deadlines
If you’re trying to meet a deadline, switch your phone to do not disturb and/or close all tabs on your desktop except the one you’re working on. THIS is the thing that stops me being productive – looking at other tabs and getting distracted by online shopping, tweets, news feeds, etc. is my worst vice. I don’t even realise I’m doing it – I’ll look something up and before I know it, one thread has led to another and I’ll be led down the biggest internet rabbit hole the blogosphere has ever seen.
Do what I do, and close all the tabs except the one you’re working on. If you HAVE to look something up, look it up on your phone and close it straight away. If you can’t close the tabs yet (and if you’re like me, I always have a TON of tabs open for anything from blogging articles I’ve yet to read to a shopping basket ready to buy), use the Onetab app to convert all of your tabs into a list on one single tab you can access at any time.
11. Organise tomorrow today
Ever heard of the Ivy Lee method? It’s very simple and is almost guaranteed to increase your productivity and help you organise every working day. (In fact it doesn’t only work for working from home days, it also works for days off when you have a ton of jobs to do.)
The Ivy Lee method is this: At the end of each working day, write down your six most important tasks to accomplish the following day in order of importance. The next day, begin working on the tasks one at a time. Any that you don’t finish can be transferred to the following day’s list.
It may be tempting to put more than six – who else has To-Do lists that are always a mile long?! – but more than six means your tasks look overwhelming. If you finish them early you can simply write a new list, and work through those next six. Though I can’t remember a time I’ve ever done all the tasks and needed to write a new list…!
DO YOU HAVE ANY GREAT TIPS FOR WORKING FROM HOME THAT YOU WANT TO SHARE? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS!
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
Oops, time to get out the house methinks…
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