Are you looking to work from home more productively? Whether you’re working from home occasionally, or every day, it’s possible to improve your routine and effectiveness. While I’ve worked remotely for days here and there for years, I’m finding working from home while I launch my own business to be very different.
I’m excited and nervous to have the opportunity to work from home. For many working moms, working from home is seen as this dream option. We daydream about working from home full time and set goals to work remotely more often. It can feel strange to make the transition from working at home being an occasional treat to an every day reality. The biggest benefits so far? I’m saving hours every day commuting, it’s easy to have things like laundry going in the background so they don’t interrupt our weekends and it’s so much easier to tackle big projects with uninterrupted stretches of time. And as an introvert, the quiet helps me recharge and be more present for my family and friends when we’re together.
I’m still learning how I can best work from home. But below are some of the most useful tips I’ve found for working from home effectively. In general, I’m striving to be more intentional with my time overall, both during and outside of work hours.
Build Some Flexibility Into Your Schedule
If you have the opportunity to set you own schedule, take advantage of it. For the first couple months, I was way too stressed about not putting in enough hours. No matter how carefully I scheduled my week, things came up. Eventually, I realized that with two small children that’s going to be the case. And now that I’m not the primary working adult in the house and am taking on more of the kids’ appointments, it’s only natural that I have less hours to dedicate to work. And that’s okay. 20 focused hours are worth 60+ hours where you’re so exhausted you can barely think straight. I’m focusing on quality over quantity and being grateful for the gift of flexibility.
Choose a Dedicated Workspace
For now, I’ve commandeered the end of our dining room table. It’s not an ideal long-term solution, but with little kids we don’t use the table often and it allows me to stay set up for a few days at a time. The addition of second kiddo meant no more home office, but we’re making it work.
Figuring how to work from home comfortably will increase your chances of working from home successfully. Make sure you have the right equipment, lighting and work space arrangement for your needs.
Get Out and Have Some Fun
My husband and I are walking the dog over his lunch break a few days a week. I’m building in a couple lunches, coffees, or calls with friends who inspire me each week. And I’m being intentional about how I use my time and making room for things that help me recharge. By scheduling things like brainstorming sessions during long walks, you can add movement to your day and change up the pace a bit.
Test Out Time Blocking
I’ve been time blocking based on the advice in The 12 Week Year and it’s been a game changer. While I’ve struggled to use their buffer blocks, the dedicated time for big picture planning, and the hours I set aside for writing are working really well. I also thrive on deadlines and find that they help me stay on task. I’ve found I can fairly easily pump out a first draft of a post in the hour before daycare pickup, whereas the same writing task would take me three hours in the morning, when I don’t have some place I need to be.
Have a Work Wardrobe
This one may sound silly at first, but I’ve found it key to success. I LOVE to be comfortable, but quickly learned I was less productive if I worked in pajamas every day. While I’m glad to ditch the professional wardrobe and the time involved with maintaining it, I’m finding benefit in a new work from home wardrobe. For me that means easy, comfortable layering pieces. They need to be cozy, but stylish. Essentially, anything I wouldn’t be embarrassed answering the door or running to the store in makes the cut.
There’s something about the mindset of getting ready every day, even if you’re not actually heading out, that preps you for work. And if I do need to run out, I’m more likely to do so if I’m already good to go. But these days I’m all about the ponytail, and makeup rarely encompasses more than mascara and lip gloss. And I’m feeling better than I have in years.
Monitor Your Energy
One of the things I’m working on is not beating myself up when life gets tough. If the kids didn’t sleep the night before, I’ve started adapting my work schedule to that reality. Rather than staring at a computer screen and trying to push through, I change things up. I tackle an easy task – catching up on some emails, scheduling out a day or two of Pinterest content – and see how I’m feeling. And I’m making time to take a nap if needed. When you’re overwhelmed, it can feel like there’s no time. But I’ve found I’m better off sleeping for 20-40 minutes and then tackling a big project refreshed, rather than struggling with it and feeling uninspired because I am exhausted.
Just Get Started
Break bigger projects into little pieces and get started with whatever feels manageable. That may be opening a new word doc and writing the title of a post, or selecting the main keyword phrase. Often, if I tell myself that’s all I have to do, I find I make a lot of progress. If I tell myself I need to write, edit and publish a new post and I’m having trouble focusing, chances are I’ll procrastinate and do anything but. But just like an object in motion stays in motion, once I’m at my computer and the first few words are out there, I almost always keep going.
Find a Work Routine That Works for You
I’m still playing around with this one. But I’m beginning to find some things that work. I like starting a load of laundry a few mornings a week and breaking out the bread maker on the alternate days. It feels good to have tasks like that accomplished in the background and LOVE not having to do laundry all weekend during our precious family time. Big picture thinking happens best in longer blocks on days when I don’t have outside commitments. I also work best by batching errands and not breaking up my days with them. And I’m putting in some time on tasks that require less thinking when the kids go to bed and my energy level is lower.
What am I still working on? Only checking email when I have the time and energy to respond. (This is a tough one for me!) And never checking email for the first two hours of the work day – I want to focus on the priorities I set out in advance without getting distracted.
I also try to take a mid-day break. It helps me clear my head and dive back in fresh. When I first started working from home, I tried to push through, since my days are shorter now. In my last professional job, I typically didn’t get home until 7:30 or 8pm and had a couple overnight business trips most months. Now I break by 4:45pm at the latest and focus on family time until 7pm. I felt that to justify being home, I needed to put in same number of hours. Which is crazy. I’m taking baby steps to find what works best for me. And focusing on working hard during the times that I’m most productive.
Goal Setting to Work From Home Effectively
If you try to do everything, you’ll accomplish nothing well. Build in time to reflect on the past week and set goals for the coming one, both personally and professionally. Knowing what your priorities are and what’s on your list will help you dive in each day without wasting time deciding what to do. I work best by giving myself some flexibility around the order I tackle the items on my list. And I’m currently working on keeping my lists a realistic length. By taking the time to reflect on the past week, you can celebrate your wins and figure out how to best tackle challenges the next time.
Check out these goal setting tips to learn more about setting the right goals for you.
Master Time Management
The better you are at managing your time, the more effective you’ll be at working from home. Try mixing in new tactics, so you can figure out what works best for you. There’s no right way. But by making small adjustments to your routine to increase your productivity, you’ll see big achievements over time.
Make Time for Exercise
When working from home, most people move less. And working online? It’s a lot of staring at a computer screen. If you’re in the same situation, try to break up computer time by brainstorming on paper, listening to educational podcasts while taking a walk, etc.
I’m slowly building in more time for exercise. Lately I’m taking a brisk walk most days and a longer hike with our puppy a few times a week. And I’m beginning to reach the point where I feel I have more energy to expand that exercise routine a bit. Which is huge – I’ve come to realize I was so burnt out the past couple years. Adding in exercise often felt overwhelming and I know its progress to want to seek greater balance and health again. Until recently, I often felt like there wasn’t time to squeeze in one more thing; our life felt like a leaky boat where we were just doing our best to plug holes and bale water faster than it could rise.
Prioritize Eating Well
It’s important to make time for meals when you work from home. I’ve found that if I have healthy options ready to go, I’m more likely to eat them. Lately I’m hard boiling eggs and chopping veggies at beginning of week. Eating smaller meals throughout the day helps me balance my energy. And I’m thinking about what I’m snacking on and how it makes me feel before giving into junk food cravings.
Don’t Get Distracted by Your Home To Do List
Being at home, it’s easy to see all the things you need to do around the house. I’ve been combating this by taking 15 – 30 minutes to straighten up each morning. Typically, my husband and the kids leave a little after 8am. My goal is to be doing something productive by 9am. As soon as they are out the door, I tackle whatever mess they’ve left in their wake. I put away any toys on the floor, wipe down the breakfast table and kitchen counters, and wash any dishes in the sink. Sometimes I start a load of laundry or vacuum. I like starting the work day with a sense of accomplishment and seeing areas of calm and orderliness amidst the chaos of life with toddlers helps me focus. And when 9am rolls around, I am ready to start my day.
Utilize Accountability Partners
I’m finding that having accountability partners is helpful for me. If I publicly state I’m going to do something, I do it. Lately I’ve been working with a career coach which has helped me increase my self-awareness and process the transition to self-employment. I’m also texting with a couple ladies I connected with through a blogging group and their encouragement has been invaluable.
Online challenges are another great way to create a sense of accountability. I participated in one to write 10 posts in 10 days and making it through gave me a big boost of energy. Putting a goal out there into the world makes it real for me and helps keeps me on task. Don’t be afraid to choose whatever tools/tactics work for you and run with them.
If I’m working when husband and kids are home, I let him know how much time I need. I’ll work in a different area of the house and put on noise cancelling headphones. And when I’m with my family, I’m not working. It feels like such a blessing after a corporate career where felt compelled to check email 24/7 like my colleagues.
It can be hard to explain working from home to friends and family who’ve never had the opportunity. I’ve had to manage expectations that because I’m home I’m free to have fun with them whenever. I sometimes struggle to say no, but working from home has made me better at it.
Take Real Breaks – Be Aware of How You Spend Your Time
After a few weeks at home, I realized I was checking news sites as a way to take a break. But the news is frequently bad and it didn’t relax or re-energize me at all. It just added more info to my already overwhelmed head. Now I try to keep a list of things I like that I can do over a quick break. And I focus on getting up and moving, rather than surfing the internet.
You may find it helpful to limit social media during work hours. As a blogger, it can be tough, especially if you use sites like Pinterest to drive traffic. Try saving articles you want to read for later, rather than reading them as you go. Or set a timer if you’re going to check Facebook or Instagram. I find timers hugely helpful for any task that it’s easy to get sucked into. Even if I just use the timer to make sure I take a few minutes to get up and stretch in the midst of a long writing session.
Outsource as Needed
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you need to do everything yourself. We’ve kept our kids in daycare a few days a week, so I have free hours to work. And if I have a project where I really need to focus? I send the dog to doggy daycare.
Consider hiring a house cleaner, or an occasional babysitter. Are you short on time and struggling with tech issues? It’s okay to hire a freelancer to help you tackle a challenge. Working from home is still working and it’s important to invest in the services, etc. that help you be your most productive self.
Try a Change of Scenery
Some people find it really hard to work from home. They may crave a more social setting, or find it hard not to be distracted by the things they need to do around the house. If this is you, try working from a favorite coffee shop, your local library, or test out a coworking space. Know yourself and do what works best for you. You may find that an occasional change of location is what you need to make the most progress towards your goals.
Interested in Learning More About How to Work From Home Successfully?
- Time Management Tips for Moms
- 5 Goal Setting Tips for Achieving Your Dreams
- How to Get Motivated When You’re Struggling to Get Started
Working from home can be a blessing and a great way to add flexibility to your schedule. You can increase your effectiveness with a little planning and preparation, and by listening to your body so you can determine which strategies work best for you.
Do you have a favorite work from home tip? Or are you hoping to work from home in the future?