[Related – “Working From Home: Workspace“]
The difference between working from home becoming a distracted, lazy waste of time and becoming the most productive way you’ve ever worked is often routine. It’s easy to fall into a habit of procrastinating or flipping between unfinished tasks without getting any closer to finishing them. A routine can stop that before it even begins. In the same way you need a good physical workspace to get to work in, you need a good mental headspace for work.
The most basic aspect of a routine is times. Set aside a fixed amount of time every day for work, and don’t do anything unrelated to work in that time. If it’s as short as an hour, set a timer and give yourself a small reward afterwards; do it before lunch and have your lunch as a reward, or mid-afternoon and then play videogames when you’re finished.
If you’re working all day, for example starting at nine am and finishing at five pm, give yourself set breaks to stretch your legs and rest your mind. If you’re working at the computer, the recommended screen/break balance is an hour on the computer then 15 minute doing something else. It’s a good time balance for many things, as it’s not healthy to sit all day if you can avoid it. Remember to have meal breaks!
If you have trouble feeling focussed, a tighter or stricter routine might be helpful. Just as offices and work environments have dress codes, it can help to get dressed in a work-appropriate outfit before sitting down to work. It doesn’t have to be a full suit if you don’t want to, but rolling from bed to work in your pyjamas is not a motivating set up. Getting washed and dressed and putting on a polo shirt can be a big part of feeling motivated and ‘at work’.
The real secret to working at home successfully is finding your own balance – some articles will tell you that you must recreate a typical office environment as closely as physically possible, but the main appeal of working from home is the comfort and ease of working in your pyjamas on the sofa. Only you can find the balance between the two that works for you. Maybe you need to allocate tasks to a timetable and work to a strict list on the clock, but you can sit around in your onesie and eat snacks. Maybe you can come and go on work and don’t need reminders, but only if you wake up and put on a shirt and trousers. Maybe you need a little of each.
Once you’ve got some sort of routine down, working will become habit. You won’t have to focus on going along with your routine when you’re used to it, and you won’t have any trouble getting down to work and being productive when you’re in the habit of working and being motivated. Without the time taken up by a commute and with the fine balance you’ve worked out, you might even be far more productive and create far better finished products at home than you ever did before.