This year, I’m celebrating six years as a business owner – hurraaahhhhh! – and for the majority of that time, I’ve worked from home.
Mostly, I absolutely love it.
I know I work best when I get to work on my own terms, and find it easiest to get in that state of flow – when I’m completely consumed by the task at hand – early in the mornings. Just me, my work and plenty of tea & biscuits.
Essentially, I am Greta Garbo with a laptop: “I WANT TO BE ALONE” etc, etc.
However, I think it’s important to point out that working from home is NOT all countless cuppas and robot-like levels of productivity. Not all the time, anyway.
It’s a work in progress.
Even when you’ve been home-working for while, it’s very much worth reviewing your set-up occasionally because – for reasons I touch on below – working PRODUCTIVELY from home is not always easy.
Here are my top pieces of advice for ensuring you remain on top of your WFH game:
- Get Outside (Your Own Head) Occasionally If You Want To Grow
OK, so I’m starting this list with a complete contradiction after the Greta quote. But stick with me.
One of the biggest barriers for successful home working, I think, is often mindset. It can be so easy to get stuck in your own head when your only colleague is you.
For example, I know I can produce the bread-and-butter work of what I do for clients – write press releases, social media content, liaise with media – with relative ease and within deadline, while working from home.
Yet when I start thinking about new work, new projects, new people I’d love to work with – i.e. the stuff I need to do to grow my business – I can often only get so far while working solo.
Sometimes I get stumped for creative ideas. Sometimes I do a heck of a lot of procrastinating. And a whole load more tea drinking.
The saying goes that procrastinating is an indicator of fear, that you’re actually scared of whatever it is you keep putting off. Scared of doing something wrong, scared of looking stupid, scared of failure – all the things you need to push past in order to keep growing.
And for me, this procrastination / fear is worse when I keep everything in my own head.
Sharing my thoughts and ideas – sometimes scary in itself – helps A LOT. As does getting a change of scene.
Sometimes I’ll talk things out with fellow freelancers, ideally face-to-face, or online if not. Sometimes I’ll vent to Graham, although he hasn’t got a clue what I’m going on about and usually just tries to nod and look sympathetic when he thinks he’s meant to.
Sometimes I’ll get out of the house and go somewhere new – a café, a library, a co-working space full of distractions, which the Greta in me hates at first – and I’ll come back feeling better: energised, productive.
The bottom line is that working from home, alone, for every minute of the working day doesn’t always work.
Even if you’re as Garbo-esque as me, it’s amazing what a chat and/or a change of scene can do.
- Start Early – Or Start Late (Work When’s Best For You)
I have been an early bird for as long as I can remember. Before Ted arrived, it wasn’t unusual for me to set my alarm at an ungodly hour – 5am, sometimes earlier – when I had a specific task to turn around.
I don’t have that luxury now – if you’re mad enough to call getting up before 5am to work a luxury.
Ted wakes early and I get up with him as Graham goes to work. Except on Saturdays, when I can often be found at my laptop at 6am, while G and Ted play and have breakfast together.
(Side note: It’s a Saturday morning as I write this. Graham’s just come in to ask for help with teeth-brushing – Ted’s not his own, I should add, while regaling details of exactly what Ted’s just eaten with his porridge, and asking me what clothes Ted should wear today.
There is another post to be written about the frequent realities of working from home as a mum, I feel….)
Anyway – on my set work days that aren’t Saturdays, when Ted is with my mum and dad, I ensure I get my ‘hardest’ work out of the way first, as soon as I’m at my laptop around 8am.
I sometimes have no choice but to work at night, but I always give myself time the next day to review what I’ve produced – because I can’t trust my morning person brain to make anything of quality after 5pm.
You might be completely the opposite, so work with your strengths.
- Love Your Workspace
This one’s not rocket science: your workspace needs to be somewhere you enjoy spending time in, whether you’re a writer of words, a baker of cakes or a maker of something so amazing that I can’t even think of it right now.
When we moved house, I was thrilled to set up my new office.
My previous home office was in our old rented house and I never did much to it, so I was excited about setting up my new work gaff and putting my very own stamp on it.
I painted the walls, set up my new desk, installed a cool motivational slogan decal – or rather, Graham did….and then it promptly became as messy as my old office and indeed every office I’ve ever had before.
These days, I keep on top of it much more efficiently – if only because my office is the only nook of the house that isn’t full of other people’s stuff and is therefore my sanctuary.
It is filled with candles and Paperchase notebooks and wire baskets because I am a writer / ‘mumboss’ cliché and I love it.
Tidy office, tidy mind and all that jazz. (Kill me now.)
- Try The Pomodoro Technique
I only heard about the Pomodoro Technique a few weeks ago and while I’ve not been a slave to it, IT REALLY HAS WORKED on the occasions I have implemented it.
In a nutshell, the technique is designed to encourage short intense periods of work, broken up by short breaks – which is best for productivity, according to the experts (or at least Mr Pomodoro. There wasn’t really a Mr Pomodoro by the way, but I’m going with it.)
What to do:
Choose your task. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work on the task WITHOUT INTERRUPTION (this includes toddler teeth brushing and/or having a sneaky peek at Instagram). When the timer rings, take a 5 minute break. Repeat three times then have a longer break. Marvel at how amazing you are.
And that’s it!
I really recommend giving it a go, particularly if you’ve been trying to crack something on your to-do list for aeons. Anyone can work for 25 minutes, and you’ll probably be surprised how quickly it passes, and how much you get done.
Thanks Mr Pomodoro.
- Give Yourself A Break
Even now, after 6 years of working for myself, I don’t always allow myself the realisation that I will NEVER get through EVERYTHING I want to achieve in one day.
I’m not sure if it’s to do with being impatient, or thinking that I’ve created exactly the right working conditions I need so WHY AREN’T I GETTING MORE DONE?, but I am often much too hard on myself.
It’s a complete waste of time. And since time is what we’re attempting to maximise here, let’s point out once and for all that being critical of yourself for not being productive enough will never make you more productive (unless you really are a lazy oaf and then a rocket up your bottom might be just the ticket).
You get the gist.
Do the work, enjoy the work, take breaks, be kind to yourself, celebrate the wins…and you’ll do just fine.
Bye for now x
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