Running a business from home is a dream come true for many of us. But while the freedom from commuting and the ability to get out of bed later are undisputed perks of working from home, it’s not without its drawbacks. Finding the motivation to be productive is a lot more challenging when you’ve replaced being surrounded by colleagues by being surrounded by the distractions of home (television, fridge, housework… you name it), with nobody to cast a disapproving eye over your lack of productivity.
Despite this, many of the world’s most successful people work from home. Whether you’re already running your own business or you’ve made it your New Year’s resolution to start one in 2018, these tips should help you make your working days more productive.
1. Have a separate work space
There are few good things about commuting, but one of them is that it puts some distance between you and your work. When you’re working from home, achieving a sense of separation and balance between work and home life can be tricky. This is one of the reasons why garden offices (effectively a posh shed) are popular among those who work from home; they separate work from the rest of your living quarters, so that you can feel in a work frame of mind when you’re there.
If you don’t have room for a garden office, try to set aside a tidy space in the house that’s dedicated solely to work, ideally one where you won’t be disturbed by distractions such as family members. It’s harder to get into a work frame of mind if you’re simply working on a laptop in bed or at the dining table, but you don’t need a huge amount of space to create a home office (we love these ideas).
On a similar note, some people who work from home also find it helpful to dress as though they were going to an office, rather than lounging around in home clothes.
2. Switch off social media
It’s the biggest drain of time for the serial procrastinator, but staying off social media is easier said than done – particularly if you need to be on the internet for your job. If you keep being lured back in, there are apps you can install in your web browser or phone to block your access to the offending social media sites.
Try using apps such as Freedom, SelfControl or Stay Focused to block specific sites from all your devices for a period of your choosing. If the app you choose doesn’t block social media from your smartphone, try disabling notifications on your phone so that you don’t just keep checking social media on that instead.
3. Schedule your working hours and breaks
One of the great things about working from home is that you don’t have to stick to normal working hours; you can be as flexible as you like. That flexibility gives you the freedom to work at the times when you’re at your most productive. You might be a morning person, for instance, or a night owl. Whatever times of day work best for you, it’s worth trying to establish a routine around your productive times, giving yourself a defined start and end time if it helps.
It’s important to schedule breaks, too; these will give you something to work towards, as well as a much-needed break from your screen. You’ll actually be less productive if you try to stick at a task for too long without a break. According to the Posture Group, research shows that productive people work for 52 minutes and take breaks for 17 minutes.
4. Use a project management tool
It’s difficult to be productive when you’re overwhelmed with a big backlog of work to do. Using a project management tool such as Trello or Asana is a great way of keeping yourself organised and prioritising tasks, even when you’re the only member of the team.
You’ll be able to visualise your workflow, perhaps dividing projects by status (incoming, in progress and so on) and priority. Assign yourself tasks for the day ahead, with some smaller ones that you can tick off more easily (a morale boost) and a longer one that will take a bit more effort.
Working from home takes some getting used to if you’ve only ever worked in an office, but being disciplined and following these tips will help you establish a way of working that keeps you at your most productive. For more great tips on running your own business, take a look at some of our other business blog posts.