Great! Now that you’re working from home you’ll have all these extra hours, right? No more commuting to your office every day, going out for lunch, and all this office chitchat. But there are other traps luring right around the corner. Everybody who works from home will sooner or later stumble into some problems. You better prepare yourself if you consider working from home. I’ve assembled my best tips for you to get accustomed to your new work situation and not lose your mind.
After working from home for almost a year now, I can tell you that it has been a ride. Don’t get me wrong. I love working from home. Out of similar reasons why you might be dreaming about it. Freedom and flexibility. There’s a lot of comfort in working from home. Not having to spend hours on public transport. You don’t even need to dress to go to the office. Creating your own schedule and changing it whenever you want. You’re your own boss.
The problem with working from home
But there are a couple of downsides to working from home. Right from the start, I realized that it’s much harder than I first thought.
One of the first things I struggled with was the incomprehensibility from others. You’re at home so you’re always available. On top of that, you’re the boss so you can change your schedule. People will constantly ask you to do this and that and help here and there. You’ll find that a lot of people around you don’t take your work seriously. And you have to be careful to not let this get too close to you. Otherwise, you’ll start believing that your work isn’t that important. It’ll keep you pushing it aside for other things.
Apart from this, you’ll find that it’s hard to disconnect. Because you’re close to your computer and other work tools at all times. Seriously, my phone became my own worst enemy for some time. It’s so easy to check your email or log into social. Or even start up your computer after you’ve already shut down and it’s way past your bedtime. If you don’t pay attention and set yourself boundaries you’ll work 24/7.
Working from home can at times be very lonely. You’re all by yourself and nobody to talk to. Yes, it’s also quiet and nobody will distract you but from time to time you’ll feel the need to have a conversation. A real in-person conversation and not text messages and emails.
4 tips for working from home
Working from home has been more complicated than I first thought. But there’s one thing I realized very quickly. You, yourself are often the biggest hurdle. It’s on you to adapt to this situation and figure out a way to set yourself up for success. It’s possible to be productive, efficient, and in charge while profiting from the freedom and flexibility when being your own boss at the same time. You can have both. Here are some things I did to make it work.
Create a designated workspace
The first thing you might want to think about is creating a designated workspace. I know, your bed can be so comfy but it’s also inviting you to spend your day cuddled up watching Youtube videos instead of working. Even if you don’t have a real office ( I am living in a tiny apartment too ) you can still choose a space which signals you work. Space where you can focus and you have everything you need at hand.
A workspace is not only necessary to prevent you from procrastinating. It helps you to focus and get stuff done. Furthermore, you’ll set boundaries by setting up a workstation. Separating work from your private life is essential. And believe me when I say you should set these boundaries right from the start.
Related post: How to declutter your workspace
Set yourself fixed work hours
Sure! You can now work wherever and whenever you want. That’s why you wanted to work from home in the first place. But don’t underestimate the negative aspect of having flexible work hours.
Before we talk about the reasons for fixed hours, let me get something clear. Fixed hours doesn’t mean you have to stick to a 9 to 5 schedule like at your office job. Of course, you’re more flexible now. You can make your own schedule depending on when is the best time for you to work. If you have kids this might be while they’re in school. Or you might be an early bird who wants to get a lot done before everybody else wakes up. This all depends on your preferences. But you have to set this schedule and here’s why.
First of all, you won’t get anything done if it’s not scheduled into your day. With the huge help of your friend Mr. Procrastinator, you’ll do anything but what’s on your to-do list. You’ll push tasks further and further into the day until it’s too late.
Fixed hours also prevent you from working too much. Because when there’s no real end you can turn into a workaholic. Working late into the night and not taking enough time to relax.
Another reason why you should consider a fixed schedule are distractions. Distractions in the form of other people. This might be the people your living with, your friends, or even your clients. When you work from home you’re automatically available at all times. You won’t get anything done if you’re interrupted every ten minutes.
With fixed hours you can easily let everybody know that you’re not available during a specific time. Tell your friends and family when is the best time for them to reach you. And this is similar for your clients. Let them know in advance when they can expect to hear back from you. That you won’t answer emails after 18:00h or that you clock out earlier on Fridays. You might think this is common courtesy and everybody will automatically respect your time but it’s sadly not always the case. Make sure you communicate clearly how and when you work and everybody will be happy.
Create your own accountability system
If you’re somebody who needs to have deadlines and a certain amount of outside control to get things done, you need to create them for yourself now. You might be used to a boss or colleagues holding you accountable. When you start working from home you can easily feel lost without this control system.
But you can create one yourself. Set deadlines for all your tasks and projects. Even for those which don’t involve client work. You can also ask a friend to be your accountability partner. Somebody who will check-in with you on a regular basis to ask you where you’re at. It takes time to adapt yourself to working from home and creating new systems plays a huge role in how you adapt. But, these new systems should always benefit you. You no longer have to integrate things which don’t work for you.
Plan, plan, and plan some more
With that said we come to the next point. Prepare yourself to spend a lot of time planning. Planning to set up your days, planning for months in advance, and always reviewing and tweaking your process. In the beginning, you’ll most likely underestimate the time things take. You should track the actual time you spend on tasks until you get a better feeling for it. Believe me, you’ll be quite shocked when you realize how long some tasks actually take.
You might think that working from home finally gives you the freedom of going with the flow. But in my case, it was the actual opposite. I got overwhelmed and sidetracked. Being prepared gives me more freedom. When you know exactly where you’re at and what needs to get done next you’re more focused. You don’t waste time on unnecessary stuff or trying to find the point where you lost track.
The better you’re prepared the easier it gets to actually do the work. You’ll find that you can take more liberties and be spontaneous when you’re organized.
Related post: How to stay productive when working from home
There’s one last thing I wanted to mention. And this is to practice yourself in patience. You will find your own rhythm it only takes some time to figure out what works best for you.
Are you working from home? What are your biggest struggles? Leave a comment below.