Working from home — some people’s best dream or worst nightmare. Without the commute and a long line of boring in-person meetings, you seem to have a lot of time on your hands. Yet sometimes it feels like we aren’t able to get our best work done.
Getting work done at home is no easy feat. It’s much harder to separate your work and home life when you’re forced to merge the two, potentially against your choosing.
That doesn’t mean the responsibilities don’t keep piling up. Work still must get done, but the lure of being home can be a big enough distraction to pull your attention away during the day. Here are four tips to get your work done at home.
Create a dedicated space
When the temptation of doing housework or the whispering of the next Netflix series is calling for you, it’s time to change up your space. Not everyone has the luxury of a home office, but it’s important to create a dedicated space in which only work can be done.
If you can section off a portion of your home for a temporary office, it’s best to make that space out of the way of distractions. Keep the TV off, set webpage blockers, and don’t be within view of any home stresses you might have (unwashed dishes, laundry, cleaning, etc.).
It’s amazing how little you want to do chores until you’re working from home and want to procrastinate your work.
Working from home inevitably means working with some distractions… and people are no exception. Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re available for phone calls from friends, impromptu brunches, or visits from neighbors.
Create boundaries for what you will and will not accept during the normal working hours. Perhaps you’ll take your full lunch hour and use that extra time to take the dog for a walk. Communicate with others that your working hours are technically the same and you’ll re-emerge after the work is complete. Or maybe you have some more flexibility with which hours you work and can start and finish a couple of hours early.
Pets and other distractions still count. If you can’t get work done with a cat walking all over your laptop every few minutes, you may have to shut them out of your working space. And create boundaries with yourself so you’re not tempted to get chores done during the working hours. One thing can turn into the next and eventually you’ve wasted your entire day avoiding work.
Take effective breaks
Being home can make you feel like you need to be overproductive to prove you’re still doing your work. I get it. When I have the chance to work from home, I try to get everything under the sun done just to prove that I’m not slacking off or taking advantage of the system. I end up stressing myself out even more than when I have a packed day at the office.
Just like when you work in an office, you’re allowed to take breaks at home; the trick is taking effective breaks.
The trick to an effective break at home is not allowing yourself to get caught up in chores or falling into a Netflix black hole. If you feel like you need to get chores done, pick just one thing at a time and make sure that the task takes no longer than 5–10 minutes. You’ll keep yourself from getting distracted and by the end of the day, you’ll have completed a chore.
Better breaks include time to recharge using meditation or a short walk outside to keep your mind fresh. They don’t take much time and can help you stay on task when you return to your work.
Prioritize your day
Working from home comes with many distractions but setting your most important tasks and prioritizing your day can help keep you focused. Determine which three tasks need to be completed by the end of the day and start with the first one. Don’t move on to the second task until the first one is complete.
Once you’ve completed all three, feel free to look at what else you have time for during the day. Sometimes you’ll use the whole day on those tasks and other times you’ll find that prioritizing your work gives you a whole new meaning of productivity.
I find that when I prioritize my day, I have three tasks that I easily think will take the majority of the day. But in setting my most important priorities, I have an entirely new level of focus when I go to work on them. It’s rare that I don’t complete the tasks or don’t have extra hours at the end of the day to work with.
Working from home doesn’t have to flip your working life completely. While it does require a new level of focus and attention (no one can see when you’re distracted at home), a little time management mixed with boundaries can keep you on target for getting your work done.
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