How to Work from Home Productively

My biggest lessons from 12 years of working from home around my family

How to Work From Home Productively, even around a family...
Photo Credit: Paroma Basu

Over the last 12-years, I’ve worked from home while starting and running three businesses around my young family.

I’ve experienced first hand the benefits, joys and challenges of working from home, and the myriad of distractions and challenges that can occur on a daily basis.

At a time when many are working from home for the first time, or working around more distractions and obligations than ever before, I want to share how I’ve learned to become my most productive self, whatever the world throws at you.

Set Your Schedule

When you work from home the idea that you are in charge of your own time can be a bit of a myth. While it’s true in theory, if you don’t carefully plan and manage your time, it will run away from you.

It’s important to create a schedule and stick to it.

Get clear about when you will need quiet time to work and communicate to everyone around you – even your toddlers. Help them to understand your vision and why what you are doing is important to you. This will encourage others to support you and respect your boundaries. Also be clear about time when you would like to work, but can be disturbed if need be.

Finally, determine what time you will be 100% focused on your family, and stick to this schedule too.

Plan Ahead

When you work from home, planning your day the night before can help you start your day with intention and get into the flow of your work faster.

Start your plan by reminding yourself of your top priority for the day and how that links into your overall goals. This will help your motivation, and help you stay focused on what’s most important for the day.

There’s every likelihood that you won’t get everything done that you’d like, and that’s OK, but if you’ve accomplished your most important goal, then you can still end your day feeling accomplished.

Also plan ahead with regards to how you will respond to any unforeseen distractions, and when you work from home these can be many!

Draw a line vertically down a blank page. Write at the top of one side ‘If’ and on the other side write ‘Then’. On the ‘If’ side brainstorm all the distractions that could  occur during the day, and on the other side write ways you can respond. This will help you rise to the occasion and save you valuable thinking time and energy when the unexpected happens. This will help stop you getting thrown completely off-course.

Be Realistic 

You won’t be able to work from home in the same way as you can work from a more formal work environment. It’s important to be realistic about what you can achieve, and forgive yourself for all the things you can’t.

I started my first business when my eldest daughter was 5-months old. I soon learned that I could no longer extend the same level of help and support to my friends that I could previously. For a while, I beat myself up for not being a better friend, but then I realised that my friends understood that I had to prioritise my time and attention differently and they were perfectly OK with it. I was being unnecessarily hard on myself. As soon as I realised this and dropped the guilt, I found I was able to be more productive and, when I did have time to help my friends, they appreciated it more than ever.

Practice Self-Care

I can’t emphasise this enough, but self-love and self-care are at the heart of productivity and success.

Your mindset is always your most powerful asset, now more than ever, so make sure you protect it by practicing healthful habits, from eating well and exercising, to meditation and self-development, these practices will help you maintain a positive outlook and the energy you need to manage your business around the current situation.

Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. When you work from home, it’s tempting to be there for everyone else and double-down our efforts in business, but if you don’t also take conscious care of yourself, these efforts will not be sustainable.

Involve Your New Co-Workers

I’ve found my kids to be extraordinarily motivated co-workers, and over the years they’ve become amazing mini-mentors, creative partners and marketeers.

By involving my daughters in my business, they’ve felt connected to what I do and have willed me on at times when the going got tough. They’ve listened to my personal development CDs with me, and even attended live trainings. As a result, they’ve developed some amazing entrepreneurial skills and business savvy – tools that will benefit them for life!

Their brand of ‘help’ might not always feel like what you need, but if you relax your standards for a moment, you may just find that they bring you exactly what you need.

I remember once I was working from home and about to give a training Live on Facebook when my girls came into the room so I stopped. They begged me to continue, promising they would quietly sit and watch me in action. I hit ‘Go Live’ and started my presentation. About five minutes in, the girls couldn’t resist the temptation to sneak into the background and for 15 minutes entertained my audience with all sorts of antics in the background. I carried on regardless but was feeling quite cross by the end. However, everyone who watched the training said they loved the bonus entertainment and remarked at how much it inspired them to know that even if your kids are clowning around in the background, you can still run a business and add value to others.

Find what Productivity Tools Work for You

There are many tools and techniques that can help you be more productive, and these can be particularly helpful when you work from home. Try a few out to see which ones work best for you.

Personally, I love the Pomodoro Technique where I focus on one task for 25-minutes before taking a five-minute break. This has helped train me to be more focused and intentional. It also helps me maintain higher levels of energy (an energy audit is also great for this!).

With my email, I send the messages I want to send first and look for emails I’m waiting on – but ignore the rest until later in the day, knowing that my inbox is in fact a list of other people’s priorities, not my own!

Finally, I use a grading system to help me allocate an appropriate amount of time to my tasks. Gold tasks are those that I need to do exceptionally well, Silver are those that I need to complete to a reasonable standard, and Bronze are those that I just need to get done. This tool is particularly useful for you if have perfectionist tendencies like myself. Once you look at your ‘to do’ list this way, you’ll be amazed at how few Gold tasks you have, and you’ll save yourself a LOT of time.

Ask for Help

This tip is one that I didn’t employ for a very long time and it nearly cost me my health and my business!

However, once I asked for help, I found that those around me were all poised and ready to jump in and support me. As women, I think we often feel that we need to do it all, particularly when we work from home, and that in asking for help we are showing some kind of weakness, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

When we allow others to support us, we actually give ourselves the space to bring more of ourselves, our love and our talents into the world in ways that make a real and lasting difference…and allow others to do the same.

Find the Fun

Always remember that while building a business is seriously hard work – it also has to be fun, or there’s no point!

Look for ways to bring joy and laughter into what you do. It’s a wonderful way to maintain your health and perspective.

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