Community//

How to Work From Home

After twelve years and eleven homes later, tips on how to be more productive - and happier - when working from home.

home-offices
Three different home offices.

I love working from home, and have done it full-time since 2007, but sometimes it’s just HARD. There’re so many things working against us – being alone, not having an IT or tech person to call, laundry to fold, dinner to make, no one to talk to, finding an accountant or bookkeeper, files to organize, lack of boundaries, and on and on and on.

What type of person does well at working by themselves at home?

Here are a couple of traits that I have seen from people who do well working from home.

  • Able to work in an environment that does not have a solid structure.
  • The discipline to set your own boundaries and rules and manage your time yourself.
  • Being a self-starter.=, open-minded and curious about how things work.
  • Being able to get out of your own head and look at your situation from a different perspective.

These are all skills that point in the direction that working from home will be successful for you.

But, even if you rank in the top .01% of the type of person who should be working from home (there’s probably a quiz for that), it’s still hard. But, it’s so possible and at least for me, so wonderful, and there are things you can do to make it easier, more successful, and more productive.

Of course, there are so many work-from-home scenarios, and we can’t address all of them here. But, here are some core habits that have helped me and hopefully will also make a difference to you.

1 | CREATE A DEDICATED SPACE.
I KNOW! It is hard – I lived in four different apartments in NYC and there was not enough room for my clothes, much less a home office. I’m going to write another post on this, but for now, just find a spot. Can you sneak a desk into a guest bedroom? How many guests do you really have? What’s a better use of the space?

A corner of the dining room? Even if you have to clear it at the end of the day, you need your “office.” Try to make it a space of inspiration with as few distractions as possible. Oh, you’ll move around with your laptop – out to the porch, into the light-filled kitchen, etc., as that’s one of the beautiful things about working from home! But, try and find your space. If you have to clear it off at the end of the day, find a pretty tray or basket to put things in.

If you have a full office, congrats! Be intentional with it. Let it help you be more productive. More inspired.

Tip: talk to your accountant about deducting the space in your home that is “office” and dedicated to your business, such as an area that stores all of your materials for your art, etc.

2 | SET BOUNDARIES AND CREATE YOUR OWN CULTURE.
Your old regular office had rules, and your company had a culture, right? Well, working from home, you need some guidelines and some sort of structure, too. At an office, it’s probably not going to go over well if you are sitting at your desk looking through a magazine while you are supposed to be working on next year’s budget, right? Those boundaries are part of the office culture. Create your own culture.

A couple of mine are: I cannot turn on the TV after 9am – end of story. I have certain hours where I can’t do any housework – at all (even if the dishwasher beeps that it is done). I don’t send ANY emails before 9:30 am or after 5:00 pm.

Now, as I write this, I am sitting in a juice/bowl bar, where I’m going to be all morning. This is literally a BRAND NEW (first day) strategy. I have gotten into a bad habit of starting out so slowly on Mondays. And, there’s a place near my house that has a Monday morning yoga class and is a juice bar/coffee shop with lunch and breakfast. It’s brilliant.

So, starting today, I am going to be out the door by 8:45am on Mondays and will go have tea and work, go to yoga, and then work until after lunch (until they kick me out)

3 | CREATE A MORNING ROUTINE
It seems like everyone talks about their morning routine with almost too much pride. But, it was the biggest game-changer for me (that, and systems – more on systems later). I actually now LOVE my morning routine. Figure out what it needs to be for you.

My morning routine: stretch, have lemon water, put the coffee on, spend a few minutes reading, watching the sunrise (I have good windows), any housekeeeping from the night before. I sit down in front of my computer at 8:30 am. I already know the first project I am going to work on because I figured it out the day before. Starting this way and not letting something else take priority gets the day going strong and in the right direction.

4 | BRUSH YOUR HAIR AND PUT ON SOME MAKEUP
(Or Vitamin E oil or lip balm or something). Okay – I’m going to get some flak for this one. I’m not saying put on full mascara for heaven’s sake. However, put yourself together enough and you will work more together!

I heard a coach say once that she felt like if she put on just a bit of makeup in the morning she at least felt better when she walked past a mirror. I know – could be a little superficial, but it works. I usually put on either jeans or workout clothes, but I put myself together enough that I wouldn’t be embarrassed walking down to my local coffee shop.

5 | BATCH YOUR DAYS
This was HUGE for me. I used to get all excited that I could go to the grocery store, get my hair cut, etc., during the week and not have to deal with the crowds on Saturdays. That’s time-efficiency, right? I also thought it was a good idea just to get away from my desk and my house once a day. Now, that might be a perfect system for you and if it is, run with it.

But I found that I would go to Target and then think, oh, while I’m in this part of town, I’ll also run into Home Goods – just in case. Oh, and look – my favorite boutique is having a sale. And, we need some basil, so I’ll run into Trader Joe’s and just pick up a plant.

But what would happen is that I would get home, put everything away and then FINALLY sit at my desk, check my email, look at Instagram and then would only have a couple of hours before needing to start dinner. I had zero momentum.

So, now I give myself three full days at home and schedule ALL outside activities on the other two days of the official workweek. My productivity has skyrocketed.

One final thing – remember that working from a regular office isn’t perfect, either. Whether it’s a loud co-worker, or the internet goes down, your commute time, unhealthy lunches, walking from the subway in the rain, office supplies that aren’t pretty (you know who you are if you relate – I’m with you!) – nothing is perfect. Decide how you want to live.

If it isn’t working at home, change it. You are the boss, remember? There are no rules, except the ones that you make. Make them knowing that you can change them anytime.

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