I’ve spent the past month adjusting to working at home after working in a traditional office job my entire career. There are many perks that come with working from home, and having the freedom to work independently is amazing! But I will say that it takes some time to adjust when you’re so used to working in a more traditional office setting.
Since I’m now one month into my work-from-home journey, I thought I’d give you a rundown of the top tips I’ve learned (so far) about working from home.
It’s becoming more and more common to work from home these days with remote and contract jobs are on the rise. I think this is so cool because there are more options than ever to find a work style that best suits you. Although many people envision work-at-homers sleeping in, wearing pajamas and working from the couch all day, most of us have to be more productive than that if we want to get paid. 😉
The idea of working from home has appealed to me for a while now, and a job opportunity came about that allowed me to do just that. At the beginning of November, I transitioned from my non-profit job into a brand new marketing position with a start-up hotel that is opening in a historic building in our downtown next year.
This job is perfectly aligned with my interests and skills, and I’m really enjoying having a new challenge! Since the hotel building is currently being renovated, we don’t have physical office space which means I’ll be working remotely for the first six months or so. And I will likely continue to work from home frequently even after the hotel opens next summer.
I will totally admit to rolling out of bed and working from the couch for the first week, but I quickly learned that there was no way I could function like that long term. I needed to get more focused if I was going to accomplish all of the work expected of me.
After a month of trying different things and adjusting my routine, I feel like I’ve hit my work-from-home stride and am shocked by how productive I’ve become!
10 Tips For A Productive Day Working From Home
Here are my tips for working from home – everything I’ve learned in my first month. I’m still a rookie at this, so I’d love to hear any tips that you’d add to this list!
1 | Follow A Morning Routine & Get Dressed
I’ve found that my morning routine is more important than ever now that I’m working from home. But on days when I’m working from home with no meetings outside the house, it is really tempting to sleep in and stay in my PJs all day.
I’ve been focusing on reworking my morning routine so I can ease into the day while still getting down to business at a reasonable time every morning. I currently shower and get dressed, eat breakfast, make a cup of tea and catch up on some blog tasks first thing in the morning. At first, it was easy to get sucked into those things for hours but now I’m trying to be more disciplined about shifting from my personal projects and into work mode by 8:30 at the latest.
I may not wear dress pants every day anymore, but I still think there is a lot of positives to getting yourself ready in the morning. As tempting as it is to skip the shower and stay in my sweats, I’m way more focused on work when I’ve at least washed and dried my hair and put on a pair of jeans. Plus, getting ready in the morning means I’m prepared to run out to a last minute meeting or do errands.
Take Action: Create a morning routine to start your day on the right foot. I recommend choosing three or four things you can do consistently every morning. Also, consider making showering one of those things. 😉
2 | Set Up A Dedicated Work Space
I’ve definitely learned the importance of having a dedicated work space! I was so used to having a desk at my office and found myself missing it pretty quickly. Most of my work is on my laptop so I don’t need many files or supplies, but having a devoted place for work time makes it easier to focus and get to work when I sit down.
I’ve designated my desk in my studio as my official work zone, but I also think one of the perks of working from home is that you don’t have to sit at a desk all day. So I do move around to the dining room table or stand at the kitchen counter sometimes. But having my desk to go to when I need to concentrate is a good mental signal that it’s time to get down to business.
Take Action: Find one area of your house that can be devoted to work. If you have an office or room for a desk in the basement or guest bedroom, that’s perfect. You kitchen table could also be your work zone – just find a drawer or shelf nearby where you can store your work supplies when you’re not working. That way your table will still be clean for meals and you won’t have to look at work stuff when you’re off the clock.
3 | Track Your Time
You may not be required to track your time for your job, but I’ve found it hugely motivating to do so. I am using Toggl.com to track my time by project, and it is a great (and free!) accountability tool. By logging my work time, I can ensure I’m actually working full time hours every day and not getting sidetracked. Some days it feels like I’ve put in enough work for the day, but when I consult my time log I discover I’ve only worked six hours when I want to be hitting eight.
Although I’m salaried and don’t have to necessarily turn in my hours, I was able to impress my boss with a color-coded chart of my work at the end of the month (generated with the click of a button from Toggl!). It’s handy to have for reference if anyone ever questions what I’ve been spending my time on, but most of all it is a good reminder to myself of things to include in my weekly reports at staff meetings.
Take Action: Your work situation may be much different than mine or you may be self-employed, but I’d still recommend tracking your time for your own reference even if you don’t have a boss asking for it. It will help you hold yourself accountable.
4 | Schedule Breaks & Don’t Skip Lunch
This one is huge! If you get engrossed in a project, it can be easy to skip breaks and forget about lunch. I actually was trying to skip breaks so I could be done with work earlier in the day, but have found it to be much healthier to take time to relax throughout my day as opposed to powering straight through.
The nice part of working from home is the ability to do whatever you want on breaks! I try to get myself moving and away from my computer, so I’ll often spend 15 minutes doing dishes, tidying things up or even adding a coat of paint to a craft project.
Take Action: Allow yourself time for a morning and afternoon break plus some time to eat lunch away from your computer. At the beginning of the day, plan what you want to do on your breaks. Maybe you always use your morning break to do a household chore and your afternoon break to walk your dog around the block. Having a plan makes it more likely you’ll actually allow yourself a break and you will get something accomplished as opposed to scrolling Facebook.
5 | Change Up Your Environment
One great benefit to working from home is your ability to get a change of scenery! You can work wherever you choose rather than being stuck at a desk all day. I have been trying to change things up by working from one spot in the morning and another in the afternoon. Or sometimes I think it’s nice to move to a different spot when you’re transitioning between projects. While I use my desk as my main work area, I usually spend half the day there and half at our dining room table.
I’ve found it tough to transition from having people in the office all day to chat with to working from home all by myself. Since my last job was constant meetings and interaction with other people, I’ve found it necessary to schedule more social time during my free time than I used to. I have enjoyed being able to pack up my laptop and get out of the house sometimes, especially to places like coffee shops where there is more opportunity for socializing with others.
Take Action: Don’t get stuck working in the exact same place all the time! Change things up by working from different spots in your house and planning days when you get out of the house. I think the best places to work in town are local coffee shops, libraries and college campuses. Working outside is also awesome when the weather allows!
6 | Spend Some Work Time Away From The Computer
Working away on my laptop feels productive, but it can be very draining. I’ve been trying to spend at least an hour of my day away from the screen. I’ll find a project I can brainstorm or outline in a notebook, print out something that needs editing or do a little reading. Anything I can do to remain productive but not spend the entire day starting at my computer screen is helpful.
Take Action: Try to switch up your tasks so you’re spending at least a bit of your day offline.
7 | Stick To Your Prime Work Hours
I love that working from home gives me more flexibility on the time of day I work. Although I can really work at any time of day I wish, I have for the most part stuck with an 8:30 to 5:00 work schedule. I find that it allows me a couple hours in the morning to get ready and work on personal projects and then I still have plenty of time left in the evenings. I do think sticking to work hours is important for your sanity.
Take Action: Figure out what time of day you are most productive and plan your work day accordingly. If you are more focused in the early hours of the morning, why not start working then? Or maybe you are a night owl and prefer to work through the afternoon and evening. Whatever schedule you choose, I encourage you to try to generally stick to the same hours every day. That will give you some continuity and routine in your day.
8 | Plan For The Day
Without regular meetings in the office to keep me on track, I have found myself needing some more time in the mornings to assess where I’m at with various projects. I like to spend the first 15-20 minutes reviewing my to-do list and prioritizing the most important two or three things I want to work on that day. I use my printable to-do list to write them down and time block my day so I have a plan in place.
Take Action: Set aside a bit of time every day to review and prioritize your work. This will help you stay on top of things and make sure you are spending your time on the most important things first. Since you may not have as many check-ins with the rest of your team like you often would in an office environment, it’s important to meet with yourself.
Bonus Advice: Make sure you get the most important things done by front loading your schedule. And if you aren’t sure which to-do is most important or most urgent to do first, free five-day course
9 | Set Goals & Track Progress
Since I’m working alone most days, I’ve found it extra helpful to set mini goals and keep track of my progress. Just tracking my time, as I mentioned above, is a huge motivator for me. I can glance back at the week and quickly see the work I’ve put in. I’ve always been goal-oriented, but have been setting more goals for myself than ever.
I self-impose deadlines for tasks to make sure I continue to make progress. I also keep a notecard in my planner with a running list of my accomplishments for the week. This is a great reminder that I’m actually making progress, and I use that as a reference when I give verbal reports to my team.
Take Action: Set goals and create deadlines to hold yourself accountable to getting things done. While you’ll want to have big goals and deadlines for large projects, it’s also important to establish smaller metrics. Break your work down into bite-sized pieces and set goals for each piece. Also find an easy method for keeping track of your work so when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, you have a reminder of all of the progress you’ve made.
Bonus Advice: Need some help setting goals? You can download my goal-setting worksheet here (it’s free!).
10 | Have A Hard Stop Time
I think this one is super important! Since I’ve been working from home every day, I’ve noticed it’s more difficult to step away from work at the end of the work day. I’ve set a rule of thumb for myself that I need to close my computer and put away my work by 5:30 or after I’ve worked 8.5 hours, whichever comes first.
If I’m really struggling to focus, I’ll sometimes have no trouble stopping work earlier. But I tend to get engrossed in projects and it’s so easy to sit at my desk and work away for hours into the evening, especially if my husband is working late and isn’t home to signal it’s time to end my work day. When I worked at an office, it was easier to pull myself away from my work when 5:00 hit and everyone else was packing up to go home.
Action Item: Set some boundaries for your work time. What time of day is going to be a hard stop for you? When that time comes, you close your computer and put away your work. This can be tough to do sometimes, but it’s important to allow yourself time to relax and do other things so you don’t get burnt out.
Bonus Tip | Create A Weekly Routine
With the change in jobs, I’ve been reworking my weekly routine to make sure I stay organized and on top of things. If you struggle to keep everything in your personal and professional life in order, I highly suggest creating a weekly routine. It’s a plan of action you can follow week after week, a way to ensure you won’t get to the end of the week and realize you didn’t get nearly enough done. It’s also a way to carve out time and give yourself permission to take breaks to do the fun things in life.
I’ve created a free five-day course that will walk you through the process of designing your weekly routine. You can sign up for it here to get started!
I hope these working from home tips were helpful to you in some way! I’m still getting the hang of this working from home thing, but I’m loving it so far.
What advice do you have for productively working from home? Leave your tips in the comments! I could use some tips from those of you who are work-at-home pros.
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Have a lovely day,
I love your blog and website! Most people my age (just turned 70) are happily retired and occupying their time with hobbies and volunteering. While I do those things, I am also beginning a doctoral program in January, so organizing my time is going to be essential. I like your ideas and the philosophy behind them. You are an amazing young woman!
Hi Eileen, that’s amazing you are pursuing your doctoral program! Good for you! I hope these tips are helpful to you and thanks so much for reading!
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