Whenever I tell people I work for myself from home, the typical reaction is a combination of mild horror and outright awe.
“But how do you get anything done?”
“If that were me, I’d just end up sleeping in and watching Netflix.”
“Do you bother getting dressed? I suppose there’s no need.”
And I’ll be honest, when you work from home, those things are both possible and tempting. So how do you avoid the pull of your nice, warm duvet; the allure of your faithful sofa and the black screen that seems to stare at you, begging you to put something good on, no matter where you sit?
These three tips should help.
This is one of the most important work-from-home hacks. In order to be as productive as, or even more productive than you would be in an office, you must organise your time and your work in much the same way.
Because here’s the start of a week with no routine:
- Roll out of bed when you feel like it
- Feel groggy because you went big on Saturday and ignored the fact you now get 3-day hangovers. OR, you feel ‘meh’ because you didn’t plan anything good for your free time at the weekend and ended up doing menial jobs that don’t really interest you, instead
- Throw on some trackies, scrape your hair back just to get it out of your face
- Watch TV over breakfast on the sofa (if you even eat breakfast)
- Think about starting work, but notice the housework you couldn’t be bothered to do the evening before. Start thinking about everything else that needs doing
- Feel overwhelmed and start procrastinating over all of it.
Looking at this, it is clear that if you spend your time in any or all of those ways, you will definitely not feel energetic and positive about the workday ahead. Most likely, you will feel lazy, despondent and demotivated.
Conversely, here is a Monday with a routine:
- Get up at 6 am, as you do each weekday
- Stretch and workout for up to one hour
- Shower and eat a clean healthy breakfast at the same time each morning (you plan your meals in advance)
- Get ready as if you’re going to an office; a proper outfit, do your hair and make-up, or not. Just do whatever you need to do to feel like a successful, competent human being
- Write out your priorities for the week and decide on which days you will do them
- Put all of those activities into your online calendar
- Break for lunch at 12.30 for one hour
- Finish work at 5pm or 6pm, or earlier if you’ve completed your daily tasks. The point is there should be a consistent cut-off to your workdays and a reward if you do get everything done before then.
How might one feel if they have this Monday, rather than the first Monday? Having a routine like this one makes me feel energised, creative, accomplished. I’m ready for the day ahead and I’m confident that I can handle whatever comes my way.
They say an overnight success is 10 years in the making. So routine is key.
2. Make A Plan
Some people, creative people in particular, don’t like plans. They believe them to be restrictive and boring. The thing is though, your plan can change. It can change weekly. But at least for that week you’ve been moving towards your goals and not drifting.
A good plan leaves out the opportunity to deviate from doing what you’re supposed to because your decisions are already taken care of.
If you go to the supermarket every day to buy food for dinner, then every single day you have to walk past all the tempting ‘bad’ food, use mental energy on the daily decision, are more likely to buy stuff you don’t want or need, spend more and then waste some of that food. Because the meals don’t tie in together.
If on the other hand you do a simple meal plan on Sunday and order the food you need only online or go and do one big shop for the week, you only have to face that decision-making process once. Not 7 times. Less margin for error.
So start your week outlining your objectives and theme your days accordingly. You’ll find you have way more mental energy left at the end of each day because your focus is being spent on priorities and not having to be changed constantly to suit an adhoc calendar.
Revisit this plan at the start of each work day, identifying 3 top priorities to get done that day, if nothing else. End your workweek by reviewing the plan and ticking off everything you’ve achieved. Move anything left into next week’s plan to come back to the following Monday, so you can switch off and have genuine recharge time over the weekend.
On that note, as much as you need to schedule time get things done, you also need to schedule time to do nothing. Because the world is a busy place. Between a partner, kids, other family members, financial responsibilities, clients, your home and garden and car etc, there will always be somebody somewhere trying to get your attention.
Free time is never going to just show up at your door. You must book it in, protect like your life depends on it (which it does, of course) and fully enjoy it when you have it. Free time is only free if it does not involve anything to do with your work or other obligations. It’s about refilling your cup, rather than giving more away.
So book days off here and there in addition to longer annual holidays and decide in advance what you’ll do. Make sure it’s something you love to do, not something you have to do. Take up a hobby, see friends, take a day trip to a new area. Even simply vegging out counts. Have a guilt-free duvet day; why not? Your free time is just that.
Working from home is amazing and full of benefits. I love it, my team love it, and I cannot imagine going back to working in an office every day. However, it only works long-term if use your freedom in the right way.
Prioritise self-care, manage your tasks and simplify your obligations by mapping them out then tackling them strategically. Essentially, it’s about taking charge of your life rather than letting life run you.
Have any great work-from-home hacks not mentioned here? I’d love to hear them: firstname.lastname@example.org.