Working from home can be a dream. With no morning and evening commute, you save time, money and frustration. Maybe it allows you to fit in a morning workout that leaves you feeling especially energized as you sit down at your computer to digest your emails and the day’s work ahead of you, or maybe it enables you to spend some extra time with your kids or to pursue an outside interest.
But those same perks can also become obstacles: it can be more difficult to manage and prioritize tasks when the boundaries between work and home are blurred. Although restrictions abound in the workplace, where it might be tough to take an important personal call or to conform work hours with your children’s school drop-off schedule, distractions abound at home, where you might feel obligated to take on more housework because you’re there and sort of able to.
Whether you’re struggling to make working at home work or considering whether to transition into this flexible lifestyle, here are 8 tips from those who’ve successfully navigated the working-from-home model to help you effectively manage your day:
1) Make a to-do list in the evening so you have a clear outline of what you plan to accomplish the following day.
Of course, checklists can be helpful in any work environment, but when you’re bound to face more distractions, they’re especially important tools. Even if you’re interrupted, coming back to your list will keep you grounded and encourage you to work an extra hour in the evening if you spent some time midday taking care of something personal. Crossing of items feels good, and if you don’t get through everything, you have a head start on your list when you begin planning for the next day.
2) Pretend you’re getting up to go to an office.
It’s easy to get into a routine of rolling out of bed and working on your couch in pajamas, but that gets depressing quickly and can lead to a pattern of sluggishness. You’ll likely be more productive if you wake up, shower and get dressed before starting the work day; it will encourage you to feel more disciplined and focused rather than giving into distractions and getting sidetracked.
3) Make sure your family and friends know and understand that you have boundaries.
Sometimes you’ll have to remind your loved ones that even though you’re not in an office, you can’t respond to personal calls or texts all day long. Be assertive and rigid so you don’t mislead others into thinking you’re available 24/7.
4) Set aside a physical space where you can work effectively.
You may not have separate office space at home, and that’s OK. But plant yourself at your desk or table rather than in bed or in front of the TV. Make sure you’re comfortable yet not in danger of dozing off or periodically turning on a show or movie.
5) Move to a new space if you’re losing steam or zoning out.
Working at the same desk all day might make you antsy, especially if it’s the same space where you sit at night to figure out bills or help your kids with their homework. Migrate to your kitchen table or a nearby coffee shop if you need a change of scenery.
6) Get in the habit of checking in regularly with your colleagues.
Working at home might spare you from facing the tensions that come with working in close quarters, but it’s important to remain just as connected and productive with your team when you’re not physically near each other. Whether you’re in touch just once a day or more frequently via Skype or email, emphasize that you’re present and communicative.
7) Set up regular in-person meetings with your colleagues.
Depending on the nature of your work, this may be necessary once a week or once a month, but it will keep you on track and on the same page as your co-workers if you have at least some face time, and it will provide the added advantage of making your work feel less abstract and more connected to the bigger picture.
8) Make sure you go outside.
There’s no substitute for air and sunlight! If you know you’re going to be in your house or apartment all day long, go for a run or walk in the morning or evening, or even midday when you might otherwise be taking a quick lunch break. It’s crucial for your physical well-being and will also help you focus and be productive. Try a few different routines and set a schedule that works for you.
Remember that you’re lucky if you’re in a position that allows you to work flexible hours and/or from the comfort of your home. Take advantage of your situation by setting some guidelines for yourself, and you’ll be in a good position to maximize your time in both your professional and personal life.