How to work more productively at home

As more and more of us are self employed and working portfolio careers these days, there are increasing numbers of people working from home. To many it’s the dream, allowing a greater degree of control and the flexibility to work around other commitments. There are downsides however, it can be distracting working from home, and many find that their work time is not respected by other people. When I first started to work from home – this after 20+ years working from an employer’s office – I found it a real struggle. We had a young pup at the time and I was nervous every time he barked. Then one day someone heard the birds singing (my office back faces on to the garden) and remarked how lovely it was and how lucky I was – that helped my confidence so much more

If you struggle, or are new to working from home, here are a few tips to make you more productive.

Plan and prioritise

First things first, always have a plan. Whether you prefer to use apps or a good old fashioned desk diary, always know what your priorities are and the tasks that you need to complete. Make sure deadlines are noted down well in advance and you have a list to work through. As with many aspects of working life, it’s important to understand how you work best and stick to it. When you’re working from home, there’s no boss breathing down your neck, so you need to keep on top of things yourself. It’s very easy to procrastinate, so keep focused on the most pressing tasks.

Time management

Time management is an incredibly important skill to master when you work from home. I recommend using a time tracker, such as Toggl, to time yourself doing tasks-you might be surprised just how long you’re spending doing certain things. Make sure the biggest amount of time is being spent on the most important tasks (and not Facebook!) It is also worth noting when you are at your most productive. Are you an early bird or a night owl? It’s no use spending your afternoons trying to complete your important tasks, if you are most energised in the morning, and vice versa. As I said above, a lot of your success will depend on finding out how you work best and utilising that. Also, don’t forget to schedule breaks in. You will be more productive if you work in allotted segments and take timed breaks. Don’t be tempted to work for long stretches when you’re under pressure as it won’t help you produce quality work. Also, I find heading out for fresh air (similar to a lunch break walk), really helps to clear my head and get me moving. I find it’s a great time for my brain to tackle upcoming tasks.

Block Tasks

Rather than flitting between different tasks, it is often more productive to do one thing at a time. Forget the idea that multitasking is the best way to work, it is often incredibly wasteful, it’s much more efficient to batch tasks. For example, you might schedule the first hour of everyday for dealing with emails, or have a writing day or an editing photos morning or whatever it might be. The idea is you concentrate on one thing, it’s much easier than jumping around.

Reach Out

One of the drawbacks of working from home is that it can be incredibly isolating. With no team around you to pick you up on a down day, or bounce ideas off, it can be lonely. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, it just might be harder to meet people. Most towns have co working spaces, where you can hire a desk or work space by the hour or day. Many self employed people do this from time to time to get out of the house and meet people. It can also be good for productivity to change things around every now and then. If you can’t afford working space, for the price of a coffee or two, find a local cafe with good wifi to help you feel less isolated. It can also be useful to join networking or business groups. It’s a great way to find like minded people who are facing (or have faced) similar challenges to you. Whatever you do, don’t sit at home feeling alone.

Do you work from home? Do you love it, or do you find it challenging?

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