Working from home is not a new phenomenon. Many home businesses have paved the way for others throughout the years. However, since the internet became available on a global scale in the mid 1990s, working from home has never been easier. Combine the internet with other technological advances, and there is a significant expectation that we are continually connected and available around the clock. This expectation applies to our own small business or working remotely for your employer – sometimes even when you don’t work remotely. However, being available 24/7 can have detrimental affects to your health, to your relationships, and to your business.
Here are my top five tips for working from home to stay focused, energised, and happy.
1. Ensure you have a dedicated work space
In workplaces outside of the home, it is typical for employees to have either a personal or shared work space. As such, working from home should not be any different.
If you have the space, set up an office in a study/spare room. Having an office area separate from your living areas allows you to close the door at the end of your work day and start afresh the following morning.
If you are limited for space, arrange your existing furniture to incorporate an area that will allow you to have a small work space. You may find you need to downsize some furniture, or buy a smaller desk. Either way, having a dedicated work space will help to keep your focus and keep to business hours.
Make your work space inviting – put up inspiring quotes and/or images, decorate with your favourite flowers or ornaments, play music in the background, your vision board, pictures of loved ones. Whatever it is that makes your space feel more comfortable, inviting, and conducive to productivity, do it.
Need some home work space inspiration? Check out my Business: Home Office Inspo Pinterest board.
My favourite workspace tip: If your work space is in your lounge/living room, have your desk facing away from the TV.
2. Make yourself a daily to do list and a weekly schedule
Keeping on top of your tasks can be difficult without a proper plan. To keep on top of the next week, write yourself a weekly schedule at the end of each business week. Include time for business administration tasks such as correspondence, financials, planning, networking – events and online, product or service design and development, professional development, marketing, blogging, and anything else that you need to do on a regular basis for your business/job.
On top of your weekly schedule, write a list of things you need to accomplish each day. It is best to write this list before you finish up for the day so you can hit the ground running in the morning.
Working from home does not come without distraction. The housework needs doing, the TV beckons, or you need to schedule personal appointments during work time. That’s absolutely okay. Sometimes these things have to happen in the middle of the work day. Don’t forget to allow time for the unexpected too: sometimes you need to head to the shop to get remaining/all of the ingredients for dinner (going in the middle of the day is often better than going after work when everyone else is finished), or popping on that load of washing, or an unexpected meeting.
My favourite planning tip: Use stickers for repetitive appointments or trackers.
3. Establish hours of trade and/or contact
If you work in an environment away from home, as soon as you switch on your computer, clock on, or whatever it is to determine you are ‘in’, you are available for business. Similarly, the same can be said for the end of the work day and clocking off et cetera. What happens though if you work from home? Does that mean your clients/customers/patients can contact you around the clock because you are ‘at home’? No, it does not.
Setting yourself hours of trade and/or contact will provide your customers/clients with boundaries. Your customers/clients may still contact you outside of your established hours, but that does not mean you need to respond to them instantly. You have other responsibilities in life – family, home, extra-curricular activities, YOURSELF – that need to take precedence outside of business hours. Ensure your trading/contact hours are readily available to your customers/clients, and more importantly, that you enforce them. This principle should also apply to people who work for an employer, be it remotely or in a shared environment.
Not sure where you’d like to set your business hours or hours of contact? Download my free editable PDF, My Ideal Work Week. Keep it somewhere highly visible in your work space.
My favourite scheduling tip: Use one of your brand colours – or any colour – to identify your business hours.
4. Have lunch (and snack) breaks
It might sound silly when you work from home, but having a scheduled lunch break really helps me to stay focused. If you were in a workplace, you would have morning and afternoon tea breaks, as well as a lunch break. When you work from home it’s easy to fall into the trap of making yourself food, but then going and eating at your desk. Take time out for yourself: eat lunch in the sunshine or watching a show. Whether it’s a half hour break or an hour, having that time to yourself without the hassle of thinking about work will do you the world of good. As a result, you’ll come back refreshed and ready to tackle the afternoon’s work with gusto.
My favourite break tip: Catching up on whatever it is that I’m watching on Netflix without my husband or our daughter interrupting.
5. Do something you love
Let’s face it: if you don’t love it, you’re not going to give it the focus and energy it needs. Whatever it is, it will do the complete opposite. It will drain you of your focus and energy. This goes for any job – whether it’s your own business or if you work for an employer. Similarly, it applies to any situation in life.
Although Mayday VA is my brand new shiny biz baby, I’m not new to the world of entrepreneurship: I delivered newspapers as a kid; I sold Tupperware on and off for four years, starting when I was just 19 years old; I had a vintage wares business; and I have a small hobby business creating vintage-inspired wedding invitations. These entrepreneurial endeavours have all sparked something in me at some stage, and when that spark started to die, I evaluated and made a decision.
Never have I ever felt so much joy doing what I do now. Mayday VA allows me to help, be creative, be technical, be organised, and importantly, be me. Helping others and seeing the joy they experience in moving forward – in business and in their personal journey – makes my heart explode.
Do you work from home? What kind of work do you do? How do you stay focused and motivated? Let me know in the comments.
Hollie Barac is a creative, tech-savvy, organised virtual assistant. She helps women move forward in their business with customised WordPress websites and specialised creative services. Hollie will soon be offering mentoring services in streamlining planning and organisation in your business. Download your free copy of Hollie’s Business Renewals List and never miss a renewal again.