I’ve heard it so often it makes my ears bleed. ‘You work from home, so you have time,’ or ‘you can sleep late because you work for yourself.’ Oh, the ignorance!
What most persons fail to realise is that being self-employed and working from the comfort of your home can be a two-edged sword. While you have the luxury of making your own rules, work-you needs to survive in the space occupied by home-you, and that’s easier said than done. Add to the mix being a working housewife like me, and there is even greater temptation to do your house chores while writing the latest article for a client. Plus, when do you get home from work if work is at home? Here are some hacks you can use to avoid the pitfalls which working from home can create.
1. Make a list
Writing down the things you have to do for that week, or on a daily basis will help you to stay focused. Once you have made your list though, it’s critical to prioritise, especially if you’re like me and get easily distracted. I can be sitting at my desk working, and then get up to go pee. Next thing you know, I’m on my knees giving the entire bathroom a good scrubbing. What should be a five-minute break turns into a room makeover, and the work I should’ve been doing suffers in the process. So make your list and stick to it. Review it often to ensure you are staying on track with your deliverables, and to update your progress.
2. Have a dedicated work space
Some of us are fortunate enough to have a designated office space. This makes ‘going to work’ a bit easier. Sitting in bed or on the couch with your laptop might work for you; that’s where I am writing this article from, actually.
However, I strongly advocate finding a space that’s comfortable, but not so comfortable that dozing off is a matter of simply closing your eyes. In lieu of a formal home office, have an area such as your dining table which is your work station. Keep it free of clutter, and ensure that your family members are aware that it’s your space during office hours, even though it might be catching chicken gravy and grains of rice at dinner time.
3. Dress the part
While it’s hella comfy working in my sleep clothes, they don’t do much to get me in the frame of mind for work. I ditch my pyjamas and opt for relaxed clothing, maybe an outfit I could wear to a regular office job on a Friday. As compensation for the pj’s, I complete the outfit with my ultra comfy bunny slippers. Work, here I come!
4. Have fixed working hours – kinda
I know – fixed hours sounds a bit contradictory when you have the freedom of working on your terms. However, you may find that you have clients who need to contact you at certain times. It’s therefore a no-brainer that your office needs to be open at the same time as theirs. In addition, although I relish working in the wee hours when it’s nice and quiet, sometimes my work involves liaising with others who keep a regular schedule. Outside of this, a regular schedule helps you to establish a pattern for yourself, family members and clients. The kids will know that although you may be in the kitchen wearing your fuzzy slippers, you’re developing a marketing strategy for a new brand.
5. Don’t turn on that TV!
When you work from home, perhaps one of the biggest distractions is the television. At any time of day, there is something on that you want to watch. However, the odds are that if you were working in a normal office environment, you wouldn’t be thinking of plopping down on the couch for a bit to watch the latest episode of your fave show, now would you? My temptation tends to be sport. Boy oh boy. I could watch cricket all day, every day. If there is a live sporting event I want to watch, I will adjust my work schedule during that time, if possible. If not, then I have to read the match report and watch match highlights when work is over. So during your allocated working hours, stay away from that television! And don’t be smart – when I say TV, I really mean all your electronic devices. Now put down that tablet and get back to work.
6. Have designated house-work days
When working from home, the line between ‘work’ and ‘home’ can become dirty, inciting a workaholic housewife like me to pick up a mop and broom, when I really should be giving my attention to my mouse and keypad. There is the tendency to think I can just spend a few quick minutes cleaning the bathroom, or getting started on dinner. This is never the case, as those few minutes quickly turn into a couple of hours. Dinner will be on the table, and the house will be clean, but by the time all of that is finished, I am hot and sweaty, and getting back to work is the last thing I want to do. To avoid this, I have fixed days to perform tasks such as cleaning the house or doing laundry. While this helps me to manage my time better, it removes the distraction of constantly worrying about not taking proper care of our home.
7. Just say no
Working from home means persons will have the notion that you have an eternity on your hands to do nothing at all with. So they will come knocking with all sorts of requests. While I love to perform charitable deeds, I have learnt that doing too much will cause me to stretch myself thin, and to get stressed out. Ensure you manage your extra-curricular activities well, to avoid burnout and interference with the rest of your life. Sometimes you just have to hit them with a no. Saying no indicates what you value, and how you will use your time. It also protects you from being exploited by persons who think you can perform whatever task, simply because you work at your dining table. No is an answer too, and there’s really no shame in giving it.
According to organisational psychologist Adam Grant, author of Give and Take and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, “the ability to say no is one of the most important skills one can have, particularly for givers.” He highlights the power of no as necessary to create the time to support your own goals and agenda, and in establishing a work/life balance. He adds that saying no helps with gaining the respect of others, as people are mindful to make more meaningful requests of you.
I hope my tips will help you to be more efficient and productive as you earn those dollars from the comfort of your home.
What is your favourite productivity hack? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. I can’t wait to hear from you!