Often the envy of many a friend and family member, the prospect of working from home and cutting ties with the commute and office is an increasingly alluring one.
Creative pursuits such as writing, music and art are all heavily associated with the unstructured freedom that comes from setting your own schedule.
And then there is the world of entrepreneurship. Starting out on your own in business can transform traditional notions of what constitutes work and attitudes to time, and can throw up questions on how to work smarter not harder.
Of course, this is all true. But, there’s also the welcome chaos that comes from managing your own time and the prospect that if not well, managed, can just lead to unwanted chaos.
That’s why we’ve put together the top 10 ways to stay well when working from home, whatever work looks like for you.
1. Have A Schedule
Escaping the 9-to-5 does bring with it flexibility and freedom, but it can also create procrastination and a sense of confusion. What do I do with my time? How do I make sure I’m productive? How do I remain accountable if I’m not being, when I haven’t got a manager breathing down my neck?
Working for yourself does enable you to change your schedule, fit in dentist appointments, take an exercise class. Just try to carve out a plan of action at the start of each day. What would you like to accomplish? What tasks need to be done?
Online or handwritten calendars are a great way to see the big picture, while planners and to-do lists that break these down into manageable chunks offer a and positive indication of all your achievements to date.
2. Say No to Distraction
An hour of uninterrupted time to complete that task can be far more effective than setting aside three full hours that are then intermingled with email checks, calls, social media glances and simply letting our mind wander.
And, the latter three-hour option also lends itself to feeling far more stressed and overwhelmed at the sheer amount that is seemingly going on all at once.
The alternative is to set a timer where we have an hour of full-on, optimum productivity — well, so much as our mind won’t let us wonder — to ensure we’ve put some of our best work into the task at hand.
By adopting this approach we then still have two dedicated hours to checking those emails, reconnecting with calls and having breaks to surf social.
3. There’s a New 80:20 Rule
We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule to quash complete feelings of inadequacy if we don’t live up to our own ideas of perfectionism. But, there’s also another 20% concept that relates to time. If you find that your heart rate and blood pressure are rising at the sheer amount there is to do in a day, then add 20% to the time given to all tasks, or tasks of a certain nature that you know create this sense of dread.
That way, you’ll already be allowing a certain level of complication or annoyance due to unforeseen admin, extra meetings and additional research that goes beyond the time you’ve put aside.
Mastering and keeping a handle on your time can support future project planning too and even help to set realistic rates for work.
4. Knowing your Own Productivity
Every single one of us is unique. And the businesses and creative outlays that we engage in are equally varied. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, we all have 24 hours in the day.
But that doesn’t mean that we’re all at the same level of productivity throughout it. Knowing when we’re at our most energetic and, equally, most lethargic can help us build a daily plan that is right for us.
And this is different for each of us. For some, we like to focus on the smaller, more manageable tasks first, whereas others like to knock a sizeable chunk of work off the daily to-do list. Whichever it is you prefer, make sure you save the larger pieces of work for when you have more headspace to tackle them.
5. Take Specific Breaks
It is easy when you’re self-employed to
get entirely lost in a mound of deadlines, conference calls and meetings. And particularly if you’re working from home, it’s easily possible on any given day to wake up, walk across the landing to the office, and all in all, take about 100 steps.
With trips to the loo and up and down
the stairs factored in, without taking regular breaks, there is a real chance that you can get to the end of the day without doing much more than that. It is
important, where possible, to get up every hour and move around.
Being active on lunchbreaks is vital. It also helps to chunk out your time. So at the end of smaller tasks, move around and use 10 or so minutes to clear your mind. This helps you get ready for the next project when you sit down. Or, you could always revolutionise your room with a stand-up desk!
6. Or Better Yet, Get
If you know that being at home just lends itself to watching daytime TV, staying in bed far longer than you’d like, feelings of isolation or guilt over the state of the house, then try to avoid this and move into an outside, more inspiring and supportive environment.
Coffee shops, libraries and public spaces with reliable wi-fi all help to spur higher levels of motivation and dedication helping us get through our daily goals. Just having voices and bodies around can support you in working through your tasks without it feeling like an immense uphill battle.
Staying social is crucial. Yet a tough thing to achieve when you’re swamped with admin, accounts, meeting new contacts and actually carrying out the work. If possible, see and speak to people throughout the day.
Many solopreneurs without staff working from home may go entire days or weeks without speaking to anyone about their work. Trying to solve problems on your own can be problematic and stressful.
Dealing with daily niggles with another person, even to share experiences, can really help to take the weight off and bring an additional perspective to any potential work-based crises.
8. Know When Your Working Day is Over
If you’re trying desperately to find new customers, a self-confessed workaholic, or just simply trying to sift through the load, it can be all too easy to work way into the evenings or from the crack of dawn.
The lines between personal and professional worlds can become extremely blurred, which can disrupt your health and wellbeing.
Beyond a certain number of hours, you can become easily frazzled. And not productive anyway. It can be hard to have a structured routine when working for yourself.
Even though there may be times when you need to work beyond the 40-hour working week, these should be an exception to the rule so you can look after both your physical and mental health.
9. Pretend You’re Going Out to Work
It’s tempting to stay in bed and your pyjamas when working from home, but that can make it difficult to really get into the mindset of taking over the world or your area of speciality at least.
Growing your business when you’re still slightly lethargic and drained from potentially hitting snooze several times and only just getting your head off the pillow can make the day seem longer, and your goals far off in the distance.
Rise with a shower, breakfast and some exercise perhaps, and then get ready as if you’re going into the office. There are plenty of business owners that swear by their morning routines to create a pattern of success.
10. TV and Music
If you enjoy working from home or would rather skip the daily cost of a coffee that can quickly slip into a baguette or even wine at lunch, then having a TV channel on in the background or your favourite music radio channel can help you charge your way through the day.
And that’s without you having to move a muscle, interrupt your schedule or spend money. Select the motivational soundtrack of your business life.
So, what have I learnt?
Building my own personal environment, allowing for bursts of creativity, organising your own time, understanding my productivity and managing both customers and freelancers can make all the difference between flourish and overwhelm. And most importantly, can help you to stay well when working from home.