While browsing Lifehacker I found this AllBusiness blog post about a topic near and dear to our hearts: how to work from home. One of the biggest adjustments I had to make after leaving Microsoft 3 months ago was adapting to the drastic change in my work environment. Making your home a place of productivity in addition to one of rest and relaxation requires a lot of changes, both around the house and in your own actions and perspectives. For most people (that means me) trying to be more productive at home is a never ending battle, but with the right motivation and dedication you can definitely make it work. Hereâ€™s a list of the more successful things that have helped me. Iâ€™ll save the list of unsuccessful things for a future post.
- Establish a dedicated office. Keep the stuff in the area strictly work-related; no bills, leisure books, tv, etc. to distract you from what you should be doing when youâ€™re there. Making your entire home the â€œofficeâ€ does not work.
- Make lists. You should know what you must accomplish that day, and additionally things youâ€™d like to get done if thereâ€™s time. Finishing the must list means you can call it a day – this helps you avoid burnout, as starting a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Work on the like list if youâ€™re feeling particularly energetic.
- Stay accountable. Relying on others is really effective here. If youâ€™re lucky enough to have business partners, set up regular status checks, and make sure to share not only what you have done but what you will by the next checkpoint. If youâ€™re flying solo, you can still leverage the pressure of being accountable to others by setting up situations where others expect something from you, like scheduling lunch or coffee where youâ€™ll give a demo of your latest stuff to a friend. Having paying customers helps a lot in this regard too.
- Take the right breaks. Taking a break between tasks helps you unwind from and process the previous work and refocus your energies fully on the next task. There have been too many times where Iâ€™ve â€œfinishedâ€ one task only to find myself disengaged on the next one because my mind was still thinking about what I was just working on.
- Stop taking the wrong breaks. My personal Achillesâ€™ heel. Your home, by nature, is your most comfortable and distracting place on the planet. Add to that a high-speed internet connection with email, IM, and sites like Youtube and Myspace, along with zero parental supervision, and youâ€™ve got a recipe for disaster. One thing thatâ€™s worked for me is turning the wrong breaks into the right breaks; by promising myself time to browse/chat after each task, Iâ€™m better able to keep my focus on where it should be. If thatâ€™s not enough, you can try using two browsers like the AllBusiness article mentions, or better yet, two computers, with one dedicated to work. If all else fails, disconnect your internet. Seriously.
- Get out of the house. Coming from an office environment where I was used to seeing lots of people every day, it was disheartening to suddenly find myself home alone all day. Now I try to find a reason to get out of the house each day. This can be as simple as going to the gym or running, but Iâ€™ve found that just being around people helps. What also works well, if your work lets you, is working at a cafe or library every once in a while. The change of pace is refreshing, and oftentimes helps you focus better on your work.
- Be regular. And Iâ€™m not talking about Metamucil here. In our first working session, Justin and I worked ourselves to exhaustion. We were so passionate about getting stuff done that we would work til we passed out, shifting our schedules later and later in the day. After two weeks of that we finally learned that itâ€™s not the way you train for a marathon. Since weâ€™re all creatures of habit, it helps productivity to have regular work hours and to stick to them. Thereâ€™ll definitely be the days when work demands much more from you, but even in those cases itâ€™s important to have a normal â€œpaceâ€ of work that you can return to.
These are the top things that have worked for me (or that Iâ€™m working on) to help me actually â€œworkâ€ from home. What kinds of things have worked well for you?