Working from home sounds like a dream, right? While I am not here to argue that fact, because to me it’s the total dream, it’s no walk in the park. Before we dive in I wanted to clarify WHY I decided to dabble in working from home. Before “going remote” I held a number of positions throughout various industries. From a tech start-up to non-profits, I’ve had my fair share of traditional office jobs. There are aspects of working in an office that you can’t replicate at home such as: co-worker interactions, in-person client meetings and simply learning from how others work. Those aspects, I DO miss every once and awhile. But for me, the flexible schedule is my driving factor in working from home. Something I don’t share about all to often is that Mack serves in the military. With that comes a very inconsistent schedule- that I simply need flexibility to best serve our family. So with that said, here are 10 tips that I want to offer to work from home and do so productively!
10 Tips to Work From Home (& Be Productive)
Designate a Work Space
I spend the majority of my day in a space that probably totals 20 square feet. My desk nook is one of my favorite places to be however! Your work space doesn’t have to be big but it needs to be more than your kitchen table. Having a designated work space (coined my “desk nook”) enables me to effectively start and end my workday easily. I shut my computer down and remove myself from my desk when I am done for the day. The space also keeps me organized and removes all distractions as its purpose is cut and dry- it’s meant to #werk.
You can read my full post on how to create a desk nook, here.
Determine a Start and End Time
I try to start and end my workday at the same time every day. I am usually pretty good at starting around 9am and ending at 4pm. I try to keep it as normal as possible. But if I am done with my work, I never restrict myself to sit at my desk when I don’t need to. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the reason I work from home is to be able to run the dogs to the groomer during the week so I don’t have to do it on the weekend. Flexibility when working from home is a huge PLUS. So I use it wisely and if my to-do is done, I run out and take care of my errands so I can enjoy my weekends with Mack.
Setting clear work hours will structure the work day and help you separate your work hours from play hours. Since there’s no real separation (such as a commute), you have to build in that essential separation to remain productive.
Communicate with Client/s Every Single Day
Since client relationships are totally virtual, I never want them to wonder where I am! Instead I remain in consistent communication and/or follow up, daily. This can be a simple as circling back around on emails from the previous day or sending a checklist of what I am working on so they know I am on track. Also, I don’t wait for them to email me. Rather, I continue to work on my list but check in as I go. I know they’ll get back to me when they can. But when that time comes, I make sure my part is complete so I just wait on tweaks or updates to gain approval.
Because your boss can’t see you working, its essential to ensure them that you are! You want to be out of sight but never out of mind.
Take a Lunch
I take a lunch every single day. This usually entails me minimizing my browser, making lunch and sitting outside on our back patio. I let the dogs out with me, leave my phone inside and mentally recharge before finishing out the afternoon. This mini-break, usually about 30 minutes to an hour- is one of my favorite parts of the day. Sometimes, I will even walk the dogs around the neighborhood just because I can. Being outdoors recharges my mind and allows me to think clearly for the remainder of the workday.
For you, this may look like running to Starbucks, meeting a friend from small group or simply going for a 15 minute stroll. No matter what, I recommend getting up from your workspace to recharge. It helps me significantly throughout the day as I no longer have co-worker conversations to break up my workday.
Curate a Workflow Playlist
Music powers my day, literally. I have Spotify going all day long. It keeps me energized and motivated. I personally love music so it’s such a treat to play my own music all day. Sometimes I will even catch myself and the volume is so loud haha! Mack is even logged into my Spotify on his phone because I’ve collected quite the collection of “favorite songs.”
I highly recommend curating a workflow playlist that encourages creativity and productivity for you! It will keep your mind keyed into your work and helps drown out distracting sounds (for me that’s usually Tiger barking).
Stay Organized and Optimized
Keep a notebook to create to-do lists, a planner to keep deadlines organized and scheduling tools (see more on that below) to maintain functionality day in and day out. I’ve always been a list maker and planner person but this may look different for you! However you stay organized, or did in an office setting, should be reflected in your work from home set up. Do as I say, not as I do in this case. Honestly, I need to get a little file cabinet because my files are currently stacked on my printer. It works, but it’s not the most effective system at the moment. But I am #alwayslearning and welcome any excuse to go to HomeGoods. Now, I have a reason to go. 🙂
Utilize Tech Tools to Streamline/Share Work
There are countless tech tools to help keep files organized online. I personally utilize Gmail, Google Drive, and Planoly to stay on track. In the past, I’ve used Trello, Slack and Dropbox as well. They’re all great tools that offer an array of perks! The type of work you’re doing from home will determine what tools you need to focus on. The most important aspect of course is what your client/s prefer so you can easily share your work with them for critique and approval. I find that Google Drive is the easiest for this aspect!
Sidenote, I wear these blue light blocking glasses during the day since I stare at a computer screen all. day. I love them! I joked with my mom that they’re the best $20 I’ve spent. I don’t wear prescription glasses but I feel like my eyes get tired staring into a fluorescent screen all day. They have some higher end options for these glasses but I snagged a pair off of Amazon because #budgetlife. They work just fine if you want to try a pair!
Attend Networking Events
In an attempt to get out of the house every once and awhile, I will attend a networking event. There is a Young Professional group in our community and me and my friend Jamie (of JamieKamber.com) will usually attend together. She also works from home full-time so we like to connect in this way with other young professionals in our community.
More than likely, there is a networking group similar to this in your area as well. These types of events are helpful as they’re a way to learn, meet new people and simply break up the daily work from home grind.
Use Your Flexible Schedule to Your Advantage
As I mentioned, a flexible schedule was the #1 driving factor for me seeking out a work from home opportunity. Although I’ve always been highly self-motivated, this flexible work environment has allowed me to enjoy the sometimes random off days that Mack has, travel without worry of missing of a beat and even work from different states (one time I worked from a different state for three weeks). Heck, it allows me to throw in a load of laundry mid-day and that always makes me so happy (it’s the little things)! It takes discipline to complete your work outside of a traditional work environment, but once figured out, it’s truly a gift.
Remember WHY you wanted to work from home and don’t loose sight of that once you start!
There are certain work from home aspects that need to be considered before you take the plunge (or revisited if you already work from home). Working from home usually comes in the form of contract work which means you only get paid when you work and you won’t have any benefits. That means no insurance, 401K options, paid time off, etc. This also means that taxes are NOT TAKEN from your paycheck which could result in your owing money come tax season. It’s important to track expenses such as: mileage, internet, and anything you pay for that enables you to do your job. Mack and I may hire a tax professional this year to help us maneuver this aspect because we want to make sure we don’t miss out on any tax breaks. I know these considerations are nitty gritty but I wanted to mention them as they are important to think about. For example, if I didn’t have health insurance through Mack, working from home may not be the best option for me. Acquiring health insurance as a contract employee and/or under self-employment is expensive. That’s not to say it’s not an option but just something to consider before quitting your job with amazing benefits.
There you have it! My 10 tips to working from home and remaining productive. I hope these tips help you- whether you’re think about making the transition to work from home or already do! If you have any questions about my experience or how to find work from home opportunities, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to help!
And if you’re a military spouse, be sure to check out Mad Skills. This is how I got my start in remote work and it’s an amazing outlet for military spouses seeking flexible work.