I’m pleased to welcome Linda Forshaw to Ancient Children. A full-time writer and blogger, Linda offers useful advice on ways to make efficient use of your time when you work from home—advice very pertinent to writers, whether they have all day or only a few hours to devote to their writing. Special thanks to Degree Jungle for hooking me up with Linda.
How to stay focused while working from home
The prospect of working from home is appealing to many. You can work to your own schedule with no grumpy boss lurking over your shoulder. When you fancy a break you can take one with no threat of colleagues glancing surreptitiously at their watches. You can wear your pajamas all day, drink coffee, and check your Twitter account every two minutes if you really want to. After all, when you work from home, you’ve got all the time in the world, right?
If only that was the case. When you work from home, those things that office workers tend to envy can become somewhat of a problem if you’re not careful. Working from home definitely has its advantages (although those advantages tend to be focused on commuter and childcare issues as opposed to the lure of pajamas and good coffee). In order to reap the full benefit of those advantages it’s imperative to remain focused on the task in hand. If you allow yourself to become continually distracted, your working day will be spilling over into what is supposed to be your free time in no time at all.
Let’s take a look at some top tips for staying focused at “work.”
It’s all in a day’s work
The hours you choose to work are up to you. You may wish to work part time or you may prefer to work full time hours. Whatever your preference is, you have a day’s work to do and you should go all out to put in those hours every working day. Having enough freedom to change your plans at the last minute is undoubtedly one of the pluses of working from home, but if you start to put things off all the time you’re heading into serious procrastination territory. It’s unlikely that if you were in a regular job, you could take an hour off in the afternoon to catch up with the latest episode of Dexter, so don’t do it at home.
Stick to a routine
Much like the number of hours you work is entirely up to you, so is the times you choose to work those hours. If you’re not much of a morning person, then the opportunity of starting later in the day will be appealing. On the flipside, if you’re an early riser, you could start earlier and be done by early afternoon. As your own boss, you have the freedom to choose the work routine that fits you best. It’s up to you to use that chance wisely. Plan your days as you would in a regular job and stick to that plan as closely as possible.
Planning is paramount
Planning ahead and goal setting can be incredibly beneficial when it comes to staying focused. Set aside some time on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to plan what you need to do and you will save yourself untold amounts of time later. Having a plan to work to will help you start each day with a purpose that you may not otherwise have. In the same vein, setting aside time to review your achievements against your aims at the end of each period can also be valuable. Doing this on a regular basis will give you a very clear idea about what you can realistically accomplish in any given period of time.
You’re a grown up. You’re likely to have a fairly good idea of the kind of things that will distract you. Many people work best with a little background music. For others complete silence is a must. You may find it difficult to avoid logging into Facebook or you just “can’t” miss that program at 2 p.m. Knowing your weak points is half the battle. The key is to acknowledge where your willpower tends to slide and actively seek to eliminate those distractions. You’ll also need to make family and friends know that just because you work from home that doesn’t mean you’re available to chat. They wouldn’t pitch up at a regular office, sit on your desk, and start chatting about the weekend. Don’t allow them to do it at home.
Remember work/life balance
We’ve covered how to stay focused, but what if the problem is that you become too focused? Some people who work from home can become so good at swatting away distractions that they fall into the workaholic trap. It can be hard to walk away from your desk at the end of the day, especially if there is still work to be done, but in the majority of cases, walk away you must. Tomorrow is another day. It’s unlikely that you’d stay in an office until midnight every day, so you should avoid doing that at home. Maintaining a good work/life balance is essential for your health, happiness, and, believe it or not, your productivity.
Working from home can be an enormously enjoyable and incredibly liberating experience if you approach it in the right way. Follow these tips to staying focused and hopefully you will never be scouring the job boards for a nine-to-five ever again.
Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Lancaster University in the UK. A leading contributor to Degree Jungle, she is a full time writer and blogger specializing in education, social media, and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter @seelindaplay