By some crazy accident, I’m managed to get jobs that have left me working from home for the last year.
First it was with the CSAC, where I interned from home (which is what prompted me to start this blog!) and then when they hired me on as a director, I rotated between my couch, one of our schools, and the local Panera Bread as my work stations.
Now at my new job in Chicago, we’re without an office space for a few months so I’m back at working from home again. Funny how that works out, huh?
Basically, I’ve become a master at working from “home.” Other than the major perk being you can wear whatever you want, there are a few downsides. And if you lack a specific home office— or even a desk— that can be a huge problem. I’ve talked about how to stay productive at home before but a whole year of experience has added some new hacks to the system.
Thankfully, for those of you struggling with (or without!) the home office, you have me to help you. Allow me to share my vast experience in the world of working without an office:
1. Start your day like you would if you were heading to an office.
You wouldn’t head to a real office without brushing your teeth or putting on a bra, so you shouldn’t do that at home either. Get up, eat breakfast, and get ready for the day as if you would be leaving the house. I’m not saying put on a full face of make-up and your business casual, but the actual act of getting yourself ready for the day will help you trick your mind into getting into a productive headspace far better than if you just stayed in your pajamas.
2. Plan your breaks and stick with them.
Keep your brain in “work mode” by planning your day like you would if you were working a typical job. Work all the way until your designated lunch time, and don’t allow yourself to get distracted before then. If you work from your couch, it can be super easy to forget that you’re working and just zone out in front of the TV, so make sure you plan for your “break time” and stick to those times.
3. Don’t work where you play.
In Ohio, I worked specifically from the couch, or the kitchen table. Those were my designated “work spots” and my mind knew that. Now, in my studio apartment the only real sitting area is my bed (AKA, where I spend all my time) so I’ve designated my workspace as being the floor in front of my bed. Totally glamorous, I know. But the floor is way better than working on in the same position that I normally watch Netflix and cruise Pinterest.
If I ever feel distracted on the floor (or stir-crazy, because I never leave my apartment) I take my computer down to a local coffee shop, or anywhere with WIFI. Sometimes the change of pace is good and you can re-focus yourself at this new space. Wherever you choose to work just make sure you associate it with only working to help keep yourself focused.
4. “If you couldn’t do it at an office, you shouldn’t do it at home”
I used to constantly be watching TV when I worked from home in Ohio. I would tell myself I’m sticking to only boring shows for background noise but it was still super distracting. Normal people probably can’t have Netflix playing in the background of their workday, so why should you?
It’s a major temptation, but totally worth it to keep the TV off while you work. Since I’ve been actually making myself follow this rule my productivity has increased so much. You may think you can multi-task but each time you stop what you’re doing you’re losing your focus on your work. So no painting nails, doing laundry, baking cookies, or cleaning the house while you should be working. Save those for your lunch break.
5. Create your office atmosphere.
You won’t be productive if you are surrounded by chaos. Especially chaos that is associated with your home life. If you’re lucky enough to have a desk then set up to fit your working style. If you don’t have a specific work space then make sure you have everything you’d need at arms reach, and you have secluded yourself as much as possible if there is chaos around you. Move the basket of laundry that needs folding so it’s not reminding you of other things to do and pick up all the cat’s toys so you won’t be tempted to finally teach her how to fetch. Where ever you are make sure it’s got a productive atmosphere with no distractions.
If you’re in a public space, I highly recommend getting headphones. I love listening to Spotify EDM playlists when I work. They are full of upbeat songs with very little lyrics to distract me, and the music keeps me awake and motivated. Time passes much quicker when I have Steve Aoki in the background.
And if all else fails, motivate yourself with good food. Most offices have a pizza party at least once a year, right? You’re your own boss at your home office, friend. Pizza parties can be everyday. Or donut parties. I highly recommend donut parties.
Got any working-at-home tips? Share them in the comments!