With the invasive availability of the internet, working from home has become a much easier -- and often necessary -- reality of today's professional. Yet, often times, you hear many proclaim that, with the demands and distractions they face in their home environment, accomplishing this goal seems harder than simply getting the same (or more) work done in a dedicated office space.
However, with a few simple guidelines, you'll find that working from home can quickly lead to more productive, and often less stressful assignments, and have a great positive impact on your attitude and personal life.
There's no denying that if you have the space to provide yourself with a permanent, dedicated work space, such as a home office, that is ideal. The reality is, however, not all of us have that luxury, and we often find ourselves with the laptop or tablet plugging away on the couch or the kitchen table. We at-home workers realize you "Gotta do what you gotta do" to get the work done. The important thing here is that the place you have to work is meant specifically for working at that moment. It's often best to seclude yourself from distractions such as the television, or even your family. Make sure your family understands that, during this time, you are essentially "off-limits," and should only be disturbed in emergencies. One important thing to keep in mind is, once you have it arranged to work during a specific time, you stick to only doing work in that area at that time. Despite the fact that we like to think of ourselves as great multi-taskers, your work deserves, and should get, your undivided attention. Understandably, this can be hard to do with small children. In which case, scheduling your work times to coincide with nap times, play times or trips to the grandparents, can be of high importance.
Once you have your space and are ready to go to work, make sure your mind stays in that mode. Set up rules for yourself, and make sure you follow them. Just as in a professional work space, structure is important for your personal work area. Set rules for yourself and your household members to all follow such as, "When the door is closed, do not interrupt," or "During work time, my cellphone is turned off."
Although this tip could easily be grouped with tip number two, it is important enough to warrant its own placement. Unless your work specifically calls for it, avoid the social media lure – and even if you must visit social media sites for the job, keep it strictly professional and avoid any personal searches or pages. The sad truth is, it is easy for even the most dedicated among us to be drawn into the enticement social media offers. We all love to see what our friends are up to, or what others or sharing or to get lost in a labyrinth of YouTube videos. However, to accomplish something productive during work time, it is best to avoid the sites all together.
Before you begin your work day, make a list of tasks and goals you would like to accomplish, and strive to reach those objectives. It is important to realize that, often times, working from home can be a bit of a balancing act. If you don't believe you can complete an entire project, be honest with yourself about that, and instead, set smaller, reachable tasks; such as getting the project a quarter or half the way done. Furthermore, having a "to-do" list often helps us accomplish, and manage, the goals we want to reach.
Let me stress yet again, structure is important. Try to get up, get to bed, do other daily chores at the same time every day, and try to stick to a routine work schedule. The key is to condition yourself, and your mind, to expect the same thing to some degree, which will help in easily getting into the mindset of being productive and accomplishing tasks. Routines become habits, and good work habits lead to producing better work.
One of the primary benefits of working from home is the flexibility. Do not forget this. Although a routine is crucial, remembering and embracing your new-found ability to easily enjoy and adapt to changes in schedule is important. You are free to accomplish personal tasks, like running errands or spending more time with your family, than others might enjoy. You should take advantage of this. Once you effectively put to use the other tips in this article, it is easy to get "in the zone," and find yourself working for perhaps hours on end without even realizing it.
There are smartphone apps, and other methods (as simple as an egg timer or alarm) available to keep track of your time. Set time limits for yourself to work, to take breaks, walk around, or enjoy a few minutes of something away from the work itself. Although other articles offering tips on work from home productivity may tell you differently, it is my personal opinion that if you want to work in your pajamas, feel free! There are perks to working from home, and for some of us, that's definitely one of them.
Work on your time, in the way you are most comfortable. You'll find that working from home isn't an oxymoron or impossible dream, but it can be an advantageous, wonderful way to work.
Jennifer Thompson is a Paragould, Arkansas native, and graduate of Arkansas State University with a degree in strategic communications.
She has worked in the field of journalism around Northeast Arkansas for the past 15 years as a writer and editor. She is currently a public relations specialist and freelance writer.