Working at home can be a dream come true for the people who are able to find that type of flexibility. And while it can be a wonderful arrangement, it certainly isn't for everyone and it comes with its own set of challenges. If you aren't someone who is self-motivated and able to manage their own workday, it can be a recipe for disaster.
On of the biggest challenges for those who work from home is learning how to find balance between their work and family demands. Being productive (and staying productive) is difficult when you don't have a clearly defined work schedule. Interruptions that would never take place in a traditional setting become commonplace when you work from home. Everything from friends wanting you to run errands for them because they “have to work” to phone calls and people just stopping by to say hello, can make you want to scream.
Here are some ways that you can make yourself more productive and stay motivated when you work from home:
- Nip procrastination in the bud – It is all too easy to put off certain tasks just because you really don't want to do them. It is human nature to rationalize away doing the things we don't like, thinking that there will be time to do them later. Then, later comes and there isn't enough time to do them as well as you would have liked to. Your work suffers, and once you get behind, it can snowball into something much bigger and harder than it initially was. The best thing to do in this situation is to force yourself to just get down to business and get started. One of the tricks that works well for me, when I am feeling overwhelmed and putting something off, is to set a timer for 30 minutes. I tell myself that I will just work until the timer goes off, and then I will take a break. Typically, I get a lot more done in that half hour that I did spending 2 hours doing everything but work. Not only that, I also end up working considerably longer than the timer, because I get involved in my work and don't want to stop just yet.
- Get rid of distractions – Ah, distractions. I have a hard time avoiding them, even the ones I create. If you are being driven to distraction, try to eliminate the ones that you know are your weaknesses. I try to set strict “office hours”, and during that time, the T.V is off and I try to plan for my own pitfalls. No access to my personal Facebook until my office hours are over, and I found that it really helps to keep a professional email address that doesn't receive any personal mail at all. I try not to open my personal email account until my work time is over. It is too easy for me to check my email, respond to a few, check Facebook and get involved there, then say “Ok, back to work...but first, let me check my email again.”. The cycle will repeat until half of the day is gone.
- Get into the work day – When you set office hours, you can plan a few short breaks and a lunch break ahead of time. Getting ready for work should be the same as if you were going to the office. Have your coffee, make sure everything you need is within easy reach and then get started. Don't fall into the trap of taking lots of small breaks or using the lunch break time to play online. Instead, use that break time to get away from your computer screen and do something completely different. If you spend your break online, it is too easy to say “just a few more minutes” and waste another hour. When you make your office hours, be sure to set a clear stop point. When you work at home, it is easy to feel like you are always “at work”. Knowing when you are on-duty and off-duty can make things much less stressful.
- Pick a schedule that works for you – One of the wonderful things about working from home is that, most of the time, you can plan out a schedule that works best for you. This allows you to work during the times that you are most effective. For me, I like to stay up late, and I find that my most effective and creative times are from mid afternoon until the wee hours of the morning. I just consider myself as working a second shift job, and I get to work late and sleep in.
- Be easy on yourself – One of the worst parts of self management is that your supervisor knows everything. So, be a supportive manager for yourself and look for ways to encourage and motivate your staff (you) without beating yourself up. We all have off days, and it is important to learn how to leave work at the office.
Have you ever worked from home? How did it work for you? What were some of the challenges you faced? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer, along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.