How to Stay Productive (and Sane) while Working from Home
To some, the thought of working from home is a dream; to others, it’s a nightmare. But, like it or not, more Americans than ever are working from home in our current gig economy.
The first concern, of course, is keeping productive, getting your work done, and not getting sucked into little household chores, neglected noon-work side projects, or worse…TV! If you are able to stay on task, however, you may find yourself going a little stir crazy. You wouldn’t be the first to get cabin fever in a home office.
Megan Bozzuto is a freelance digital marketing expert who works from her home outside Boston. The upside for her is flexibility with her schedule.
“Working from home is great. I get to see my kids throughout the day and don’t have to worry about commuting. However, there are days when I get sick of being ‘home’ all the time and feel like I need a change of scenery and to interact with other people,” she says.
Breaking it up
The freedom of working from home, for some occupations, means that you can work from almost anywhere. One trick is to break up the monotony by invading a coffee shop or coworking office. These spaces are full of other work-from-home people and, even if you don’t talk to them, their very presence may help move you forward.
Just getting out and among other people will help, Bozzuto said. “I will sometimes go to the gym on my lunch break, so that I have some human interaction, or schedule coffee with a friend for a quick afternoon break. I sometimes work in other places during the day to mix things up.”
Keeping on task
Another hurdle is distraction lurking at home. It’s a real danger. The best way to not get distracted by unfinished chores, of course, is to not have them in the first place, Bozzuto says.
“I try to get everything cleaned up before I log on for the day so that I don’t get distracted by dirty dishes in the sink or laundry in the drier. On the plus side, if my daughter’s soccer uniform needs to be washed before practice, I can get it done during the day,” she says. If dinner needs to go in the oven at 4 p.m., she’s there to take care of it.
“I stay productive by making a weekly task list for each of my clients, and I give myself deadlines for completing everything.”
There’s also the issue of letting go: “I don’t technically keep office hours, and it can be very easy to log back on after the kids go to bed to respond to emails or get a head start on projects for the next day. I try to turn off my computer and make sure that it is in the office at the end of the day to avoid the temptation of logging back on in the evening.”
That midday gym trip isn’t just good for your mental health. Bozzuto said a long day in her office usually means not moving around very much.
“My Fitbit showed about 2,500 steps at 4 p.m. yesterday—much lower than my usual average. If I was in an actual office, I would have been more active with my commute, walking to meetings, etc.”
She sneaks in a trip to the gym or a quick walk on her lunch breaks. Long listen-only calls can be taken on a treadmill.
“My tendency to snack on things at home can get out of control—I rein this back in by making a big batch of soup on the weekend that I can easily heat up for lunch during the day.”
Of course, learning to maximize your time is all part of customizing your approach to your business. It’s about finding what works for you through trial and error, and reaching out to people with similar experiences.
Joining a professional networking organization can help you connect with like-minded women. Monthly in-person meetings or virtual webinars provide an opportunity for you to learn and grow while also staying connected to other professional women.