8 Essentials to Get the Most Out of Working From Home
Working from home isn’t for everyone. To be successful, you must be disciplined, motivated, and -- above all else -- a self-starter.
It's been relatively easy for me, because I’m motivated by the reality that my success or failure rests directly on my shoulders.
If you think working from home means having the freedom to forgo shaving and wake up without setting an alarm, think again! However, I won’t deny that working from home has its perks -- like never having to commute. I set my own hours. Best of all, I get to be my own boss.
Here’s how to get the most out of working from home:
1. Start each day like you’re going to work. That means taking a shower, getting dressed and having breakfast. Setting professional standards will put you in a productive mindset.
2. Set up your office. It is crucial that you create a dedicated space to work in that is comfortable, private and exposed to as few distractions as possible. This space is yours, so make it personal! You’re going to be spending a lot of time there.
You should have all your tools, like your computer, phone and printer, in one place. Setting up your office also means setting up boundaries with the people (and even pets) you share your home with. Set up rules so that everyone understands when you are available and when you are not.
3. Begin your day 30 minutes earlier than you plan to start working. This time should be used in two ways: To create a plan for the day and to peruse social media. Every morning, I make a list of the things I need to achieve that day. Scratching off items will motivate you and keep you on task.
I also read the news and check social media. It’s fun, and it prevents me from wasting too much time during the day. I also check those sites during my lunch break and at the end of the day. After all, there’s no boss looking over your shoulder -- so you must police yourself.
4. Think about when you do your best work, and plan accordingly. I’m a morning person, so I start working on the most difficult and unpleasant tasks of the day first. We all have tasks we’re not wild about, whether we’re working for ourselves or someone else. In the afternoon, I do things I enjoy, such as creative tasks.
5. Make a strict schedule, and stick to it. The knowledge that you can work whenever will tempt you, but in the long run, you will be much more productive if you follow the schedule you set for yourself. In my experience, this means keeping the same hours every day. This is work, after all. Your hours should correspond with others in your industry. Don’t vary them.
6. Stay connected. Working from home can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Turn on Skype and get in the habit of using it. Each morning, my employees and I use Skype for our staff meeting. I always make sure to ask, “How is everyone doing?” We talk about non-business issues first.
It doesn’t take much effort to check in with the people you work with, and your relationships will benefit from it. Being on camera is an added incentive to look your best! When you’re able to see people, they don’t seem so far away.
7. Check in with your team throughout the day. I have Skype turned on all the time, and I ask my employees to do the same. I hand out assignments at the beginning of the week, but I check in much more often than that. My employees do better when I actively manage them.
Mind you, I don’t mean micromanage. But keeping people accountable -- especially those that work from home -- is important. There are a lot of potential distractions, after all. Set an example by being available to them as well.
8. Make sure to “close the door” at the end of the day. This can be very hard to do. It’s easy to keep working long after the hours you’ve set for yourself have passed. After all, your office is as easily accessible on the weekend as it is during the week. Have other hobbies.
Your business will suffer, actually, if all you do is focus obsessively on it. You will work more than 40 hours -- I’m sure of it, so give yourself a break. Make a point of getting out of the house on the weekends. This is the only way you will maintain your sanity. In the same vein, taking short breaks throughout the day can be very helpful.
Working from home can be extremely rewarding. No sitting in traffic. No more office politics. The freedom to live wherever. But there are distractions, and it can be lonely. If you focus on creating structure, you’ll be amazed how much you can accomplish.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor