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If you have ever worked from home you know that there are pros and cons. It doesn’t work for everyone, but for many it’s a dream come true. I’ve got some tips for you on how to keep up your productivity while working from a home office, and of course, some design ideas to make your space both functional and stylish.
It doesn’t have to be a big space, but it should be a space designated for work. Preferably it is a separate room (with a door!) That way you know it’s work time when you enter, and you can keep distractions at bay – trust me there are many!
Tidy Work Zone = Tidy Mind
We tend to work better when things around us are clean and organized. Your mind can get “messy” and scrambled just like your desk. Not to mention, if you let your home office get unruly, you’ll tend to find excuses NOT to be in there!
Stick to a Schedule
I see this suggestion all the time, but not sure I agree with it entirely. What I mean is that I work best when I’m “in the mood” to work. If I try to force it, I find distractions. So if I try to make a schedule that says “write a design blog” on Monday from 2-3, and I’m not in the right mood, I will procrastinate and allow myself to be distracted, and end up wasting time.
Instead, I prefer to work from an ongoing to do list… more about that coming up.
Think about when your most productive times are; it might not be a specific “time” of day. Or it might be at several times throughout the day. If you have a family, you may want to take advantage of those times be when the house is empty.
Be organized, but don’t over-do it or you’ll spend too much time making lists! I like to have an ongoing to-do list, and I update it throughout and at end of each day. Use a task manager so you can update and re-prioritise as needed. I am trying out HiTask right now and am liking it so far for many reasons (that’s a whole other post!)
You’ve heard about people who work from home and stay in their PJ’s and bunny slippers all day, right? Well don’t do it. So you don’t have to wear a suit, or spend an hour getting ready to leave the house, but you do have to get out of the Sunday Mode. Wear comfortable clothes, just make sure they’re clothes!
Make it Nice
There is a reason why businesses invest good money into the design of their offices. Because people are more productive in a well designed space that they actually enjoy being in. Besides the obvious functionality and ergonomics a good office needs, aesthetics are also very important.
I’ve got some design ideas coming up…
Many people like their morning commute because it gives them “me time”. If that is important to you, take a few minutes before entering your work zone to center yourself for the day. Sit on the porch with your tea, take a wander through the garden, read the paper, meditate, whatever works for you. You’ll start your day off in a good and relaxed mind set.
Take a Seat
You’ve heard all about ergonomics by now, but just know the basics – have a good work chair, and make sure your desk and/or keyboard are at the right height for you. Allow me to make some suggestions:
I love that word – learnt it in design school. No matter what business you are in, creativity is important to keeping your ideas fresh. Have an idea board near your desk where you post ideas, quotes, images or any other bits of inspiration. They don’t have to be job related, just things to keep you inspired, which will keep your creative juices flowing.
Gimme a Break
Take breaks. Step away from the computer every once in a while give your eyes, brains, and butt a rest!
If you listen to music or have the TV on while working, be careful what you listen to. Even if it is just “background noise”, the tone will set your work tone. Listening to reggae all day might make that report a little too mellow.
No when to hold ‘em, no when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to… well you get the idea. (Also do as I say, not as I do, because I am writing this post at 10:00 at night! Refer back to my note on sticking to a schedule.)
Track the Time
Even if it isn’t billable time, keep track of how you spend your day. At the end of the month pay close attention to where your time is REALLY going. Use a simple excel file and categorize each item so it’s easier to see where you need to trim. I prefer to print off a blank time sheet and write my time in as I go, then enter it to the excel file at the end of the week, or even month, when I do my billing.
Just Say No
When you work at an office, people in your life are respectful of your work time (usually), but when you work from home it is easy for people to forget that you are still working. Friends and family may want to pop by for an afternoon visit. And you will inevitably end up being the one who meets the cable guy, plumber, delivery people etc. Just be mindful of how much time you spend doing these tasks (track it in your time sheets). If it gets out of hand, remind your visitors that you ARE working from home.
Never forget that you are living the dream! Be grateful that you have managed the opportunity to work from home, and enjoy it. And don’t forget to take advantage of it once in awhile – there is a reason you get to work from home. Relish in it!