“How do you work from home?”
It’s one of the questions that I see pop up in my inbox or Instagram direct messages the most frequently. It came again yesterday, from one of my old friends (who doesn’t own a business, but still works at home) and had a big computer project coming up. The question about working from home gets asked in a lot of different ways. “How do you start? How do you stay motivated? How do you keep from getting distracted?”
We all know that since 2020, the amount of people working from home has significantly jumped. One statistic I read said that 1 in 4 Americans work from home.
In a culture that typically sees work as something you leave your house to do, is there a way to still be productive from home? Is there a way to work from home and still enjoy the perks of your own space and schedule without routinely getting distracted and scrolling your phone constantly?
I was one of the people who left the standard workforce in 2020 in favor of working from home. I still struggle to be productive some days, but I’ve also learned several things that work for me. In this blog, I’ll briefly touch on four of my top tips for working from home.
1. Have a start routine
Notice I didn’t say “Have a particular time you start.” Here’s why: the thing about working from home is that you often can set your own schedule. That means one day you might have a morning appointment and work in the afternoon, and another day you might start first thing in the morning before you’ve even showered. (Me this morning). However, you still can have a mini routine that signals to your brain that it’s time to start work. (I learned about this from Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work). The writer Kristen LaValley calls this “Opening,” in reference to her house—as in, opening a store for the day.
For me, this start routine usually means getting my body ready in some way, like getting dressed either in the clothes I’m wearing that day, or clothes comfortable for working. (Yay pajamas!) Then I get my house ready in some way. (My HOUSE, not necessarily my workspace. After all, the whole house is my workspace!) If it’s morning, I’ll make my bed, no negotiation, before I work. If it’s in the afternoon, I straighten my desk a little bit, or load the dishes in the dishwasher so I’m less distracted with little unfinished house tasks. Finally, I usually get a beverage or two set up beside my computer, which makes sitting down to work a little more of a treat.
2. Set timers
I do this every day, and it’s the only way I can start my work, somedays. It’s the difference between “WRITE A WHOLE WEBSITE?!” And “I can work on this for the next fifteen minutes.” Sometimes I set my timer for five or seven minutes if I’m totally overwhelmed and can’t imagine working for sixty whole minutes. Other times, I can work for thirty minutes to an hour or more. I just almost always know at what point I will take a break—to get a snack, check my phone, or step outside. I can concentrate better if I know I’m not potentially stuck at my desk for the entire rest of the future.
3. Turn your phone off
Airplane mode, wifi off. Or, on Do Not Disturb so that your husband can call you if something is urgent. You don’t have to reply to messages right away, and you can always call them back. Again, this feels more doable when you know that in twenty minutes you will be done with your work slot and can double check that group message again!
4. Get out of the house
My fourth tip for working from home…is to not work from home. Just kidding, sort of!
Here’s the thing: working from home can be lonely. So get out of the house and go be with people. Take your laptop to a coffee shop for one morning a week. Schedule lunch dates and work dates and have a friend come over to work on homework while you work. Take off early and go shopping. For creatives especially, the physical world is the most inspiring. You’ll be a more effective work-from-home-er if you don’t feel trapped and lonely there.
I have several more tips floating around in my head about working from home, I’m realizing! Maybe I’ll write a book. 😀 In the meantime,I would love to hear how you work from home, how you stay focused, or what part of it is the hardest for you.
Also, if you are interested in a “come alongside you” resource for all these creative businesses, marketing, working from home things, I send out occasional emails that are meant to be just that. They usually include a nitty-gritty tip or something I’m learning, as well as a couple notes about books I’ve been reading. You can sign up here, if that sounds like your thing.
Okay, now go set your timer and get those work from home tasks done!