I will admit my first year at a public accounting firm I found it difficult to get work done or focus when I had the opportunity to work at home. I normally would actually go into the office (even though that meant putting on real pants) just to force myself to focus and be more productive. Over the past couple of years that I've been working I've gotten better and better and working remote and realizing what helps and what I need to avoid doing. So, here are my tips for how to work productively from the comfort of your home.
ONE // Set a consistent wake-up time and stick to it. Sometimes when you're able to work from home it's really tempting to sleep in until 10am everyday or go out late one night and sleep in the next day. However, not maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can make it so your body is constantly confused and always feels slightly tired. Also, if you begin working really late in the morning you won't be able to squeeze in a full 8-9 hours of work until all your friends are already out of work for the day. It's really frustrating when it's 5:30pm and you start getting texts about happy hour but you can't go because you've only gotten 4 hours of real work done that day.
TWO // Avoid doing household chores and running errands. Obviously part of the perk of working from home is getting to schedule appointments and such during the work day when most people wouldn't be able to go. While the occasional doctor's appointment is fine to schedule I've found it's best to avoid doing everyday chores like vacuuming or laundry because it distracts you from your work and is going to constantly break your focus. I used to always do laundry while I was working from home, I thought I was being super productive and killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. However I began to notice that always having to get up, change the laundry, put in a new load, etc. really broke my concentration and getting back into the zone took awhile.
THREE // Take set breaks rather than constant mini-breaks. Treat your home like an office, don't allow yourself to take breaks every hour for 5 minutes to do this or that. Instead take a longer lunch break and snack break in the afternoon, or run and get a coffee in the morning and then get right back into work. I remember one time I was in the middle of reading this book and I decided I'd read for five minutes every hour as a little break. I thought this would actually make me more productive at home, but instead I just wished I took an hour for lunch to sit on my deck and read instead of getting little breaks every hour which I constantly wanted to extend. This doesn't mean don't take short mental breaks throughout the day, but doing activities you would normally do after work if you worked at an office should be avoided throughout the day.
FOUR // Make sure you have all the supplies and equipment you need in a set area. It's the worst when you're working at home and a client calls and you cannot find a pen anywhere. Instead, make sure you have all your supplies laid out and organized before you start your work day. For people that work at home full-time, this is probably a given, however for people like me that only work the occasional day from home it's important to set myself up in the morning before getting started for the day. This includes getting out my mouse, dual monitor, plugging in my laptop, setting out my notebooks, and getting my highlighters, pencils, and pens out. It really makes me feel like I'm at the office when I have everything within a comfortable reach throughout the day.
FIVE // Never work on the couch. I used to try and audit on my couch, mostly when I'd be doing extra work after I had already worked a full day at a client site and wanted to just get a few more things done. I figured it was fine since I was just doing a couple of things and it wasn't like I was really in my work day. However, I found I was so unproductive and so uncomfortable that tasks that should have taken me one hour would take three. I would end up staying up late just to get everything done and only being able to bill for one hour because I was so unproductive. This also means, if you have a desk, work at your desk. If you don't have space for a desk (like me) find a nice table to work at or any type of flat surface where you can sit with an upright posture.
SIX // If you're having a really hard time focusing and not browsing the internet, try an app like Self Control, which is a free app to allow you to block certain websites of your choosing for an amount of time you select. You can also choose to only be allowed to access certain websites for a set amount of time. I used to use this all the time in college when I needed to study and it helped so much! Nowadays I will use it to block my favorite online shopping sites, blogger, etc. Sometimes after looking at my email I will type in Facebook or Twitter out of habit, so it helps that the block comes up to snap me back into focus.
Do you have any tips for working or studying at home? I'd love to hear them, leave your best tips in the comments below!