So I’ve been in my new job for a little while now, and it’s a job with no set office, which means that if I’m not out and about, I’m working from home or in a coffee shop. Every Monday morning is allotted time to work from home and get admin bits done, and i’m not gonna lie, I STRUGGLED to get myself going at the start.
The trouble working from home is that there’s always something interesting recorded on the TV, or that YouTube video that’s just popped up that you’ll “just spend 5 minutes watching”, before getting sucked in to the black hole of YouTube. There’s always something more interesting than doing real work, and with nobody there to give you a kick up the arse, it’s literally your job to kick yourself up the proverbial hiney.
I think I’ve cracked it now, and I’ve had some really productive ‘work from home’ days, so here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
1. Lists upon lists upon lists.
This is an old favourite of mine, and I can’t stress enough how much of a list maker I am. But I’ve found that having this trait already deeply embedded into my personality has actually really helped me. Obviously, a ‘to do’ list is an essential to keep you on track with what you need to do. When I first came into this industry, I was told that I’d be like a hamster on a wheel and constantly have something that I need to do, and boy were they right! This therefore means that my ‘to do list’ is a rolling list, and never actually gets completed, because for every item I tick off, another 2 get added to the bottom. To overcome this, I just rewrite my list every so often once a lot of things are crossed off, because it motivates me that the list that was 3 pages long, is now only 1 and a half.
I also make lists for other things. For example, as I said, I’m easily distracted, so, every so often, I notice something around the house that needs doing. Instead of closing down my laptop and whipping the hoover round, I’ll remind myself that I’m working and pop whatever I’ve noticed down on a separate list. That way, I’ll reassure myself that it will get done, but not until I’ve finished work for the day.
I then have another notebook full of blogging ideas, and this stays with me because when I’m having a really productive 5 minutes, that’s when I tend to come up with blog ideas, so again, instead of buggering off and whipping up a blog post, it gets written on the list, and waits for a free evening or weekend.
(P.S. It’s not until I write all this down that I realise how many lists I have, and that I might have a problem….)
2. Create a space
Now, whilst I understand that not everyone has space for a desk in their house (admittedly, I don’t really, mine stands where the Christmas tree lives, so I lost it for a while over the festive season because, priorities!), but it’s actually really helped me. It’s really good to have an allotted space in the house that you associate with work, to get your head in the right place before you start. My desk is in my lounge, but it doesn’t face the telly, so I don’t get too tempted to pop last nights Corrie on. Sitting at a desk means that I can kind of convince myself that I’m in an office. It also means that everything I could possibly need is within reaching distance, so no jobs get put off because I can’t be bothered to get up and find something (it’s a legit problem). I’d love to say that my desk is Pinterest worthy and beautiful, but in all honestly, it’s generally covered in bits of paper and notebooks. But it works for me, for now.
3. Work as if I’m in an office.
It’s always good to remind myself that I’m at work, I’m on the clock and getting paid for what work I’m doing. Reminding myself of this has made me change my whole mindset when I’m at home and I work as though my house is an office, and I need to crack on from 9 to 5. I allow myself a lunch hour and regular breaks to make tea, but essentially, I am knuckling down and watching the clock, just like everyone in an office. Some days I’ll stay at the “office” late, but generally, once I’ve put my laptop down, it stays down and I’ve clocked off for the day.
Now although I’ve mentioned that I stay away from TV, I do like to pop the music channels on in the background. I just find that a bit of background music really keeps me going and stops me from getting tired and demotivated. Personally, I’m a fan of the channel Magic, so some old bangers will pop up and I can sing along while whipping up an email, and I feel happy and ready to keep working.
5. Have a cuppa!
The biggest benefit to me of working from home as opposed to in a coffee shop is that tea and coffee are free!! Also, you can make yourself a cuppa and not have to make one for every person that hears the kettle going, which is brilliant! Even the act of stopping to make tea can help motivate me because it gives me just that couple of minutes away from my screen to catch my breath. But mainly caffeine keeps me awake and makes me feel like superwoman. It also means that if the dishwasher needs emptying, I can do this really quickly whilst the kettle is boiling, so it’s not playing on my mind that it needs doing the whole time I’m sat doing work.
6. Rewards & Punishments
I’m a firm believer in rewarding good behaviour. As much as that sounds as though I’m raising a child or training a dog, I do keep the same principles for myself. If I’ve had a super productive day and managed to get more achieved than I expected, then I’ll ‘clock off’ early, or I’ll treat myself to a quick episode of Corrie before getting back to it (not Netflix though, NEVER Netflix. That’s a hole I can’t come back from!). On the other hand though, if I’ve been really rubbish and easily distracted that day, then I’ll force myself to work late to get some more bits done, or, even worse, I’ll make up for it on the weekend, when I should be relaxing (or writing blog posts!). Remember, there’s nobody there to keep you in check, so you have to be strict with yourself.
7. Get dressed.
The fact that you can literally work in your dressing gown and nobody will ever know, is probably one of the best things about working from home, and some days, it makes absolutely no difference to my performance. However, on days when my productivity is lacking and I’m feeling a bit sluggish and unproductive, I go and get myself dressed, brush my hair and maybe even whip a touch of mascara on. This then stops my brain from thinking it’s in “Sunday night watching a film” mode and more in “Monday morning at work” mode. I don’t go over the top though, just a T-Shirt and leggings combo will do, something comfy but you could leave the house in it should you have to.
8. Take time to do the little jobs.
Going back a few points to my plethora of lists, I do find myself adding items on to the list that are super quick and unimportant jobs, that I think of whilst I’m not at home, to do when I get a spare minute. Things like printing something off, or sending a low importance email. The issue is, I never find that “spare minute”, and these quick, unimportant jobs pile up and up until it won’t be quick anymore. Everyone has a different preference of how to schedule their day, but take a little bit of time every couple of days just to get those quick jobs done. I spent half a day recently doing this as my list had piled up and I was beginning to get overwhelmed, and just sitting by the printer for a while and sending a couple of emails made me feel 100x better.
9. Set small goals.
This one is a pretty obvious one, but setting goals for the day really does help. I tend to have one or two big tasks that I tell myself at the beginning of the day “if I get xyz done today, then I’ll be happy”. This then breaks your work in to more seemingly manageable chunks, and you can feel like a boss if you exceed your expectations for the day.
10. Remember: It doesn’t happen overnight.
When I mention to people that I don’t have an office and do a lot of work from home, so many people say to me that they wouldn’t be able to get anything done, or motivate themselves. To be honest, when I first started, the idea of working in my dressing gown did get me a bit excited, but deep down, I was anxious because I thought the exact same thing. I didn’t think I’d be able to get anything done, but over time, I’ve got better. I think if you get a job where you work from home, don’t expect to just adjust straight away. It takes time, so don’t be disheartened if you have a really rubbish first couple of weeks. Your brain is used to your home being your chill out space, so of course it’s not going to change straight away. But you’ll get there, keep at it!
If anyone else has any tips and tricks then I’d love to hear them! Anything that can help that underlying urge to move myself to the sofa and pop Netflix on (which is still there, no matter how good I’m getting at fighting it) is something I feel I need to hear!