I am approaching the end of my second year now working from home on my own and I know first hand how hard it is to stay motivated when you don't have a team around you and staying focused on work when theres so many other things to do at home. I won't lie to you, its tough at times, and it took me a hell of a long time to settle down in to a routine that worked for me.
Considering a lot of you will now becoming to the end of your first ever week working from home, or will be starting in the next few days once your company has put the systems in place, I thought I'd share some tips with you on how to keep motivated and focused. 1- Structure.
You probably have seen so many tips already whether its about working from home or home schooling suggesting that structure is key. I can't stress to you how important it is though. Working from home isn't a holiday, you are working, treat it like any other work day. Set your working hours and stick to them. When I first started I found it too easy to start at 10:30/11ish and finish at 3, or take 2 hours for lunch, or just take a half day because I fancied it and no-one was checking up on me. I now set my hours 9-5 with an hour for lunch as thats what I've been used to working when I've been employed. I have set tasks that I do every morning, and set myself a clear end goal of what I want to achieve before breaking for lunch. After lunch I finish up the orders I want to get posted that day and begin packing around 3:30 everyday so I can get to the post office before 4:45pm. It can be repetitive, but the structure and routine helps so much when your struggling to focus. I also keep all social interactions as much as possible outside of my work hours, I wouldn't be able to take the afternoon off to go for a coffee with my friends if I was in employment so I don't when I work for myself.
2- Treat it like a usual work day
This is very similar to structure. When your working from home, its easy to slip into staying in your pyjamas until midday because you don't need to leave the house. Don't. It's great the first few days, but honestly it does nothing for your mental health or motivation. Get up, and get dressed like you would for work any other day. Obviously if you usually have a long commute, you don't need to get up as early was you would normally, but still get up early. I have two dogs that I have to walk each morning, so I treat that as my commute. As soon as I'm back home, I make a cup of tea and go up stairs to start making or sit down at my laptop to look at emails much like I would if I was in an office job. Same with the end of the day, the dogs and I go for a walk at 5 and once we are back home, home is home again and no longer my office.
If you don't have dogs to walk, still try and get out for a quick walk around the block before you start work. It's such a great way to clear your head and get you in the right headspace to begin work. Likewise, at 5 switch off, go for a walk, and "commute" home.
Our "commute" home..
3- Try to resist doing housework. Oh my god, I found this so hard, and still do. Theres ALWAYS something that could be done around the house. Cleaning the bathrooms, loading/unloading the dishwasher, doing the laundry. If you were at work you wouldn't be doing these in the middle of the day, so try and limit them whilst your WFH. Granted, this is awn excellent time to get that work life balance and get on top of all those chores that you've been wanting to get done but haven't had the time. However, you might find yourself using them as an excuse was to why your not getting any actual work done. Set your self breaks in the day were you can get a few things done, but keep them small, don't decide your going to declutter your kitchen towards the end of lunch. You won't get it finished and it will just be a distraction the rest of the afternoon. Instead if your making a cup of tea, put a quick load of laundry on ready to swap over at lunch or the end of the day.
4- Get yourself a "work space"
Like with staying in your pyjamas, its very easy to take your laptop to bed and work there all morning. It's warm and comfy after all. Being able to separate work from personal life is so important. Having those boundaries will keep you going in the long run. Make yourself a little office that you can leave there for how ever long you need it will help you maintain a work life balance. Working from your bed or sofa, only makes you associate it with work in the long run. You want to keep it was much as possible was a place that you go to to relax and switch off.
This is a little picture of my usual work space.
5- Silence can be equally as distracting
For many of you this will be a completely alien experience. You'll be used to the constant hum and buzz of an office. Before working for myself, I worked in a busy office in London. The phones were always ringing, people would always be talking either on the phone, in the kitchen or to each other at their desks. The printer would be werring away, and there would be a constant tapping away at keyboards. To go from that, to suddenly being alone at home with no background noise was very unsettling. I found the silence deafening some days. I cope by having the radio on all day long. Sometimes it on loud if I'm making, and its on quite if I'm at the computer.
I love Radio 1, I joke with my family and friends that the radio DJ's are my work pals. Having the chit chat in the background makes you feel a part of something, it gives you something to laugh at during the day, and also to get involved with. When you're in the office you don't just sit in silence and not communicate with anyone else. You joke about, you gossip, and discuss the news of the day and sometimes work :P. Find a station that you enjoy buts not a distraction and just have it on in the background. Keeping your spirits lifted is hard when your alone for long periods of time day in day out.Text in, get involved, sing along and stay happy.
6- Enjoy yourself
This is important. This is an incredibly weird time for everyone right now. It's worrying for everyone. But at the same time, a lot of people have been given the gift of time that you wouldn't have otherwise. Get on top of things that you never get time to do. I'll be using this time to sort of my accounts and admin that I'm always behind on.
For lots of us its great opportunity to slow down and reconnect with family that we would usually only see for a couple of hours at the end of the day. Read. Get out in the garden. Cook (when you can get the ingredients). Learn a new skill. Pick up a forgotten hobby. Spend time with your children. Explain to them what you're doing. Teach them how to handle... life.
Our crop of potatoes... Jack and I are always trying to learn how to grow vegetables (some more successfully than others) and have just bought a green house to help our seedlings grow :)
We don't know how long this will go on for, all we can do is make the best of the current situation.