When you first launch yourself into the world of working from home, it can get overwhelming quickly.
How do you stay on top of projects without a physical boss? How do you keep track of the individual work you’re trying to do? And how do you determine when work ends and home life begins, when both are in the same place?
Here are 6 work-from-home organization tips to help you succeed in your new career.
Have a Serious Morning Routine
It may be tempting to simply roll out of bed, grab some coffee that your partner lovingly made for you, then slump down into your office chair (or better yet, just drag your laptop into bed with you).
But in reality, having an organized and set morning routine that involves—yes, really—getting dressed and prepared is a vital way to start the day. Think of it as physically saying to your brain, “Ok—we’re doing this! It’s time for work, so get to thinking.”
Get up at the same time every morning, start your day with a good breakfast, and go through the routines of getting yourself—and potentially your whole family—ready for their days. Then, and only then, is it time for you to “show up” to work.
Schedule Out Your Day
When you work a traditional office job, you have a daily schedule. Show up at this time; take lunch at that time; a break here; a meeting there; and home at this time. You should treat your at-home job with the same level of rigidity.
Set a time for when you’ll both start and end your day. Lay out your breaks—and maybe even decide what will happen during them. Set a lunch hour, and do your best to leave the house during that hour.
While there are obvious perks to the flexibility that working from home offers, creating a set schedule will help you work more efficiently while also helping to delineate between work time and home time.
You may think you can get a good day of work done with a TV on in the background, or with a nearby radio blasting, but chances are you can’t. TV’s are loaded with ads, news breaks, and shows that are specifically designed to catch your attention—not great for those who are trying to get work done. Radio can be a better choice, but until you’ve learned to turn music and talk shows into white noise, it can be a tricky task to overcome.
If you’re looking to work in something other than dead quiet, seek out ambient noise radio stations with online streaming services like Pandora or Spotify. Or, if you can handle the distractions of people watching, consider the background sounds of a coffee house.
Use a Time Tracker
Don’t think you’re wasting that much time on Facebook? Certain that you couldn’t possibly be spending more than an hour or so on Twitter? Install a browser extension into your browser of choice like RescueTime and watch as your day ticks away. At the end of the day or week, you can see just how much time you’d spent on social media sites, news sites, or anything non-work related (especially during your pre-determined business hours).
And what are you to do after you determine that you spend way more time than you thought? Additional extensions such as StayFocused and Work Mode will block social media from your browser during designated time periods. Hello, efficiency!
Take Notes to Clear Your Head
Whether you use a digital tool like Google Docs or Evernote or prefer to have a physical notebook on hand, have a method of clearing out your headspace.
Dozens of times per day, your thoughts will get cloudy with various to-do items, both work and home related. You need a way to get them out of your head—but still somewhere safe where you can reference them later. It may be tempting to tell yourself something along the lines of, “Oh, I’ll just remember that for later.”
But our memories are faulty, and writing it down not only ensures you’ll remember it later, it also is a promise to yourself that your thoughts do matter.
Separate Work from Home
It may be the trickiest of the lot, but it’s the one that will help you keep your sanity. If you’re sitting at your desk and notice your carpet really needs vacuuming, don’t pause work to break into a mini cleaning routine. Make note of it in your notebook or one of your to-do lists, and mentally set it aside.
Likewise, for meal-planning or anything having to do with childcare: try your best to schedule these things outside of your “normal business hours.” If you were working a normal 9-5, would you use your lunch break to run home and set up the CrockPot? We didn’t think so.
Working from home is both rewarding and, at times, challenging. But when you weigh the minor inconveniences that come in the form of distractions against the benefits of being your own boss, setting your own schedule, and taking the ultimate control over your career, the tips above are worth considering to keep yourself organized and focused.
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