Working from home often seems like the holy grail when it comes to career goals. Whether that’s having flexible working options as part of a paid employment, or in running your own business / working freelance, working from home = GOALS.
It was a goal for me for years before I was able to make working from home my new normal. I worked so much more effectively on my own, in previous jobs I was able to work from home on big projects or on snow days and I loved it so much.
But when it became my permanent set up, it wasn’t quite as awesome as I’d hoped and I needed to become a little more intentional about a few things to make it work the way I wanted it to.
I’ve now been working at home / for myself for the last 4 years and here’s a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that have helped me make sure I stay healthy and productive…
Have a comfortable / inspiring workspace
This is a biggie for me because having a workspace I actually want to spend time in makes a big difference to how I feel – and when you’re going to be spending a lot of time there it’s a good idea to make it comfortable and inspiring! That means I have a decent office chair, my computer screen is raised to eye level to help reduce strain on my neck and I have a grid board behind it with lots of pretty things on. My workspace has always been a corner of our main living space, which to begin with I really liked because I didn’t want to feel cramped in the spare room. However I do sometimes find it hard to switch off at the end of the day because my desk and computer are always on show. My aim is to convert our garage into an office one day so we can close the door on work at the end of the day.
Set yourself some boundaries
Having some boundaries around the time you start and finish work is really helpful in making sure you don’t end up working crazy hours and burning yourself out. One of the benefits of working from home is being able to set your own hours, so do tailor that to your most productive times of day / family life. I’m always best in the mornings so I start as early as I can once Fin is at nursery and finish at 4pm. But if you’re much more productive later in the evening go with that, just make sure you set yourself some boundaries around that, for example your working day might be 12pm – 7pm with a lunch break. Remember that just because the standard working day is 8 hours doesn’t mean yours has to be if you’re your own boss. To be honest I didn’t find a massive difference in how much work I got done when I started working 4 days a week instead of 3 when Finley got older. The work often fills the time available!
One boundary I’ve been looking at recently in my own life is working when Finley is with me. With the extreme weather we experienced recently I had no childcare and Finley home with me. I tried doing some work, tuning into a mastermind call etc and it was a bit of a disaster. I was stressed, Finley acted up and it just didn’t work. I know some people who can work with their kids around but it definitely doesn’t work well for us.
Build in some people time
I’m fairly introverted so for a long time I was quite happy working by myself all day. But that eventually changed when I realised I needed a change of environment and more human contact! I met some local business women who are now two of my best friends and we often co work at each others homes and I also try and get myself out to a coffee shop to work from time to time just for the change of scenery – it’s always refreshing!
Something that has changed my working life for the better recently is time blocking. I use Google Calendar but this would also work for a paper diary. I work a 4 day week around our childcare and I decided that I need a couple of my working days free from meetings and appointments as I work really well in big blocks of free time. So I block out my Mondays and Thursdays and leave Tuesdays and Wednesdays for meetings, sessions and client work. Then, I will also block out a time frame for certain tasks each week which helps me be more productive. For example, I block out Monday mornings for admin tasks and next week I’ve blocked out two afternoons to work on my Spring Wholehearted Journal.
Create a working routine
Something that suffered when I started working at home was my exercise routine. I found it hard (and still do to be honest) to make time for exercise when I have work tasks that need doing. Having boundaries around this has been difficult, but what helped me was finding a routine within my working days that helped me find ‘the path of least resistance’ to fit in exercise. It sometimes changes, but at the moment going to the gym at the end of my working day is easier, but doing a workout at home or going for a run fits in more easily before work.
Making sure you take time for lunch breaks is also important for your routine and to boost productivity. I don’t take formal breaks – I’m always up for a cuppa every 30 minutes – an hour or so, but I do always take lunch at 12pm for 30 minutes and I’ve been trying to incorporate a walk into this as well.
Think about what you wear
Some people can rock the pjs all day and still get loads done but unfortunately that’s not me! As a coach and mentor I’ll often see clients over Skype or be doing live videos on social media etc so I like to dress comfortably but not feel like a total scruff. My usual work from home wardrobe consists of smart joggers, loose fitting trousers or leggings (I love Hush for these) with a vest top and cardigan or jumper, an oversize mens style shirt (And Other Stories for these) and sometimes a shirt dress or jersey fabric dress over leggings. You can’t go far wrong with a lot of the basics in H&M. I do still have days in absolute scruff mode if I’m feeling a bit under the weather or have no meetings and really enjoy them when I have them!
Have lots of healthy snacks and move
Something a lot of people struggle with when working from home is having full access to the kitchen all day! I usually go by the rule that if we buy it we eat it so if there’s foods I know don’t make me feel good I try not to buy them in the first place. I always have snacks like fruit and nuts in and as often as possible I’ll meal plan. One of the benefits I’ve found in working from home is having access to all your cooking equipment so making scrambled eggs for lunch is a lot easier than if you had a shared office situation going on.
When it comes to movement, loads has been written about the effect sitting on your arse all day has on your health. I know some people who have standing desks but I’ve really been attracted to that idea. Instead I try and get up every hour and walk around for a few minutes and incorporate as much walking into my day as I can to offset that.
Set yourself some work goals at the start of the week
At the start of each week I’ll always create a to do list of tasks I’d like to get completed and then I’ll time block if I need to, or each day take a few tasks off that big list to work on that day. That’s always helped me get a lot done.
If you’re freelance I totally recommend you check out Freelance Lifestyle with Emma Cossey – her weekly email and Facebook Group is fab :-)
I’d love to know, if you work from home what habits do you have that help you stay healthy and be productive?