I’ve worked for myself, from home, for nearly five years. In the beginning, it wasn’t pretty. There were some days when G would come home and I’d be slumped in the couch in the same spot where I’d said goodbye to him in the morning. I hadn’t gotten up to shower or even brush my teeth, so you would have assumed that I was wildly productive. But that wasn’t the case. Most times, I wouldn’t have even written the post for the next day and would have to work late into the night. Since then, I’ve made some pretty necessary changes, so I thought I’d share my top 10 tips for working from home.
1. Get dressed every day. As soon as I started getting changed in the morning, even if that meant putting on clean workout clothes, I found that I was more productive. Staying in my pajamas always sounds more appealing than wearing just about anything else, so I make it a point to never even give myself that option. Also, now that I work with other people, I’m that much more inspired to change up my hair and make-up each morning before they arrive.
2. Create a designated work area (that’s not your bed). You don’t have to dedicate an entire room to your office, but there should be some separation between where you work and live. In our first apartment, I’d simply heave my computer onto my lap each morning as soon as I woke up and work there, crouched over for hours. Not only was it terrible for my neck, but it made it feel like I never truly left the office. As soon as I created a little area for myself, I became more productive and was able to differentiate the times when I was working and when I was hanging out at home.
3. Set hours and stick to them. Like any job, it’s important to set specific hours. The lines get blurred when you work for yourself – in the past, some of my days were 14-hours long. Now that I have a designated office at home, I shut the door each evening at the end of the day. It might seem silly, but it reinforces the idea that I’m done with work and when I can’t see my computer, I’m less likely to sit down and answer emails in the middle of the night.
4. Get outside. When you have a typical office job, there’s a guarantee you’ll be out of the house for a portion of the day, even if it’s just for your commute. And while working from home and not having to leave is one of the benefits, it can also be really restrictive at times. I always make a point now to go for a walk each morning and take small breaks throughout the day outside so that I don’t feel like a shut-in.
5. Be smart with your money. Create a savings plan, and save all your receipts. When you work for yourself, you don’t have access to an employers savings/retirement plan (i.e. 401(k)), so it’s important to implement a plan that provides similar benefits, to the best of your ability. There are a number of investment options, like an IRA, that are easy to manage and provide different savings strategies. I’d also highly recommend working with a reputable accountant or CPA, to properly manage your taxes and/or payroll.
6. Schedule things with other people. I’m an independent person, but that doesn’t mean I wanted to turn into a recluse just because I work for myself. Each week, I aim to schedule at least two meals out with friends, several meetings and one nighttime event. It ensures that I’m out socializing with other people and not just doing so through a computer.
7. Take advantage of your flexibility. While I typically work from 9-6, I also take advantage of the fact that there aren’t any set hours. So if there’s a 4pm movie on a Friday afternoon that I want to see or errands I didn’t get around to running over the weekend, I’ll just pencil it into my schedule. As long as the work gets done, I enjoy the freedom of setting my own hours.
8. Keep healthy snacks around. I’m a terrible procrastinator and if I’m trying to avoid work, I’ll usually meander into the kitchen. In order to avoid overeating on an hourly basis, I do my best to stock healthy food options in the house. Some of my favorite snacks include: cottage cheese with pear, almonds with dried cranberries, banana with peanut butter, apples with cheddar cheese and crackers with avocado. If there are chips or cookies around, that’s all I’ll reach for.
9. Have a to-do list. Not having a boss has its benefits, but one of the downsides is that it can be hard to keep track of what needs to get done. Each morning, I make a detailed list of that day’s tasks and keep track of them in Asana, an app that helps keep me accountable.
10. Keep things tidy. There’s nothing inspiring about coming to work and having your space look messy and disorganized. Before the end of each day, I make sure to clear my desk of coffee cups, papers and mail so that when I come to work the next morning, it’s a pretty place to sit down.