How to work from home (and get things done)…

Not my office

Working from home. It’s the dream, right? You lie in bed until five minutes before you’re due to log into work and then spend your day in your pyjamas. Better yet, you spend the day in bed. That’s how it’s supposed to work, isn’t it? Yeah…nah…at least not if you want to consistently get things done.

I work completely from home – juggling around 4 days a week in my corporate day job (remote work back to Sydney), with my fiction writing, astro writing, and what I call blogging but what the marketers of the world refer to as “content creation”. It’s something that I’ve been doing full-time for the last 2 years – and at least a couple of days a week for a number of years before that.

My day job is a busy one and I set myself deadlines for my writing work around my corporate work. In order to get anything done, I have to be organised, but this sort of discipline is not something that comes naturally to me. It’s a boundary thing.

Anyways, here are my tips for working from home and getting stuff done.

Have a work routine

Just as if you had to get up, get dressed and commute to work, set a repeatable routine for yourself.

In Sydney, my alarm would go off at 5.30am so I could leave for the bus at 6.20am, to be in the city for coffee by 8 and at my desk and working before 8.30. These days, my alarm still goes off at that time, but I head down to the beach for a 5km walk and coffee afterwards.

I’m still at my desk and working by 8.30, but I’ve had some exercise and fresh air as well as #winning.

Get dressed

Yes, get out of your pjs. You don’t have to dress up and do the make-up thing, but getting dressed is you telling yourself that you mean business. It’s part of the ritual of going to work.

Go to work

I’m lucky in that I have a dedicated office slightly away from the rest of the house – up 5 stairs. When I go to work, that’s what I’m doing. If you don’t have your own space, dedicate an area to your work zone. It doesn’t need to be huge, but it does need to be where you work. It’s a symbolic thing.

Of course, going to work could mean picking up your laptop and escaping to the nearest coffee shop, park, beach, or whatever. I do that too – especially if I need to change my headspace from corporate to creative.

While on the subject, make sure your set-up is ergonomically friendly.

Plan your day

It’s very easy for things to go off the rails very quickly – I have plenty of days where as a result of things going to custard I end the day having achieved just two things:

  • a morning walk
  • to pour wine

Each Monday jot down what you want to accomplish for the week, and do the same for each day – a Big Plan and a Little Plan. Having this on your desk will help keep you on track when you ask the dog, ‘Okay, what’s next?’

Implement a reasonable internet use policy

Just as you have a reasonable internet use policy in the office, do the same when you’re working for yourself or at home. If it would be unacceptable to sit on Facebook or Instagram all day while you’re in the office, why is it ok to waste your working hours on it at home?

Naturally, the exceptions are if you’re on there for genuine research purposes, or for social media marketing/ content scheduling.

Take regular breaks

Although the temptation might be to work through, make sure you completely stop for a lunch break. If you’d normally have a sandwich and a walk during your lunch hour, do this at home too. Just stop – for at least 30 minutes.

Stock your pantry

If you don’t want your lunch hour spreading into a lunch 2 hours, have your pantry (or freezer) stocked with quick and easy lunch options.

Clock off

Again, because you’re at home, it’s way too easy to just keep working. Set a knock-off time and stick to it. Of course, the exceptions are deadlines and those amazing days when the words are flowing easily – but for all other times, close the laptop at the end of your designated working day.

I set my log-off time at 5pm (Sydney time) each day and at that time I sign out of the day job workspace and resist the temptation to take calls after that time – there are plenty of people who think that because you work from home you are permanently on call. Yeah…nah.

Switch Off

If you were commuting, you’d usually have a period of time between the end of the workday and the beginning of home time. Do the same here. When there are no physical boundaries between you and work you need to set some. Whether it’s taking the dog for a walk, relaxing with a book, pouring a glass of wine – whatever. Make a ritual of something that symbolises that your work day is done and switch off.

Set boundaries

By far, the hardest part of working from home is persuading others that you’re working from home.

My husband is retired, and other than when he does his volunteer work is home most days. At first, he had a few issues with the concept of home being a workplace. ‘But I never know if you’re working,’ he’d say.

‘If it’s Monday to Friday and I’m in the office, it’s safe to assume that I’m working,’ I’d reply.

‘But I don’t know whether you’re work working, or working on your stuff working,’ he’d say, the inference being that if I was work working ie back to Sydney being paid directly for what I do work, he wouldn’t interrupt me. Hmmmm.

The same goes for when people are visiting – our home is my workplace so I can’t just stop and entertain or take the day off to go sightseeing.

Maintain relationships

This is a tough one. I show my face in the office back in Sydney every couple of months. This is necessary for me to maintain relationships with my colleagues. It can also get a little lonely from time to time when I have just Adventure Spaniel for company – even though she agrees with everything I say; something my colleagues certainly do not!

Do you work from home? What do you love about it and what do you find challenging? Any tips and tricks?

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishWrite of the Middle, and, of course, me.

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Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

7 thoughts

  1. Great tips Jo and exactly the kinda stuff I’ve learnt over the years of kinda working from home. When in a ‘real’ corporate job at one point I used to work from home on Wednesdays and I found I had to stick to a ‘work’ routine in order to have a productive day. As you say, the biggest problem is other people understanding that you’re ‘working’ from home. They assume you’re free and available at all times! #TeamLovinLife

  2. Hi, Jo – I’m retired and never “officially” worked from home….except that work followed me home from the office on a regular basis. I like your tips. I especially agree with the importance of boundaries and routine.

  3. I think getting dressed is an important transition for the day. I think I’d be okay if I had a job that was very busy / processy and I had to do stuff and I’ve always been good working from home if I’m responding to emails and doing stuff.

    I’m less-good if it’s just my own stuff and there are no expectations of me!!!

  4. You are inspirational on this subject Jo, I wish I was as organised and purposeful as you are. I absoloutely agree with you about the importance of getting dressed and ready for the day, it really helps with mindset doesn’t it.

  5. This is great Jo. Although I no longer ‘work’ I like to think of my blogging as my creative time and often find myself procrastinating when I know I should be ‘creating’. I need to set some boundaries and schedule time for blogging, reading, exercising – you name it, otherwise I find the the day just fritters away and i’m left at the end of the day saying, well what did you do all day???? I enjoyed reading of your setup and the getting dressed is a biggie :), said as I sit here in bed in my pjs with an early morning cuppa – well it is Saturday morning and who works on a weekend?? Enjoy the weekend!

  6. These are great tips! I think you’re right, the hardest part about working from home is convincing others you really are working and not exclusively available for play dates! I find keeping regular hours, taking regular breaks, having a pre-prepared (or quick to prepare) lunch and getting dressed keep me on track and being productive.

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