- Set a schedule – Setting a schedule is vital to be effective in a home office. When working from home, all your distractions are right at hand. You are in the exact same environment that you are in during the weekend when you have time to relax, so it’s easy to fall into the pace and frame that you have on the weekends. This can have a negative effect on your productivity working in your home office during the week. Setting up a schedule, a task list for the day and tracking your progress against the budgeted time and tasks are vital to being effective working from home. Pick a start time just like you would if you were going into an office. Pick an end time as well. It is easy to let your work day blend into the rest of your life and find yourself working past dinner time every day of the week if you don’t set some boundaries for yourself.
- Rise early – By scrapping your commute, you create an hour or more of free time. An hour you can use to your advantage. You can work or you can run non-work errands. Either way you are increasing your productivity.
- Manage time – When working from home it can be harder to keep yourself focused and on-task than in an office environment. Having a proven time management system can make all the difference. The Pomodoro system or Getting Things Done are popular systems. Any system could work for you. Planning your time and recording time spent on tasks also creates records that you can use for billing and estimating work for clients.
- Keep Order – Keep a clean, uncluttered area to dedicated to work. This one discipline can make working from a home a pleasure rather than a chore. A chair and desk set aside right next to a file cabinet and supplies saves time and effort. By sitting in the same place every day, you are setting up the habit that puts you in the psychological frame to get to work.
- Work Out – Working from home frees you from the interruptions and natural breaks that you likely encounter working at an office. This can lead to marathon working stretches where you don’t look up from the computer for half a day. This is not good for your health. Looking for a good use for that hour a day you saved by not commuting? Working out is a good option. It is a natural fit to schedule a workout first thing in the day when you would be in your car or at the end of the day when you would have been slogging back from the office.
- Get Out of the House– I’m an introvert. For me, one of the main benefits of working from home is the relative peace and quiet. I can focus on my creative work without the distractions of co-workers dropping in. That quiet is welcome, but you can have too much of a good thing. All that alone time can lead to isolation and depression. It’s also not very good for your business development efforts. If I’m going to do well, I need to continually develop new business and opportunities. That means networking with people face-to-face. That’s why I try to set goals for meeting people as part of my daily schedule. My goal is to make a few calls a day and several meetings a week to keep my profile in my business network.
- Keep your books – Working from a home office also means that many of the infrastructure support functions like expenses and accounts receivable now fall on your own head instead of others. Set aside time to take care of the details. It frees you from worry and lets you focus on your real work.
- Sit up – I mentioned having a dedicated area to work in earlier. Part of that area should be a good quality chair. You’re going to spend a lot of time in that chair so don’t skimp. When I used to commute down the 101 to Redwood City from San Francisco, I sat in my car for two hours a day. When I went car chopping I focused more on the comfort of the seat than any other aspect of the car. When scrapping the commute, that focus moved to the chair.
- Eat Right – For some people working at home having the refrigerator so near can tempt one to eat all day. On the other hand, working outside the office means you don’t have the social cues of when to breaks to eat. When you are driven on a project, it’s easy to skips time to eat and you can hurt your productivity by not fueling at reasonable intervals.
- Legit Software – When you start working from home, you might get automatic updates of your software licenses. It doesn’t take long before your software is out of date and you have compatibility issues exchanging documents with others remotely. Finally, software publishers are realizing this challenge and offering productivity software in a subscription model with reasonable payments. Budgeting for this expenses and getting on an automatic update system can make working from a home office easy.
- Are you ready for your close-up? Video-conferencing from home can be very ungenerous to your image. A web-cam placed too low with dim lighting can make you look like unhealthy troll. Lighting and camera placement can make all the difference. It’s easy to do and does wonders for your image and personal brand. I pop my laptop up on a shoebox so the camera is approximately eye height. My lighting rig consists of three lights on stands arrayed around my desk. In 5 minutes, I can turn on three-point lighting that makes me look great.
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