Working From Home, Effectively

Working from home can present a multitude of distractions. For the past four years, I have not only worked from home, but I have done so with a toddler and pre-teen. A parent or not, I think we can all agree, that doing so can be quite the task. Every week, I evaluate what is working and what is not working with my work routine. Below I have outlined the top 10 things that have helped me to be my most productive self.

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1. Separation of Home and Office

I cannot Stress this one enough! Create a space that is separate from your living space. This will help you to create a great work-life balance. Not having clearly defined areas may result in you eating dinner with one hand and using your laptop with the other. Ambition and hard work go hand in hand, but no one should work 24-7. Overworking could lead to burnout, and that is not healthy! If your office space has to be shared with another space within your home, create a visual separation. Things you can use to create a visual separation:

  • An area rug

  • Bookshelves

  • Folding screens

  • Privacy screens

  • Folding screens

  • Curtains

  • Sliding doors

  • Artwork

  • Plants

  • A cubicle divider

2. Take Breaks

Let's face it, we are not the energizer bunny. Even though sometimes our coffee and energy drinks can make us feel like we are, taking breaks can help us to stay energized throughout the workday. Feeling fatigued can lead to less productivity and simple mistakes. There are three types of breaks that I try to take while working.

  • Take a mental break. Give your brain a rest. Take a moment to think about absolutely nothing or you can use this time to think about something that relaxes you. But this is the time to zone out, and have a happy, stress-free moment!  

  • Take a physical break. Physically do the opposite of what your job calls for. If you are sitting at a desk, get up, stand, and stretch. You can use this time to grab an energizing snack. If your job requires you to stand or do a lot of walking, this is the time you want to take to sit. Stretching would also be a good idea if you are constantly moving on the job.

  • Take a lunch break. Food (the healthier the better) is fuel! It is so easy to go without eating. Most of us skip breakfast and delay lunch. This is a big no, no! Take time to eat!  

3. Have a Firm Quitting Time

This is not always possible, but let this be the golden standard. Often, duty calls for us to work overtime, outside of our standard hours. Schedule your overtime. I designate Tuesday's as my overtime day because it is my husband's late night. You may have a special day that working late may not take away from family time. It could be the day your kids have extracurriculars or the day the kids go to grandmas or a day that you don't have any tv shows to watch. Whatever it is, find YOUR overtime day. Having a firm quitting time:

  • Helps you with project management. Sometimes we find that a project may take us a little longer to complete than expected. Having set overtime days/times lets you know right away when you can put in the extra time to complete your project. Which leads me to my next benefit.

  • Helps you with time management. Having a firm quitting time forces you to think about what days/hours you would be available to work if you need to work outside of standard hours. Thinking about these two simple things is the start of you managing your time and building a daily/weekly schedule.

4. Add Inspiration

Adding inspiration is adding positive reminders to your space. Fill your area with any and everything that will serve as motivation to get you through the day. Ideas for inspiration:

  • Photos of your loved ones (one of the most common)

  • Artwork of quotes or scriptures

  • Flowers

  • Candles

  • Books

5. Forget About the Housework

Of course, it makes sense to put a few things away on the way to a bathroom break, but spending too much time cleaning during work hours causes you to lose valuable work time.

  • Refrain from using work time to do household chores.

  • Spending more than 5 minutes at a time on cleaning will result in you losing valuable work time. That time can quickly add up and delay #3, having a firm quitting time.

6. Hold Personal Calls

Friends and relatives sometimes forget that you "work" from home and may infringe upon your work time.

  • Nip it! If you find yourself on a personal call, promptly inform the caller of when you will be available to talk.

  • For those relatives and friends who are repeat, time-stealers, kindly DO NOT answer and send a text letting them know that you are working, and ask if everything is okay. After all, sometimes things can be important enough to pause working.

7. Stick to Your Hours

If you have set office hours, try your best to stick to them. Sure, working from home brings the benefit of flexibility to your schedule, but only take advantage of this when NEEDED.

  • Avoid scheduling appointments in the middle of your workday. This often creates an obstacle to not getting back to complete your workday.

  • If your appointment/errand must be completed during work hours, attempt to schedule them at the beginning or end of the day.

  • When possible, STAY PUT!

8. Keep the TV Off

Simple, but helpful. Tune in to the news on your break if needed, but television can be a huge distraction.

  • Don't be afraid to use Television as your coffee/smoke break. Especially if you have the discipline to return to work.

  • There is an exception to every rule. Sometimes television can serve as inspiration. Creatives may find it helpful to have a DIY channel on, or a pop culture blogger may find it helpful to have a popular talk show on when curating content. You know you best. On or off will depend on the person.

9. Limit Your Social Wondering

With social media playing a huge part in the marketing and advertising of our businesses, we spend more time than ever analyzing and tracking its success. Sometimes we can find ourselves clicking away from our business pages and before we know it 15 minutes have gone down the drain.

  • Once you realize you have strayed, quickly get back on track.

  • Refrain from commenting, liking, or following other social media accounts during work hours. This can alert your followers that you are online and can lead to longer distractions.

10. Organization Is Key

I use several things to keep me organized, pretty much because it takes just that many. Don't be afraid to try all types of organizer aids. Different things work for different people. In exploring, sometimes we discover that a new method works better than our original organizing methods. Here is what I use to stay organized:

  • A Planner

The planner that I am currently using, (Eccolo World Traveler), is by far one of my favorites. I NEED my planner to have a full month view, weekly view, and a daily outline by the hour. What I love most about this planner is, all of the inspiration. There is literally inspiration at the turn of every page. It also has a To-Do Section and Goals for each month. It is awesome!

  • Task Manager App

Because I work with a team, we found it easy to use an app that we can all log in to and communicate the progress of projects. We chose (Todoist) because it allowed us to access tasks anywhere, collaborate on shared tasks or projects, and it's pretty user-friendly.

  • Wall Calendar

I love my wall calendar! I chose to use a dry erase calendar, so I can move things around with ease and color code things.

  • Google Calendar

I love to use google calendar to share important dates with my team. This comes in handy for our marketing calendar and to mark important travel dates.

  • A Notebook

Yep! A simple, notebook. I often make quick To Do Lists, that ends up getting misplaced or mistaken with "desk trash". To counteract this, I started keeping those quick To Do Lists in one of two places, my planner or my handy dandy notebook.

Working from home can be as challenging as it is rewarding. We hope you have found this to be helpful. We'd love to know about some of your organization tips. Post a pic on social media, using the hashtag #heynikkiandjess for a feature.