I have been able to claim rights to the somewhat envied title of “Freelancer” for three years now, and in three years I have learnt a lot, especially about how to motivate myself at home. It’s easy to do, but like anything in life it requires moderation, dedication and some leniency thrown in. If you aren’t careful you can lose hours in the day to that coffee and news in bed, but on the flipside you can also overwork yourself until your weekends are day six and seven of the working week; so how do you survive?
Below are nine of my personal tools/tips for surviving working at home, some might work for you and some might not, try them out and see what is convenient for you:
Get Yourself Dressed
Sitting in your pyjamas or even just lounge wear is easy to do, but it won’t help you get in the zone. Getting dressed up smartly might feel unnecessary but it will help you focus, and will even help you feel more confident about your work.
Michael L. Slepian et al. Investigated The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing, and during their study they discovered that wearing formal clothing correlates with a boost in abstract processing. This is when we isolate a relationship or common feature between a number of things. It's great for problem solving, and can help you think outside the box a bit more.
In addition, formal clothing also seems to help us feel more relevant and confident in our abilities, perhaps because we associate more formal clothing with success. So take off those trackies and dress for success.
Plan your tasks
Sit down and plan your day/week/month/quarter, whichever increment you like. Once you have a plan, check in everyday to see how you are doing.
If you are like me I like to write down my tasks everyday. I do a broad monthly plan, but checking in everyday to look at and register even the smallest tasks, helps me to break down what can seem like a daunting journey.
The organized mind.
Invest In A Good Chair
If you have a standing desk hooray! Please skip to my next tip, but if you do not please read on.
If you have an Apple Watch or a Fitbit or other, you know that sitting down for too long is not recommended, but the nature of many desks jobs is you will likely be sitting down for awhile, whether you do it in one long stretch or small sessions is up to you, as is the choice of your chair. You know your body, but investing in a good chair not only eases your back, but can actually help you to improve your posture over time.
The bonus is you also don’t need to splurge on a Herman Miller Aeron chair (add it to the mood board though), there are plenty of chairs such as the ones below which are stylish and comfortable.
Get A Filing System That Works
A USB, a floppy disk, a CD, an SD Card, a hard file, Dropbox, icloud, One Drive, Google Drive etc. there are hundreds of storage options, some are easier than others to work with, but I suggest you stick to two or three options max.
Using a cloud storage option like Dropbox, means your files are backed up, can be easily accessed, and you can easily add more space if and when you need it. For me this is a great option, especially if I find myself hopping from one spot to another, it just makes my life a little more flexible and also means if my laptop becomes a casualty, which it once did, i’m not left weeping over my lost files.
Good old paper, punched pockets, and files are still hard to beat. I like to print and keep anything to do with accounting, not because it is “safe'“, but because I personally struggle to fully grasp numbers unless I can see them all together and in a hard copy form. I’m all for being environmentally friendly but this is an honest exception for me.
Not sure what works? Try different styles out and see what sticks, maybe you automatically like to print everything. Either way make sure you figure out a system that works, if not for you, for anyone who has to live with you and your home office.
Home is Home, Work is Work
If you think your are deviating from work, and maybe trying to over-rationalise an activity, ask yourself if this is a home job or a work job. Are you cleaning the sink? That is a home job, no matter how much more productive you think it will make you, it’s time lost. Are you looking at your energy and water bills? That is also a home job which you can save for later.
Distinguishing your day to follow a normal office life, despite your location, will help you separate work from home life. There will be exceptions, like the friends who are begging you to bake a cake for your friend for tonight because you work at home and it just makes sense for you too, but pick these exceptions wisely. Yes you are at home but you are also working.
If in doubt get smart, if you know you will be tempted to clean the sink, clean it before you start your work day.
Know When to Change It Up
Whether you work at home part of the time, or all the time, it’s likely you might start to need a change of scenery. I can’t speak for everyone but there came a time for me where I needed a change, partially exasperated by my lack of constant colleagues. The solution for me was to recognise when I needed a change of scenery and to go out and work in any coffee shop with decent plugs. It felt a bit cliché, but it really helps in jolting my thinking when I might be feeling stuck. It also get’s me out and about amongst people, which in the early days was a welcome habit.
Stick By Your Decisions
Some day’s you might have worked hard all month and taking a weekday off might just feel so right, so do it. It’s likely a few voices, either your own on others, will pipe up and judge you for working from home, or for taking an afternoon off because you have that job on Saturday. All I can say is you are the one making the decisions so embrace it, it’s the one big luxury that you have when working from home. It’s possible you will take an afternoon off and in that afternoon a work storm will strike, but if you know you have planned and you believe in your capabilities, you know it will work out one way or another.
If you hadn’t already gathered, movement is good for the body/soul. It is an antidote to many a problem, it is cheap, and it doesn’t necessarily mean weight lifting.
Picking your poison; for some walking around the local park and back before they work is perfect, for others it’s about pushing their body to the extremes using weights or others (with prior training I stress). For me personally, it’s a mixture of activities, solo and team activities help keep things interesting and keeps me motivated and successfully clears my head by allowing me to focus on just one activity.
How does it help me work from home? Working from home can be a little more relaxing than an office but that doesn’t mean stress isn’t accruing. It might be hours, days or a week, but without a bit of physical exercise it’s likely you will start to get tense, perhaps without even realising it. So preempt this, throwing a bit of exercise in your day can give it structure, offer some mental clarity, and just help you to unwind a little. It doesn’t have to be tough, just find what activity you like and that works with your schedule.
For those in need of inspiration:
Classpass: great if you like to change things up, or you just want to try out lots of activities to see what might work for you.
Go Mammoth: Team sports! If you like team sports, and perhaps don’t know enough people to make a team then Go Mammoth is great. They can stick you in a team with others. They host a variety of sports, in a variety of spots, for both men and women, so go forth and play!
Midnight Runners: There are lots of running clubs in London but these guys are the ones in the evenings carrying speakers. Run by Reebok this is a global community who basically get together most evenings and run around London.
**All photos sourced from Unsplashed