Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.― Stephen King
Here’s the thing. The grass is always greener on the other side. It looks easier than your grass, it seems so much softer than your grass and if only you could have ‘that’ grass, how much nicer your life would be. You could probably come up with at least a dozen things that you would do with that grass. Then it happens. You finally have your chance to take ownership of that fantastically greener, softer version of your own grass and what do you know? You’re sitting on the couch in your pajamas watching the 5th episode of that insatiable reality show that you have a love/hate relationship with.
It happened to me. I worked for 15 years in Corporate America before I had the opportunity to work from home. Like many people working in Corporate America, I’ve always thought that living the life of an entrepreneur would be a piece of cake compared to working for a billion dollar corporation where conformity was the norm and creative freedom was a hobby. In 2010, the opportunity of a lifetime unfolded right before my eyes and for the first time, I was given a chance to step over to the other side of the grass.
Once the transition was complete, it took the first 7 days for me to believe that I was actually free. 2 weeks to completely unplug, an entire month to travel to make up for all of the vacation time I never used, and finally after another month of enjoying the emptiness of restaurants, coffee shops, book stores and nail salons during weekday off-peak hours, I realized that I had zero self-discipline and that my years as a Monday morning strap-hanging coffee junkie provided me much more than paychecks, and swollen inboxes; Those years instilled the discipline that I didn’t realize I never had on my own.
Thankfully, it didn’t take me much longer after that shocker to shake the dust off of my laptop to work on a plan.
1. Live By Your Schedule
As an Assistant to quite a few people of power in my career, I have managed more than my share of maniacal schedules. In Corporate America, nothing gets done that ‘isn’t on the calendar’. Be your own ‘Executive Manager’ and plug every single item, project, and to-do, on your calendar. Be realistic. Start your day precisely at the hour that you will be seated at your desk. Schedule breaks between large blocks of time to give yourself a chance to refresh between projects. Schedule your workout sessions, lunch breaks, phone calls – all of it.
2. Edit Your Schedule
Just like in an office, if you see that you’re running over a project that’s due to start at 1:00 and it’s already 12:50, take a moment and adjust your schedule accordingly. Things happen and sometimes you can get caught up in a creative bubble so no need to cut your creative juices short.
3. Be Flexible
What you may have considered a priority last night when you filled your schedule, may have to take the back seat to a plumbing emergency this morning. Knowing that there’s a chance that things sometimes come up, will alleviate some of the pressure.
4. Find Your Rhythm
Everyone moves to the beat of their own drum. Knowing when you are at your absolute best during the day is when you schedule the projects that are normally a challenge for you to complete. If you’re able to begin working at 6am but know that an afternoon walk is required for you to break up the monotony, then schedule your day accordingly.
5. Do Not Deviate From The Schedule
Working at home means you are wide open to all kinds of distractions. When these arise, flexibility is key as previously explained, but being able to return back to your schedule is paramount. Even when your neighbors knock on the door, or something begins to burn on the stove, or even a surprising phone call from a
(I was immediately interrupted for 90 minutes exactly where I left off in the paragraph above. I, like you, also need help in this area).
What are your tips for being productive when working from home?
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32 thoughts on “5 Tips For Being Productive When Working From Home”
Hi Nicole, great suggestions. It’s comforting to know that others experience the same problems working at home.
I noticed early on that my big distractor is talking on the phone. Answering one call and chatting with a colleague can easily eat up 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour.
I’ve found that when I carve out time to work (that doesn’t involve speaking with clients) I MUST turn off my phone and leave it in another room.
It took my family, who are used to reaching me easily, took some time to get used to it.
Hi Wendy! Thank you for leaving your comment! Turning the phone off is a great tip! One I will consider doing!
Unfortunately it’s about just as difficult as ignoring chocolate…lol!
hahahaha! that’s awesome!
It’s a big problem for most people … working from home. You’re the employee, the boss, and the customer service rep, etc. Juggling your time and priorities is more complicated than you think!
As simple as your outline is, it’s critical to success. And whether one follows this outline or something similar of his or her own making, I believe it’s so important to keep it simple enough so that you can follow through or it’s just going to get too crazy.
Hi Carmelo! The idea of working from home seemed sooooo(ooo) much easier than it actually is. I agree with simplicity. As you’ve said, there are tons of hats to wear, so things really do need to be simple. My priority list only has room for 5 tasks – only. Of course there’s so much more to be done, but again, working from a perspective of simplicity..one inch at a time.
Thank you so much for leaving your comment!
Wow, Nicole, I’ve met my twin! I love that! And I love how beautifully you expressed the *rules* that give us solopreneurs structure.
My motto (modified from how my first business coach presented it) is: I schedule my life and I live my schedule, and when something unexpected happens, I am accountable.
It’s a container that holds everything you mention in your article. Everything, but everything (except those things that I don’t need to be reminded to do, like showering and brushing my teeth and eating) appears in my calendar.
When things take longer than I expect, and when the unexpected happens, I take some time to move items around on my calendar so I don’t (well, hardly ever!) let things slip through the cracks.
Hooray for accountability, for me a supreme form of self-love.
Love and light,
Hi Sue – we are twins! I love the way you’ve put it – hooray for accountability! I like your process, thank you so much for sharing!
My major distractions seem to be the things I notice that need doing around the house.I try to keep things tidy. Take 15 minutes to straighten things up before bed, make sure kitchen is ship shape. Place for everything and everything in its place and all that. And the more or less time consuming cleaning chores and laundry go on that schedule! Not always successful at this, but I guess the more you practice, the better you get.
It’s true – the more you practice, the better you get at it. I used to have a very similar distraction. I have learned that I can only do one thing at a time. Which means learning to ignore that pesky dirty glass until I have dedicated time for chores.
I’m so happy you’ve left a comment, thank you!
Great ideas and timely for my family right now – although perhaps more of a forced choice than anything else. Still, good to have on hand. Thanks. :)
Hi Lisa! I’m glad the article comes in handy for you! Thanks for your comment! :)
Hi Nicole, wow, it seems that you have clearly explained on what is happening to me and almost have the same trend of activities. I will share this to my colleagues needing these simplified tips. Great, great and God Bless!!
Hi Danny! I am thrilled that my article is a resource for you, that is awesome! Thank you for sharing and I hope your readers will appreciate it, as well! Thank you so much and God bless!! :)
Practical ideas to have a successful home-based career. You nail it.
Thanks for sharing.
Hi Rovie – thank you so much!!
Having been on the greener side of the grass for over a month now i’ve found the part about your own rythm really important as although you have all the hours in the day only certain ones are hours where you can really focus.
I’m finding that a good system for being productive / orgainised much more valuable now than when i was working and freelance at the same time.
Hi Andrew! You could not be more right, if you tried! I used to place myself at my computer during “normal business hours” thinking that I could “create my magic” automatically because it was ‘time to work’. Even though I am up and running in the wee hours of the a.m., there are no 2 days alike and most days I find my focus time doesn’t kick in until mid/late afternoon.
It’s taken me some time to get out of the 9 to 5 mentality to allow myself room to find my particular flow. Now I schedule my time according to my flow, instead of to the hours of the day.
Thank you so much for leaving your comment!
Thank You Nicole!! I Soooo needed this article. I have just finished my ‘month of vacation time’ and really need set some stronger structure to my days. Your article will help.
But then again, my sister just invited me to share her vacation at her cabin for 2 weeks. ;/
Hi Natalie, hahahaha – you are so cute! Have fun at your sister’s cabin…one of the perks of living life as your own free-flowing creative energy! :) Thanks for the great comment and for the laugh! :)
I’ve found that taking a few minutes before I start to visualize my day running smoothly and productively also helps.
Hi Carol! I wish you and I had been in touch a few months back because that’s a tip I could have certainly used! I’ve “just” incorporated mediation into my day which, I’m sure, is very similar to your productive visualization. It really does make a difference! Thank you for leaving a comment!
Hi Nicole, and thanks for the article!
Working from home isn’t always easy with all of the distractions. That’s why I get out of the house to do the most important work of the day. I usually have one big thing I want to accomplish each day and I go to the local library to get it done.
There I’m able to focus enough to get the task done.
Hello Juha! You have just inspired me to go to the library! I actually attempted to “work” from the coffee shop today. uh….yeah, so maybe not the best environment for me, lol! Thank you for leaving your comment and for the great tip! :)
Excellent points Nicole and well presented! It was like seeing myself while reading the article…!!! Thank you!!!
Hi Maria! Thank you for the great compliment and I am so happy that my article has proven to be helpful to you! You are more than welcome! :) Glad to know that I am not the only one!
Great Tips Nicole, I have problems focusing and staying on task, and I too work at home, which leads to tasks taking way longer than they should, thank you again
Hi Maggie! Life can be so distracting! self discipline is the key. Yup, I take my own advice! :) thanks for leaving a comment!
The don’t deviate is really useful.Sometimes it’s just head down and grind out the work to start with. Once you get into the groove you can really fly through things. Just make sure you’re not working near the fridge. If you do make sure it’s empty of treats.
Ha! I really should’ve taken your advice about not working near the fridge, yesterday! Thanks for leaving a comment, Peter!
Really great article. I don’t work from home.. because of aspects in this article. However I’m now unemployed and looking for a job.. Looking for a job takes just as much discipline because I feel like it’s a full time job. :P .
I’m wondering how to tell the difference between finding you’re own grove and .. when your grove is actually “making excuses”? Like sometimes I’m really not in the mood for _______ and I’m not sure if I should push myself through it or if maybe I would be in a lot better position to do it in a different time. Like if I plan out my day to the tee .. i often feel like I’m treating myself like a machine and I can be unhappy. I’m wondering how much flexibility is healthy to give myself.
Do you know what I’m saying? Like when to push through and when to give myself a little rest or follow my desires.
Hi Casey, thank you so much for these fantastic questions! It’s a double edged sword when you’re caught between “productivity” (in your case, job hunting) and being true to your personal “flow”. I sincerely believe, and know for a fact that when I push myself to do something that I’m really not feeling, the process becomes heavy and burdensome. The way I see it, you’re in an amazing position because not only do you have the opportunity to find your next great chapter, you also have a chance to do that at the pace of YOUR CHOOSING. How much flexibility is healthy to give yourself? As much as you require. Because I have realized my own process, the minute that whatever it is I’m working on no longer feels light, or inspiring or fun (yes…fun!) I push back from it and move on to work on something that does. And then once my mind begins to re-focus again, i return refreshed and inspired. I wouldn’t suggest a schedule for you. Maybe a goal of sending a certain number of resumes out, or phone calls or emails, etc. Life does not have to be a struggle, especially when you’re looking for a job that will (hopefully) enhance it.