How to be more efficient while working from home

This post is an excerpt from my book DISTRIBUTED.

Working from home is very different from anything - especially from coworking. It is also amazingly hard to write about this topic for me as I feel, it is about home, a very personal matter. As a personal matter, it is totally different for everyone. I am going to approach this with a mix of personal experiences, as I am mainly working from home and not from coworking offices and I will also generalize the topic as I don’t think we are very much different at all. Treat this chapter with a grain of salt though and only apply the tips here, if you feel them personally working for you.

I am working from home since mid-2014. I tried coworking offices and I still pay some regular visits to them, plus I only work from coworking offices when I am on the road. I hate to work from cafes and public spaces, they are just not my thing, too much distraction and they are not really tied for a working environment. Sure you can work from a library but what if you need to take a call with a client or coworker? Sure you can work from a café but what if the WiFi goes down and the noise is too much. I only work from a café or public space if I really have to and there are no other alternatives. I only work from a coworking office if I personally miss the office environment and want to meet new people. But when it comes to deep, meaningful and focused work, I stick to my home. 

So the key challenge working from home is how to stay productive. Here are my own tips on how to achieve and overcome this challenge.

The importance of a daily routine

Have a routine and stick to it. It depends on your personal schedule, your personal lifestyle or the work you do. If you are a morning person, do amazing work early in the morning, no one disturbs you. If you are a night owl, do the legwork after 9 pm. It is your schedule and your preferences and you are at home, you have the freedom to stick to your own schedule. Personally, this is my schedule: I wake up at 8 am, read emails and catch-up on what’s going on with my work until 10 am, meanwhile I have breakfast. I have a walk and spend some me-time until 11 am and start working. I work in 2-3 hour breaks because much of my tasks and work needs deep and focused attention. I have a minimal amount of small tasks and quick to-dos as I automate everything, plus I operate on a senior management level. I have a break from 6 pm to 9 pm or so and spend quality time with my family. My partner works in an office so it is that time when she arrives home. I resume working at around 9 pm and work until late night and go to bed at around 1 am. I repeat this sequence almost all days and try to work by this routine, even when I am not working from home. I also feel very irritated when something messes up this routine and I have to break it. When I have to take care of things like going to the bank, do shopping on weekdays or have an offline meeting with someone, I always group these errands to the same day on the week. That day will be a day ‘outside’ for me because I already broke my routine, I want to broke the whole day anyway and do minimal work at that day. I will compensate the lost hours later. I rarely work on the weekends but when I do, it is always creative time. Most of my posts and written materials are done on the weekends. Have your own routine, figure it out for yourself and stick to it, protect it and embrace it.

Work mode & home mode

Go to work mode on-demand but go to home mode if needed. When you work from home, the work-life balance becomes sort-of irrelevant and it is under heavy pressure. There is only one great thing about commuting to an office: getting yourself ready to enter or exit from work mode. When your home is your office, this getting ready feeling comes instantly. To switch between modes, have a trigger. To me, there are two things. Space and tools. I have a separate room, a study, where I do most of my work. It is created and designed as an office. I have a whiteboard there, a proper desk and chair – if your home is your office, you can finally invest in office equipment that is great. When I enter that room, I am in work mode instantly. My brain knows when I am in that room, work will be done. Serious focused work. I also have a living room with a comfy couch – when I am there and open up my tool, my workstation, which is my laptop, I am also in work mode. But because my living room is used not just for work, I tend to do non-focused tasks there. Reading, emailing and sometimes I have my calls there. When I enter my study room, I am at work. When I open up my laptop, I am at semi-work. These are my personal triggers but I think it is important for everyone to establish a trigger system that tricks your brain when you are at home working or just at home living. 

Invest in tools & equipment

Invest in tools and equipment. It is your home so you can do whatever you want. Buy the best and most reliable laptop or computer you can. Buy the best and most ergonomic chair you can. Buy a desk – I recommend a flexible desk that can be converted to a standing desk if needed. Subscribe the widest internet connection you can get. Buy the best alternative mobile internet tools you can get, in case the cable is down. Have proper tools for conference calls, a steady mic, and a great headphone. Seriously, you can optimize your workspace as you need, this is a luxury you won’t have in an office. 

Have a hobby

Have a low-maintenance hobby so when you need to step away for a few minutes, you can easily relax and recharge and get on your feet again. If you are doing the Pomodoro technique or you just work with hourly short breaks, it is great to have a reliable hobby that you can do every time. The hobby should be non-pixelated as well when you are doing a 10-mins break, you want to step away from the screen. I have bonsai trees and a dog. When I need a short break and don’t want to browse the net mindlessly, I take care of my trees or pet the dog. With the dog, I always get a good amount of walking three times a day, which is great for creativity.

Let everyone know your availability

Let everyone know about your schedule. Your coworkers will know anyway but let your family and friends know too. It is easy to get distractions when others know you are at home. To this day, people still don’t think that working from home is actually working. Let your relatives know that they can’t just phone you up or ask some stuff to sort out, just because you are at home anyway. When I am in my study, I am practically not at home. My study happens to be at my home, yes, but I am definitely not available for anything, apart from working. I made this very clear from the beginning, so I don’t have to close my study’s door. It is closed virtually.

Have fun!

Enjoy your time! You are working from your home for God’s sake. You are pouring your coffee from your own espresso machine – I love my espresso machine! You are listening to your own music. You wear what you want, if you want, you can live up to the stereotype and wear only pants at work. Enjoy your time, you are at home. Save thousands of dollars on working from home. No need to spend on public transport or gasoline, no need to spend that much on lunches and snacks and not much to spend on your office look. Enjoy the reclaimed time, no need to commute and spend hour-long breaks for a lunch. Enjoy the absence of pointless marathon meetings and small talks. Spend your freedom, time and money well with this newly found luxury setup. 

GET SOCIAL!

Get social– not just on the net. This is the biggest challenge, at least for me. Since you are working from home, you are not spending time with others mandatory. You have to be proactive if you want to meet others. You can always go to a coworking space for a day if you need the noise and people. Do some team sport to meet non-work related people. Go to meetups based on your interests. Personally, I manage a Facebook Group for digital nomads in Budapest and organize monthly meetups with them. I also do kendo and spend time at the gym with my friends there. Plus I have friends which are a plus too lol. But the truth is there still: I rarely spend time with people whom I have to spend time mandatorily. I am not closed into space with others, only if I wanted to be close to them. It is 100% under my decision so I have to be proactive to make those decisions every time. 

Working from home is amazing and I don’t believe the statement that ‘it is not for everyone’. If you do it right, you can enjoy the benefits and overcome the challenges, even if you thought ‘it is not your thing’. 

 

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At Anywhere Consulting, we help entrepreneurs to launch, build and grow their remote business. We provide support and consulting services as well as educational products to overcome the challenges of remote businesses. If you are a freelancer who wants to launch a distributed business or you already have an established business but want to grow remotely, we can help you.