I’m in my fourth year of working for myself across both managing my blog and my social media consultancy work. Over the years I’ve been doing this I’ve had days where I’m rushing around like a headless chicken, up at dawn and working until the early hours and days where I’ve taken the freelance perk of working in PJs until noon or taking breaks to catch up on my favourite box set. There’s no denying that working from home/working for yourself has some definite flexibility benefits but it also has a few potential pitfalls (taking a few too many breaks/blurring lines between weekend and weekday/burn out from overdoing it all etc etc) and I have a few ‘red flag’ type activities or ‘productivity killers’ that I have learnt if I am guilty of then it really effects my overall work, which has a knock-on effect to my motivation and mood in general. That’s not to say I’m the perfect example of work from home and that I don’t still do some of these things of course…. but at least I know to try my best not to!
1: Sleeping in late
Not having the commute to face and technically no official ‘work start’ hours can mean that having no morning alarm and set wake up/get out the door time can mean the lure of staying in bed until you feel like getting up is a temptation on a daily basis. It’s hard to resist but I also know that a day where I let myself sleep in any time past 7.30/8am means I’ll have a bit of a fuzzy ‘sleep head’ for the rest of the day and not really be operating at 100%.
A get up time that’s ideal is a very personal thing and can be affected by lots of factors. The fact Ollie’s alarm goes off around 6.30 usually and he’s up and out the door by 7.30 means I’m usually awake but not always *quite* ready to be springing out of bed to take the long commute downstairs to my office. I know for me the ‘optimum’ get-up time is 7.30-8am so that’s what I aim for Monday-Friday to avoid that fuzzy-head productivity killer. Some people are more morning-people than others so some might be springing out at 6/7am, others more night-owls who sleep in until later but work later in to the night. The key is finding that ‘sweet spot’ for your productivity and making sure you stick to it as a routine.
2: Not getting showered/dressed first thing
I know the cliche of someone working from home is an un-washed person with laptop & still wearing PJ’s – but believe it or not it’s been a rare day where I haven’t made showering a basic part of my ‘to do’ list that gets ticked off. But my biggest ‘potential downfall’ is not doing this first thing. By first thing I mean, out of bed – into shower. No going downstairs for a drink or breakfast. No just quickly checking emails at my laptop before I get on with it. First thing. I find that if I don’t do this before anything else I get distracted or so focussed on the other things I need to do that time flies by and next thing you know it’s the middle of the day and I’m still not really ‘ready’ to get on with my day as I should be. I find making an alarm and shower routine priorities in the morning make me focus and give me that kick start to my working day that I need to be in the best possible position to get on with things with less opportunity for distraction.
3: Not having a plan
Now this step isn’t for everyone I’m sure, but I find my most productive days (and weeks) are the ones where I have planned out both tasks and time in advance. I tend to do this on a Sunday evening where I’ll sit down with my to-do list and check off anything that’s been done, re-write so I have priorities clearly marked out and make a plan for what is the manageable tasks for the Monday ahead. Sometimes having a whole endless to-do list can be daunting, so breaking down into what I plan to tackle the next day makes it less intimidating and makes the next day feel manageable and productive. If I have tasks like photography work or writing content then I plan out in my diary the window of time for that so I don’t let it eat into a whole day. Again, I’m not perfect and don’t always stick to it – but just giving myself a structure for a work from home day really helps get me focussed and into proper work mode.
4: Too much time alone
As much as I LOVE working from home by myself, I also really do need to have time with other people to avoid going crazy/becoming a total recluse. It can be tricky at times as it relies on me organising my diary well enough so that I have the balance between the time I need at home to be getting on with things and the time I have meetings and heading into London to see brands/meet PR’s or catch up with clients. Sometimes I get the balance just right, other times I have too much London time and not enough work time… other times it’s the opposite and I find myself getting stir crazy at home. When it comes to time like this I like to head to a local coffee shop to work for a bit – so even if it’s not quite the same as meeting with people for proper conversation, at least I get to be around other humans. I know, this is the sad truth of working alone!
5: A messy space
Ok, maybe it’s my inner OCD person – but to be at my most productive I need the space I’m in to be tidy and vaguely organised. That doesn’t always mean spotless and instagram-ready – but just some vague sense of order (i.e. I might have piles of products around, but they’re organised chaos and sorted into potential posts or what to photograph next) what I hate is total chaos and mess and as I sit here typing I can safely say the house is currently NOT working in favour of my productivity. We’re still in the middle of our big redecoration project (majority of it due to be finished this week – WOO) but for now, it means there’s mess and chaos EVERYWHERE. The biggest issue I have when it comes to working around this is that I seem to be incapable of ignoring it so I end up flitting between emails/writing and faffing around trying to tidy. I end up doing neither task very effectively. So I end up with still 75% mess and a work load that doesn’t make much progress. Not ideal.
For this one I don’t have a magic solution other than trying to keep on top of mess and clutter and try to keep your work space as a priority organised. At the moment my office is serving as a storage spot for a lot of the items having to be relocated from the rooms under re-do project, so this is pretty much impossible. Or if in doubt and there’s no getting around it. Relocate yourself – to a room that is clear(er) of clutter or even go down the coffee shop route if you need a change of scenery.
6: All work and no play
This is something I 100% stand by and whilst I still don’t get the balance absolutely perfect all the time – because I think that’s impossible with an every changing workload. I 100% think that anyone working ridiculous hours can often be sort of shooting themselves in the food n terms of actually being productive.
I’ve been there, especially when I was juggling my full time job and running the blog or when I’ve had big projects on a tight turnaround. You know and feel like you have to spend every waking moment glued to your laptop and when you don’t you have major guilt. But there is only so much you can do effectively and sometimes a break is better than burn out.
I’m not saying take the day off and forget the impending deadline – that’s not realistic. But on days when I have a lot on and I feel the stress mounting up and I find myself getting a bit flustered and not *actually* as productive as I can be, I find a break can refresh and refocus and I come back able to do more, better than before. For me this is usually in the form of either taking the dogs for a walk (and leaving my phone at home) or heading to get my nails done (again, can’t be playing with my phone checking emails when my hands are busy). Just an hour out – and some fresh air – can make a world of difference.
So there we have it, some of my own little snippets of wisdom on working from home and not losing all power to be productive! By no means an extensive list but I do have the ability to babble on so will leave it there for now. Plus I have a to-do list as long as my arm so should probably stop talking productivity and try to put it into action!