It has been a long time since I’ve had a dedicated workspace in my home. The place I moved into recently has the space for an office, and I have to say it’s taken me a while to get back into the groove of working at home. Previously, any time I’d work away from the office, I’d find a coffee shop to work in, and I got pretty comfortable with that setup. Now that I’m rocking the at-home workspace (saving a few dollars here and there on lattes), I’ve learned a few things about staying focused and productive at home.
Plan your day.
It’s easy to be see that pile of laundry that needs to get done and just start doing that instead of working. I’ve been there. You’ve been there. We’ve all done it. Getting distracted in your home is super easy because you are surrounded by your personal chores. Start the day (or end the previous day) by planning what you want to get done — it’ll be a lot easier to focus on that list if you know what has to get done. It doesn’t hurt to also actually get dressed for work as if you’re going to leave the house so you put yourself into that mental place of “I’m going to work.”
Know what you can work on remotely.
Being aware of the type of work you can accomplish from home is a must. I know that I can’t work on in-depth, complex problems from home. Getting quick team input is important for me and I’ve found the distance just causes too many problems. I try to schedule days that I’m working at home for tasks that are easy for me to get done alone and don’t require lots of input from other team members. Making updates, exporting assets, or creating presentations are all tasks I can productively get done from home.
When considering what those tasks are for you, be honest with yourself. It’s easy to imagine how many tasks you’ll complete from home, but in practice, it can be overwhelming if you’re not used to working alone and away from the bustle of your office.
When you’re not in the office it’s easy to get looked over by your colleagues that are in the office. Sometimes that can be a good thing, but most of the time it’s not. Have your email open, your chat ready to go, and, if you have a meeting, double check that you have all of the video conference logins and software downloaded. You don’t want it to be 5 minutes before an important kickoff meeting, but you have to download whatever software it requires before you can even think of logging in.
That said, don’t be afraid to set your status to “do not disturb.” Part of the joy of working from home is getting that heads-down time without the usual drive-by questions and chit-chat. Sometimes I’ll set my task list for the day of working at home and end up blazing through it because I’m able to work distraction-less and I over-estimated how much time my work would take. Now I have more time to learn a new skill or get a head start on that next project. Woo!
Bonus Tip: Create an event on your calendar that shows when you’ll be working at home. Invite anyone who might be looking for you like your supervisor, team mate, or that dev that needs *just* one more icon. This gives everyone a gentle reminder that you’re not on vacation but just working at another location.
Close the door.
I live with someone who’s job keeps them working sporadically and at odd hours, so they’re home most of the time when I’m home. When I need to get sh*t done, I close the door. This is the universal sign for, “I’m working. Go away.” It works. I can spread out if I need to, turn the music up loud, and I don’t need to worry about bothering anybody else.
If you don’t have a door, get some good over-ear headphones. They don’t have to cost a ton to work, I have these (cute, right?) and they were about $20. I mostly use them to block out noise, but they don’t block all noise. Which I like. If it’s too quiet I can’t focus because I can hear too much of my inner thoughts. I get just enough of that ambient white noise to keep me focused. If you’re used to the extra noise that comes from working in coffee shops or an office there are tons of free options out there to get you through the day at home.
- What’s Holding You Back from Doing UX Design Remotely? via UX Matters
- Debunking the Open-office Controversy via Invision Blog
- Sweeten your workspace with these watermelon accessories. via The Six Bees
What are some things you do to keep yourself focused and productive when working from home?