How to Stay Focused Working From Home

I feel very grateful being able to work from anywhere. This year, I have travelled to Paris, Munich, Chicago, San Diego and San Francisco, all on separate trips.

During all that time, thanks to the power of the Internet, I can continue my work. Of course, there are times in the year where I take a full vacation, with not even a computer, in order to totally unplug, but having the possibility to work from anywhere can be extremely liberating, even if you still take your computer with you to catch up on work.

Being on the road has its challenges, but working from home also does. Anytime you’re not in a regimented routine — having to show up to work at a certain time every day — there’s the possibility you’ll quickly lose your focus.

In fact, many people working from home have difficulty focusing. They easily get distracted, have trouble self-motivating themselves, and end up often with more stress than before, because work is always waiting for them, often steps from where they eat and sleep.

There are a few keys to stay focused working from home, and different styles work for different people.

I’ll share my own principles and within them, you’ll find a few that will work for you.

1) Start the day with your most productive activities

What’s the first thing you do online in the morning? Do you check your emails? Or Facebook? If so, you’re making a big mistake. The first hour of the day should be spent with undivided attention on some type of productive activity. And a productive activity is something that will bring you sales.

For me, that’s generally:

– Writing my ezines and emails to my list
– Working on a sales page for a product
– Working on a product

No matter where I am, I start the day with this. That’s before I do anything else, except taking a shower. I don’t have breakfast, drinking anything but water, or exercise until that hour is done.

2) Don’t check your emails constantly during the day

This is a big mistake, and one that’s easy to fall for. Check your emails in the morning (but only after you’ve done your first productive hour of work), and then in the afternoon. Only check your emails a maximum of 3-4 times a day, and try to finish your emails every time you check them. In other words: don’t just check your emails to see what’s new. Check and answer everything, and then close it.

3) Get a dedicated office

Ideally, you would want an office situated outside of your home. But this is not feasible until your business really grows. And for some people, like me, it’s also not feasible because of lifestyle.

No matter what, you want an office space in a separate room or den that can be closed off. It’s very important psychologically to be able to “leave work behind” when you close the door. If you work on a kitchen table or in a corner desk in your living room (or worst, your bedroom!) you always feel like work is waiting for you!

It’s a matter of psychological stress. It affects some people more than others. Personally, I go crazy if my office is in my bedroom or living room. I need a separate room for it.

4) Leave work behind. Don’t expect to work 8-10 hours day.

It’s important to avoid the “guilt” of leaving work behind. Personally, I’m lucky if I can get 6-7 hours of work done in a day. That’s usually my average. However, I don’t count all the time in between, breaks, and so on.

If you work in a dedicated matter, not checking your Facebook or your emails every 15 minutes, then aiming at a maximum of 5 hours a day of work is good. If you have the energy to do more, you can, as long as it’s productive and you don’t feel you’re burning yourself out.

When your work day is done, leave it behind.

5) Leave the house in the middle of the day

If you’re someone who has a tendency to stay home for days at a time, this will be important for you. You need to avoid the “cabin fever” syndrome and force yourself to leave the house once a day at least. I like to do this in the middle of the day, around 2 p.m., when I go to the gym.

Go outside, take a long walk, run errands when there’s no traffic, go to a café, or meet some friends. Just get out there!

6) Create a basic schedule for yourself, and stick to it

Some people say that you should start work at the same time every day. Personally, this doesn’t work for me. But I think it’s important to have a basic schedule. For example, focusing on one hour of work on productive activities first thing in the morning.

My schedule can change from day to day. Some days I work in the evening. But I generally always work a few hours in the morning, and one or two hours in the afternoon.

What’s important is that you’re clear about it every day, and when your work is over, it’s over and you leave it behind.

7) Take days off

For me, Saturday is sacred and I try to never check my emails or do any work on Saturday. It’s important to have days like that where you totally unplug.

I’ve experimented with different schedules: weekends off, working four days a week (Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Friday), working every other day, and so on.

I don’t think there is ONE formula that will always work. Keep on experimenting, but make sure you take days off.

I have a friend who works from home as a graphic designer and finds it best to stick to a normal Monday-Friday routine, also taking days off whenever there’s an official holiday.

8) Schedule vacation time in advance

I believe that every entrepreneur should take a vacation every quarter. Also, these vacations should be scheduled in advance.

My previous business coach always recommended to book vacations in advance and even suggested to buy non-refundable trips.

He said that his clients where the most productive the week or two right before their vacation, as they were scrambling to get everything done in time!

Booking some vacations enables you to have something to work towards. Also, it’s a deadline by which a lot of projects have to be completed. So it the end, it can pay for itself!

9) Keep distractions to a minimum

This was easier to do in the days before smartphones. But now with texting and messaging, it’s easy to get distracted. So I put my iPhone in “Do Not Disturb” mode when I’m working. That way, all my texts and phone calls come through, but I don’t hear them or check them until I’m ready.

10) Alternate productive activities with free-flowing work

I think the key to working effectively from home is this one: you need to alternate productive activities where you are totally concentrated on one project, and other times where you’re allowed to answer the phone, work on various todos, and deal with what comes up.

I think about half of your time working should be on productive activities, and the rest on whatever.

What’s a productive activity? Anything that ultimately pays the bills!

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What about you? What are your best tips for working from home?