When most people think about “going to work” or “working”, they think of driving to an office somewhere and doing work with all sorts of other people. Not me, however.
I feel very grateful for being able to work from just about anywhere.
In the last year I have travelled to Paris, Munich, Chicago, San Diego and San Francisco, all on separate trips. And thanks to the power of the internet, I can get all of my work done during these times I’m traveling anywhere in the world.
Of course there are times in the year where I take a full vacation and leave my computer behind. Sometimes it’s nice to totally unplug. But just having the option 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 does just as well.
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 holding their focus. They easily get distracted, have trouble motivating themselves, and often end up with more stress than before. Work is always waiting for them just a stone’s throw away from where they eat and sleep, and that can overwhelm people at times.
There are several 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 might 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, drink 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. Try to check your email a maximum of 3-4 times a day, and actually finish those emails after 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 really feasible because of lifestyle choices.
No matter what, you do, 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 worse, your bedroom!) you always feel like work is waiting for you and you can’t decompress.
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 like breaks or random tasks.
If you work in a dedicated many, most people can easily accomplish all they need to in 5 hours of actual work in a day. You can always work more, just be certain you don’t overwork yourself and get burned 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 at all. But I do 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 is a good schedule to maintain.
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 and see how it works for you, but make sure you take days off so you don’t drive yourself crazy.
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 are best 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 were 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 as well. Use it as a deadline to finally finish that big moneymaking project!
9) Keep distractions to a minimum
This was easier to do in the days before smartphones. 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 to-dos, and just deal with what comes organically throughout the day.
I would define productive activities as anything that ultimately pays the bills, even though free-flowing work can indirectly as well.
While it may seem like a minefield of distractions in the home-office of the modern entrepreneur, with a little bit of conscious effort you can easily navigate without worry!