Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before: A friend says: “It must be so nice to work from home, I wish I could do that!”. I usually chuckle and think to myself “if you only knew.”
Sure, working from home has clear advantages:
You don’t have to deal with the stress of a morning commute.
If you have kids, then you can make sure they are safely on board the bus.
You have the freedom to do things that you wouldn’t normally be able to do if you had to head to an office every day.
But that’s not to say that working from home isn’t without it’s disadvantages to. Most notably, it’s easy to get caught in a routine that is not overly productive. If you’re feeling tired, the couch is right next to you.
Another danger that I experience is that if I’m not careful, I’ll go days without leaving the house, affecting both my mood and my productivity.
After working from home for a few years, I’ve developed some tips and tricks to help me become a more productive entrepreneur.
1. Establish a Morning Routine
I found that my morning has a profound effect on my entire day. It affects my focus, my energy level, and yes, my productivity.
You can say that if I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I’ll be perfectly useless for the rest of the day.
So, what’s my morning routine?
- Cold water on my face and brush my teeth.
- I drink a tall glass of water. This rehydrates my body after a night’s sleep leaving me feeling more refreshed, more energized and happier and healthier.
- A healthy breakfast of oatmeal and fruit. These are healthy carbs that will leave me feeling more focused and energized.
- Workout. I love getting the blood flowing first thing in the morning. I usually workout between a half hour and hour each morning before getting started.
- My two cups of coffee. Because what entrepreneur can survive without it?
This is the five step routine that seems to work well for me. There is some science behind the madness, but most of it has been tried and tested over the years.
Try out this routine and tweak it to fit your own schedule and see how you feel after a week.
2. Get out of the House
One blessing for working from home is your commute. It’s really short – like from your bed to your computer, short.
But this blessing can also be a curse. I know first-hand.
Because I didn’t have to leave my house for work, I would wake up on Thursday morning and realize that I haven’t seen the sun all week.
As an entrepreneur, I would get so immersed in my work that I would lose total track of time. Days blend together.
Not only was this unproductive, but it is also unhealthy.
That’s why I make it a point to leave my house for at least one hour every day – even if I don’t have any place in particular I need to be.
I head to places like Starbucks, Home Depot, or meet other entrepreneur friends for lunch.
3. Turn it Off
Because you work from home, there is no clear delineation between when you’re “at work” and when you’re not.
I used to keep my laptop on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I worked during the day, at night, on the weekends.
I would check my email at 11:30 at night right before bed, which would turn into a 2 hour work session.
I would walk by my laptop and see what content my competition was posting. Inevitably, this would lead me to write an impromptu blog post.
All of this eventually lead to burn out.
I would work non-stop for three or four weeks in a row, then burn out and be totally useless for a few days. This took a toll on my eating habits, my exercise habits, and my sleep habits.
It’s easy to get sucked in, because you’re just a few steps from your office. But make sure you find time to turn off your work and live your life.
4. Get Dressed
I don’t know about you, but I love the fact that I can work in my sweat pants.
In fact, if I had a video call, I used to throw a dress shirt over my sweats, to give the appearance that I got “dressed” up.
It was actually pretty funny.
But the problem is, I found that when I was wearing clothes that were overly comfortable, like sweat pants, I would become lethargic.
It would become too easy to turn a lunch break on the couch into a 30 minute nap.
It would become too easy to get comfortable and lounge around. In order to combat this, I have to get dressed every day. Not shirt and tie, or anything overly formal, but I need to at least put on a pair of jeans and a golf shirt.
This gets me mentally ready. It signifies that it’s time to work.
Since I’ve gotten in this habit, my productivity has skyrocketed.
5. Call at Least One Person
When you work from home, you’re also working by yourself.
You don’t have colleagues to chit chat with. You can’t get up and talk about your weekend to your neighbor.
And if you have a job in which you can do a lot of your work without a team (such as blogging and programming), then you run the risk of isolating yourself.
A lot of what I do is content marketing. I spend time creating content, promoting it, answering emails, Tweets, and other digital tasks. But none of which actually requires me to speak to another individual.
There are days in which I won’t speak to anyone until my wife gets home at 5:00. I always make sure to call at least one person each day. That way it’ll eliminate the loneliness feeling that sometimes creeps up on an entrepreneur.
6. Stock Healthy Snacks
Unlike an office setting, when you’re working from home, you work right next to the refrigerator and pantry.
Both of which are stocked with delicious food and maybe even the occasional bottle of wine.
I’m not suggesting that you’ll habitually turn lunch time into happy hour, but it is easy to start consuming unhealthy foods.
Not only are they bad for your waist line, they’re also bad for your bottom line. Not only will junk food affect your blood pressure, your heart, and other aspects of your health, it will also reduce your productivity.
As entrepreneurs and small business owners, we’re already pressed for time. We’re always looking for more hours in the day, trying to get that last task complete.
Why waste any of that time because you’re eating junk food?
7. Proper Sleep
“Sleep is for the weak!”
It’s a common refrain for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
I used to lead that band wagon.
But to say it’s not a smart idea is an understatement. According to the Harvard Medical School:
“In the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury.
In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.”
See, when we don’t sleep, and try to push through to get everything done, we actually have an adverse effect on our businesses. We increase our chance of making bad decisions, and we’re unable to comprehend information.
Both of which will decrease your overall productivity.
I do my best to make sure that I get to sleep the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This ensures that I get my full eight hours of sleep.
I’d be lying if I said I was able to do this every day, because I’m not. Deadlines and fire drills get in the way.
But the more I’m able to stick to my sleep schedule, the better I feel and the more I get accomplished.
Working from home is a blessing.
Few people have the opportunity to work from home and take advantage of all the freedoms that it affords. But, if you’re not careful, working from home can also be a curse.
By taking advantage of the seven tips listed above, you’ll be able to maximize your productivity when you work from the confines of your house.