Working from home always sounds like a great gig, doesn’t it? I mean it’s the best of both worlds, right? You get to do work that you enjoy (hopefully) and still be home for your kids when they need you. It sounds so perfect.
Except when it isn’t.
Picture this: It’s 2:45 and you’ve been plugging away at a project for several hours that has been driving you nuts. Your deadline looms and you’ve finally hit a groove where the work doesn’t feel like WORK and you’re flying through your tasks. Then it hits you… The kids come home from school in 15 minutes. And they are going to need help with homework, dinner made, bedtime routines kept and tucked in. So at 9:00 that night, you’re back to work on your project. But at that point, you would much rather be in bed.
No matter where you work, you will enjoy it most when you’re feeling most productive. So here are four ways to make working from home more productive, and ultimately more enjoyable:
- Have a dedicated work space – I have been working from home for over seven years and one of the hard and fast rules I’ve always followed is this: have a dedicated work space. Whether it is a desk in the corner of a spare room or a dedicated office with its own door that you can close at the end of the day, it’s critical that you have an area that is only for work.
- Dress like you’re going to an office – Whenever people hear that I work from home, the first thing that they say is that it’s great that I can be home with my kids all day (it is) and the second thing that they say is that they’d love to be able to work in their bathrobe. I don’t. I get up, shower, get dressed and “Go to work.” I may not wear business attire but jeans and a nice top do very well.
- Implement a system. And stick with it. – Regardless of whether you work in a home office or a shared one, a daily system is going to be essential to getting things done. There are a lot of systems out there that you can review and experiment with to see if it fits your work style. My preference is the simplistic “Zen to Done” system. It’s very straightforward and easy to adapt to fit my needs. The point is, you won’t know what does and doesn’t work until you fully implement a system and stick with it.
- Get everyone on the same page – You’ll find that a lot of people interpret “I work from home” as “Oh great, then I can just stop by and hang out for a bit.” And maybe family members will hear “Then you should be able to go grocery shopping and keep the house clean and anything else we need done around the house.” You’re not going to get away from it until you get everyone on the same page. Have a family meeting and lay down the ground rules. Make sure that everyone who is responsible for helping you (including child care workers) knows the plan. Keep the “rules” straightforward so there’s no confusion.
Trust me when I say that working from home is not the vacation or cakewalk that a lot of people make it out to be. And just like anything worthwhile in life, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it, and the better off you’ll be.