Whether home is your main workspace or your job offers the flexibility to occasionally telecommute, keeping yourself on task can be an exercise in self-discipline. From managing distractions to prioritizing to-do lists, here are some tips from some of the most productive “work-from-homers” I know.
Glenda McCarthy-Gaspar, Owner of Proforma SI Promotions in Newmarket, Ontario, strives to replicate a typical day in a traditional work environment by:
• Getting ready early in the morning, as if she’s actually leaving home to go to work or meet with a client. That “puts me in a professional mood,” she said.
• Making the office environment as “clean, bright and professional as possible.” Her space is comfortable but organized – complete with everything she’d need to keep her affairs in order in a regular office, including bulletin boards, filing cabinets, a good desk and reliable equipment. McCarthy-Gaspar describes her set up as “pleasant, comfortable, functional. I don’t mind spending time here.”
• Keeping her eyes on the prize. Most Proforma Owners have Dream Boards depicting their main life goals, both personally and professionally. McCarthy-Gaspar keeps hers in a prominent place, as a constant reminder of what she’s working for.
• Ignoring common household distractions, including home phone, housework and TV. “During ‘work’ hours, I pretend I am not at home,” she said.
• Balancing the day with regular stopping points to recharge. “Breaks and lunch are important,” advised McCarthy-Gaspar.
Proforma’s Chief Sales Officer Dan Whitehead splits his time between his home office in Florida and the Proforma Worldwide Support Center in Ohio. He echoed much of McCarthy-Gaspar’s advice, with some extra insight thrown in to address hectic travel schedules and the mindset required to set up shop basically anywhere.
“Overall, the ability to work from home is largely enabled by tools that allow us to work virtually – cellphones, Wi-Fi, laptops, etc. The difficulty is becoming accustomed to working in an area where you may not have previously worked; for example, a home office, airplane, airports, etc.,” he said. “With a smartphone and a laptop, you literally have 90% of what you’d need at your office. Breaking away from the hardscape of the office is more of an attitude shift.”
Of course we all know that the world doesn’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for McCarthy-Gaspar and Whitehead may not be right for some.
Take Jaime Shine, Owner of Akron, Ohio-based marketing consulting firm Clearly Conveyed Communications. For Shine, it’s all about comfort and flexibility.
“My number one tip is to find YOUR comfort zone. So many tips tell you to keep regular office hours, hammer away in your home office all day and get ready for work in the same manner as going to an office. That may work for some people but not for me,” said Shine.
“I regularly work in other parts of my house in addition to my office, enjoy flexible hours and typically go to work in a hoodie, yoga pants and slippers. As long as you get your work done on time, it doesn’t matter how, when or in what clothes you do it. Oh, and coffee shops rock when you need a change of scenery or some inspiration,” she said.
And Danny Kane, Proforma’s Chief Business Development Officer, says prioritizing is the most important thing. Identify the top few tasks that absolutely have to be done each day, and don’t allow for any distractions until those things are checked off your “to-do” list.
“Whether you’re at home or in an office, as the day gets going you’re going to get pulled in different directions,” he said. “The hardest, most important things you have going on that day, do those first.”
For even more words of wisdom, check out Inc.com’s 18 Tips for Working From Home. Our experts touched on most of them, but additional advice includes:
• Use “cloud-based” storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive to ensure 24/7 access to your files, no matter where you are located.
• Limit distractions from friends and family by enforcing work hours and boundaries.
• Schedule in-person time with coworkers to maintain relationships and avoid the “out of sight, out of mind”effect. If that’s not possible, try video chatting.
• Take advantage of your flexibility by walking away when needed to recharge with a favorite activity or visit with a friend.
• Beware mindless snacking!
• Use a noise-cancelling headset with a mute button when on conference calls or talking with a client.
And remember to share your own experience in the comments!