I am excited. And worried. And excited again. It’s now officially the afternoon and I’ve done next to no work. Naughty boy. But why? Well, on Tuesday, I acquired a new puppy, and he’s adorable (see above).
But here’s the thing – and yes, I know it’s blindingly obvious: I’m not getting much work done. If I’m not taking him to pee every hour to save my floor, then I’m tiring him out with some games to get him to sleep. But then I lose track of time.
The fact is, I’ve dropped the ball (as did the puppy). In spite of my many years a copywriter, I’ve been ignoring my own rules for the past five days about how to work at home successfully. So, as much as a reminder to myself as providing helpful tips for you, here they are. My top five tips for working productively at home:
1. Set up a place you can call your office
In an ideal world, you’ll have an office in your home – ie, a bedroom with a desk and a computer in it, and not very much else. It’s important that your actual bedroom doesn’t double as the office, because it’s vital to be able to close the door on your “work day” when the time comes. In short, you need to travel to AND LEAVE the office. In fact, I know one person who, every morning, literally goes out of her back door, walks through garden gate and re-enters the house through the front door. She feels that she needs to physically “go to work”.
2. Keep office hours
Along the same lines as having a dedicated office, try to keep office hours whenever possible. It doesn’t need to be 9-5, necessarily. 7-3, 10-6 or even 11-7 are all fine, as is a two-hour lunch break if you want to start an hour earlier or finish an hour later. The point is, if you just wander in and out of your office to “do things” around the house when you think you need to, then you’re soon going to see your day evaporate into the ether.
3. Be your own IT department
This one often gets left out of lists of this kind, but being computer savvy is important when you work for yourself. When you’re self-employed, there is no IT department on tap to answer your every query (even if the answer is “have you tried turning it off and on again?”) So it will be a big time saver if you’re able to solve a lot of your own issues. So swot up and save time. Of course if you’re lucky enough to know an IT whiz kid, then bully for you!
4. Dress for work
I don’t mean a suit and tie, but psychologically, it’s quite likely that you won’t be very productive if you sit and work in your pyjamas till midday. You’re sending yourself the wrong message. This is a working day; you’re not answering a few emails while catching up on Saturday Kitchen. Even if your work clothes are a pair of jeans and a jumper, the message is that you are up, you are dressed and you are at work.
5. Close your personal email – and especially your social media windows
These days, we’re all contactable 24 hours a day. I was one of the “I’m never going to have a mobile phone crew” some 10 years ago, and now look at me. Checking my phone is the very first thing I do in the morning, within a few minutes of waking up. I also have the tendency to check any email that pings up, no matter what I’m doing. So I’ve made a decision to close my personal email and only open it again when I’m on an official [self-designated] break. As for Facebook and Twitter, for heaven’s sake don’t even THINK about opening those. Your time will vanish. Again, breaks only.
So, those are my rules. For the past five days, I’ve broken them, and the damage to my routine has been huge. Such is the price of having just acquired an uber-cute puppy. Hopefully I’ll get back to my own rules soon. For one thing, writing this blog post has taken me all morning…
Ashley is a copywriter, blogger and editor