Modern advances in technology have created a new breed of employee – the home-based worker. As the name suggests, they work from the comforts of their own home more often than not as freelancers.
New as they may be, but they also face a few challenges of their own – some unique, others all too familiar.
These tips are on how to improve productivity at home offices.
Establish a routine.
More often than not, the main problem of working from home is procrastination. There are simply too many distractions lying about. Since you do not have a work schedule, you will have to come up with one yourself.
Only by implementing a work schedule can you lessen procrastination and thus improve productivity from home.
When the time for work comes, the brain can quickly shift into gear and you will feel more inclined to work. Do this every day and you have yourself a classic work routine where everything that needs to be done is done as second nature.
Find out when you are most ready for work.
Home-based workers are not necessarily working in 9 to 5 shifts. There is no need to stick to this time frame either. Some choose to work in the morning while others wait until nightfall. The important thing to consider here is when you feel like working.
It is one important advantage that working from home has.
Use this to your own advantage by setting up your work schedule to coincide with the time frame you are most likely at your most productive. Just make sure that it is a fixed time frame you will stick to every day.
Plan ahead of work.
Home-based workers often get different workloads throughout the workweek. This makes it a bit more difficult to plan the day ahead. Nevertheless, it is best to work based on a schedule even a tentative one.
This way, you have an idea on how to go about the day and lets you accomplish what needs to done right off the bat.
This makes procrastination and confusion less likely. It also serves as your plan of action which you can always consult whenever you seem to be lost and in need of guidance.
Itemize your workload.
Reading off the work for the day is often daunting and makes you want to not work at all. When this happens, you can always turn to an age-old solution – the to-do list.
Having a to-do list lets you organize your workload and checking items off as you go is also encouraging. Online tools that can help you create such a list do exist.
Still, you have the option of coming up with one from the ground up. To-do lists have been proven effective at clearing your head and preparing it for work so do not underestimate its power. It may as well be the answer you are looking for.
Tell friends and family that you are in work mode.
Working from home is a relatively new phenomenon that some people still fail to grasp. As such, some friends and family tend to downplay the seriousness of your work. “You are not even in an office” as they often quip.
Unfortunately, this does not distractions from friends and family which is bad when you are trying to catch up on a deadline.
When this happens, it is best to make them aware that you are working and cannot afford to be distracted. Explain to them that you are not free just because you are at home.
Focus – but not on social networking sites.
In-home offices where internet access is virtually unrestricted, a distraction from such sites as Facebook and Twitter is all too common. When not needed, it is best to disconnect from your router or broadband connection.
Creative tasks such as designing and writing will benefit greatly from this. You will be amazed at how much time you can recover when you start focusing on the work at hand.
Once you are done, you will have all the time you want to start chatting and browsing the internet once again.
For now, you have to focus.
Track your progress.
With no boss around, it is up to you to check on your own progress. Check the actual work you have done against the current time. Did you take longer or faster than you expected? This should give you a good idea if you are being productive or not.
You can track your progress manually or with help from software called RescueTime. This is online time-tracking software which tells its user how he or she spends his or her time on the computer.
It really helps time your tasks so consider it as an investment for increased productivity and better output.
Set-up a home office or a separate space for work.
Working out of your bedroom or in front of the TV is no good especially if you want to be productive. As such, you want to devote a separate space for work to make a distinction between work and play. As much as possible, find a quiet space in your home where there will not be so much distraction.
Get all the hardware you need and put it in one convenient place for quick and easy access. Having a home office is best but any spot where you can work quietly is good enough.
Outsource some of the work.
Business owners who find it difficult to fit everything needed into an already hectic schedule. Most business people make the mistake of thinking they can do something themselves to cut costs. On the other hand, the time wasted is really not worth it.
With this in mind, you are better off hiring a messenger, virtual assistant, bookkeeper and others to do the job for you. Automate as much of your process as possible so you do not have to worry much.
This frees up your mind from mundane tasks so you can have more brilliant ideas.
Buddy up and check on each other.
Some people just do not have enough self-discipline to keep them working. If you are like that, you are better off getting a work buddy to check on you from time to time. Ideally, this should be someone who tracks your progress and gives suggestions on how to improve your productivity.
Collaborate with a friend online and help each other out. Essentially, you are asking him or her to act like your boss.
As much as possible, ask help from someone who works from home as well.
Invest in sound and reliable technology.
Working from home means less in-person meetings for you. Still, the importance of such meetings is present. As such, most of your work is conducted over the phone and/or online. Investing in the best technology money can buy is a good idea then.
Some printers can now double as a photocopy and even a fax machine so do look into those. It may cost more but it will give off better benefits in the long run.
Simple services such as voice mail and call waiting are a huge help as well.
Modern conveniences are your best friends.
In relation to the previous tip, the home-based worker also needs to be aware of modern technologies that can make life easier. A smartphone is ideal for entrepreneurs on the go where you can check your email and make and receive phone calls anytime, anywhere.
The latest high-performance laptops have enough computing power for applications needed by graphic designers. A fast broadband connection lets you finish your tasks quickly and without delay.
Consider what you need to get the job done and invest your money accordingly.
Your clients will only thank you with their continued patronage.
Take frequent and short breaks.
Just like working in the office, working at home also requires short breaks in between. Be sure to at least close your eyes for at least five minutes every hour. This reduces the strain caused by staring at the computer all day. You can also try walking around to stretch your legs a bit.
Grab a quick snack to help replenish your energy and keep your mind sharp and active. You can even lie down for a while to get your bearing straight. Just be careful not to doze off completely!
Dress for the occasion.
Just because you are working at home does not mean you get to wear your pajamas to work. Well, you can but that is not a good idea. Working in your pajamas just encourages you to slack off and doze off.
Continue your routine as you would when you were still going to the office. Wake up, shower, brush your teeth, get dressed and eat breakfast as you normally would. You do not have to change in that respect in the first place.
In other words, continue behaving like the model employee that you are.
If you are not up to it, STOP.
This may seem counter-productive but consider this: you have been staring at a blinking cursor for hours but no words seem to come to mind. Take this as a sign that you are not ready to work yet. When this happens, find something else to do until you feel like working again.
Just do not over-indulge yourself.
The point here is to refresh your mind in an effort to jumpstart it to work mode.
Be sure that you are still meeting the deadlines you have set though.
Quantity or quality?
Another thing that home-based workers should be mindful of is the quality of their work. With no one else to check and proofread, it is easy for quality to get left behind the dust. Combine this with procrastination and cramming and you have a recipe for disaster.
While you are working, it is best to check for the quality of your article, design or whatever it is you are working on.
At the end of the day ask yourself one important question, “Is this the kind of work I want my clients to think I am capable of?”
Do not burn yourself out.
At the extreme end of procrastination is working your self too hard. Just because you can work 12 to 14 hours in a day does not mean you should. It may be tempting to “do tomorrow’s work today for a free day after” but it must be avoided.
Over time, the quality of your work begins to deteriorate resulting in poor results. Working long hours is only bad for productivity.
So do yourself a favor and take a break every now and then.
Work within your capabilities and avoid overstretching yourself.
Get a change of scenery.
Working and living in the same location can drive someone mad. This is the most common problem that home-based workers face on a daily basis which is often bad for productivity.
The best way to address this problem is to get out of the house and find a nice place to work in. Coffee shops are your best bet but libraries might be better because of the environment.
Alternatively, you can try relaxing on the beach while you work. Nothing beats the warm ocean breeze and fresh air as you write your article or come up with a new design.
The beauty of working at home is that you can adapt your environment as you see fit. Want music? Turn on the radio or your iPod. Want to be more comfortable? Sit on the couch and type away with your laptop on hand.
Want to eat while working?
Head on to the kitchen and make yourself a sandwich. It is so easy to work according to your own wishes when you work at home.
Use this to your advantage and set-up an environment that encourages you to work harder and produce better results.