Let’s be honest here. Even though I’m a photographer, my work days don’t usually look like this:
On ordinary days, they look like this — complete with a couple chai lattes and a more-often-than-not untidy desk:
That’s the view I have most days when I’m working at home. Over the years, lots of people have told me how lucky I am to be able to work from home, and I agree . . . but sometimes it is just as relaxing and easy as it sounds, which can be a problem.
Since I was homeschooled all the way from kindergarten until the end of high school, I’d always been used to “working” at home — I thought. So when Danny and I launched our photography business, I was confident that running it out of our home office was going to be a breeze.
Well. Some days it was more of a gale-force wind, and some days were so still not even a leaf would flutter.
What I found out was that working from home could actually be pretty hard — as in, hard to get stuff done, and hard to stop working, and hard to not get distracted with other things. But over time, I also found ways to combat these problems. I love-love-love working from home, and I wanted to be successful at it instead of packing up my computer and moving into an empty office in Danny”s office building. Here are five keys that absolutely changed my approach to working from home:
1.) Work Withing Defined Hours In a Defined Space
When you’re working at home, it’s easy to not set work hours. After all, you never really leave work. It’s pretty crucial though, not only for getting your work accomplished, but for not becoming so chained to work that you never shut down your computer and live your real life! So choose work hours that suit your personal needs. Maybe you’re a night owl and like to do most of your work when the rest of the world is asleep. Maybe you like to have a big break in the middle of the work day. Find what works for you, and stick to it.
Similarly, don’t let your work spill throughout your entire house. If you have a home office to dedicate to your work, as much as possible, keep your work within those walls. If you can’t devote an entire room to your work, set up a work station in an unused corner — maybe inside a secretary desk that you can close up when you’re finished working for the day so you won’t be tempted to run back to check your email one more time.
2.) Start With Something Energizing
In the last year and a half, this has been such a help for Danny and me. I used to just roll out of bed and into my office chair, and I would still be groggy (and quite possibly in my pajamas . . . but more on that later!) come 11:00 a.m. These days, we start our mornings with a routine. We do our morning devotionals and pray together; he makes his coffee, I make my tea. We have a few minutes to talk about the day ahead and prepare for it together, so then when we start working, we’re really ready to work.
3.) Dress the Part
The days of working in my pajamas are over. When I was a kid, my mom never let me do my school work in my pajamas, so I’m not sure where I got the idea that pajamas were a good idea for work. They’re not. Neither are yoga pants or workout clothes or anything that contributes to making you feel sloppy or lazy or less than ready to turn your brain on. I’m not suggesting that everyone has to wear formal business attire in their own homes — I don’t — but what I absolutely advocate is wearing clothes that make you feel confident, capable, and successful before you even begin tackling your to-do list. For me, that means looking polished and put together, as if I were about to walk out the door for lunch at a stylish cafe. And for me it always, always means wearing makeup and shoes. This has dramatically changed how I feel as I work, and it has increased my productivity!
4.) Reduce or Eliminate Distractions
No matter where you are, you’ll never be able to completely eliminate distractions. Not even if you’re inside a giant hall filled with students taking SATs, because there will always be some construction workers with jackhammers hard at work outside the window, ambivalent to the fact that they may just be chipping away at your college prospects. But I digress.
What I’ve done to reduce distractions is to set healthy parameters for myself so I don’t get sucked into tasks (or diversions) that pull me away from my goals. I don’t check my email repeatedly throughout the day; I typically check it in the morning and near the end of the work day, unless I’m expecting a specific email. I stay off news website and social media during work hours, other than if there’s something I need to share on my business page — and then I immediately get off. I try to avoid taking personal phone calls or responding to non-urgent text messages, but I’m still working on that one! It has really and truly helped though, and I find myself wasting far less time online than in the past.
5.) Take Advantage of Working at Home
There really are advantages to working from home, beyond saving on rent and not having to commute. What am I talking about? Well, one thing I’ve recently realized is that, if I’m suddenly tired in the afternoon, I can take a ten-minute power nap (in my own bed!) to recharge, and then when I get back to work I have enough energy to do my work well instead of dragging through the rest of the day. When I need a little break from work, especially if I’m not particularly pleased with my progress, I’ll do something else productive for a few minutes — put on a load of laundry, unload the dish washer, water the plants, etc. I not only get a needed task done, but I can notch a little win that gives me added momentum as I head back to work.
For anyone who works from home, I feel confident that these steps will help you cultivate more productive, rewarding workdays, too!