April 6, 2011

Tips for Working from Home

Although I'm currently unemployed, I "work" on many different projects. The most pressing one right now is a business plan that I am writing, and I have been finding it extremely easy to be distracted by other things. That said, I have also gotten a tremendous amount done so I thought I'd share some of my strategies for staying focused.

1. Get out of the house
Yes, it's true. My number one tip regarding working from home is not to do it, or at least not to do it all the time. If you have gotten into a routine of procrastinating at home, it is especially important to change the setting to help break out of that. Some people go to cafes or diners; I prefer the library

2. Stop multi-tasking
I am not the first person to say this but it is certainly worth repeating. Most people are more productive when they only try to do one thing at a time. So close your web browser. Close all extraneous programs and windows on your computer. Consider turning off your phone. Move items off your desk that are unrelated to the current project (just move them out of sight for now, don't get involved in putting them away right now). Just do one thing.

3. Do the most difficult task first 
I sometimes get stuck in the trap of putting off and putting off a task that I think will be odious. The best way to address this is to get it out of the way first. The task I am dreading is usually not as bad as my anticipation of it. Even if it is difficult, once it is done it takes a weight off my shoulders, gives me momentum, and makes everything that comes after seem easier.

4. Find your best times for work
When do you have the most energy? When do you have a quiet space to yourself? Do you need to make calls to people who are only available during specific hours? When are your other commitments?

5. Set specific time periods for work and breaks and stick to them
Treat whatever you need to get done like a "real" job. Using the information from #4, set a work schedule - decide what time you will start work, and how long you will continue before taking a break. Small rewards for sticking to your schedule are appropriate.

6. Make a work date
Like an exercise buddy, a work buddy holds you accountable to someone else, and can be a good motivator to follow through when you are having trouble following through on commitments to yourself.

What are your strategies for getting work done?


  1. Hi Rebecca,
    All great suggestions. Here's another when there's a big project to do or a big problem to solve - break it done into small tasks. It makes the project less overwhelming and accomplishing each small task at a time gives you the motivation to keep going until the whole job is done.

  2. Thanks for this addition, Susan! Since I am a follower of GTD, I typically break my projects down into next actions anyway, but sometimes they could be broken down even further.

  3. Great article Rebecca - I'm there with you on so many points.

    I take one day off a week and I have been sticking to it. The mental freedom is great. For me it's Sunday because it seems to work here in Ireland. When Monday arrives I'm ready to take on a new week all fresh.

    I also find practising "Morning Pages" (as described in "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron) to be a great way to focus and get rid of the mental waffle that keeps you from focusing on what's important.

  4. Orla! Thanks so much for stopping by.

    Those are great tips. My mom and I both do morning pages too, though my mom does them more consistently than I do. They are like a "brain dump" which then allows me to move on and focus on other things.

    I used to designate a rest day each week, but I have been so busy lately that practice has fallen by the wayside. Your comment is an excellent reminder that it's time to pick that up again. Now is when I need it most!