About a half year ago, I switched from the nine-to-five office lifestyle to the ultimate start-up lifestyle: working from home. My pleasant fifteen minute commute is now closer to two seconds.
I was pretty excited about the move, but I quickly came to find that the transition is a lot harder than it sounds. Any number of things can bog you down, including as loneliness or cabin fever. For me, however, the chief difficulty was that I had even more new-found freedom than I’d bargained for; I struggled with focus.
I’m sure this is not the only list out there about how to successfully change to the work-from-home lifestyle. That said, these are a few things that, over time, worked for me in helping me settle in mentally and get work done.
1. Put on Your Shoes
One of the most commonly touted perks of working from home is that pants are perpetually optional. After I started at my current job, however, I quickly found that sitting around in pajamas makes me feel nothing needs doing. Years of conditioning trained me to feel more alert and be more productive when I’m dressed and ready to go.
That’s why, every day, I get out of bed, change into jeans and a t-shirt shirt, and yes, put on my shoes. I’m not oblivious to the silliness of putting on your shoes to sit at a desk in your bedroom, but it works for me. Once I’m suited up with my shoes on, I feel more like I’m ready to be productive.
It may not be the exact same for you, but it's worth experimenting see if some part of the daily preparation ritual is something you might be overlooking, even if it’s as simple as wearing shoes around the house.
2. Don’t Skimp on Your Tools
I’m a big fan of the school of thought that buying quality products is important with items you’re going to use a lot. I’m all about this notion. For example, you get 5-10 hours of use out of your mattress every single day -- why would you skimp on a purchase like that?
The same goes for your work tools. The first thing I did when I started my new job was buy a powerful PC laptop with a beautiful screen, along with a separate large monitor. I stare at both of these screens all day long. This is not the time to be Frugal-minded, it’s the time to splurge.
It’s not rocket science that you’re more productive when you have better tools, and when I’m more productive I can keep focused longer. Spoil yourself a little with the things you’ll be using every day, and it will pay off.
3. Get Some Fresh Air
Every day, no exceptions. This sounds easy, but when I started working from home, I would often find myself rolling out of bed and into my desk chair, cooking meals inside, then getting back on the computer and working until bedtime. This was especially a problem during the middle of the week.
I quickly found that not going outside was affecting my mood. I felt slovenly and a little bit disgusting, like I could feel the grease collecting in my pores and my muscles atrophying.
Now I go outside every day, even if it requires making excuses to do so. Many days I take a mid-afternoon run, but if I don’t, I help out my friend by moving her car to avoid street cleaning laws, get myself a sandwich from the deli up the hill, head to the store to pick up some groceries for tomorrow’s dinner, or go sit in the nearby dog park and watch the pooches frolic.
Even if it’s just fifteen minutes, even if I’m stupidly busy, I go outside. It helps me feel like there’s more to my life than just those expensive screens on my desk. My mood improves, and so does my focus and productivity.
4. Home Really Just Means “Not an Office”
This is similar to the “go outside!” mantra, but if you find yourself struggling with focus at home, go somewhere else for a change. If you have a laptop, go to a cafe or Panera Bread and use their wi-fi. A change of scenery can get you out of bad habits and focus you back on your work. When you reduce your entire world to a coffee and a laptop, there’s not a whole lot to distract you from getting stuff done, and being somewhere new can cure the cabin fever feeling that might bog you down from getting in the zone.
And hey, maybe the connection will be too slow for you to load those distracting YouTube videos!
5. Work on Your Cooking
This may sound a little silly, but one of the best things about working from home has been having the time to renew my focus on preparing my food and deciding what to eat. A good diet will keep your energy levels up, and when you’re more alert, you’re less likely to go relax on the couch in the middle of the day.
Cooking is also a great, legitimate reason to step away from work for a while guilt-free. I mean, hey, you gotta eat! Even if there are things to do, preparing food lets you step away, focus on a different task, decompress and stretch your brain a little, and then get back to work rejuvenated and ready to dive in.
Do you have any tricks you use to keep yourself focused and productive when working from home? Let me know via Twitter or Google+, I’m always looking to improve myself just that tiny bit more!