My 4 Tips on Working From Home … and Being Productive

My name is Prakky and I work from home.

This doesn’t suit everyone but I love it. I’m in my second year of being a sole consultant and one thing I enjoy most is having a home-based office. It’s exactly the lifestyle I’m after at this stage of my life, being independent, with my own working hours and available to my school age children where they need me.

I’m a member of a few solo operator networks online and I know one of the more popular topics of discussion is personal productivity and how to stay on track – in particular if you do work from home and there’s the constant temptation of the fridge/daytime TV/sunny garden. There may also be the urge to become a super multi-tasker and to clean out that fridge/put some washing on/sweep the floor. So I thought I’d share my own habits when it comes to personal productivity.

[Before I go any further – I’m going to outline what works for me but I understand people have different working styles and I’m not demanding that you Do What I Do. Perhaps you’ll get some ideas or perhaps you’ll be reassured that your own different style of work is best for you.]

Here’s the principles I work to:

  1. Working hours are for client work, not housework
  2. If you start working on a project even for just a few minutes, that’s a few minutes you don’t have to work on it tomorrow
  3. Recognise your down times and “can’t be stuffed” times and don’t fight it … as long as there aren’t too many!
  4. Have some rewards for working from home – after all, that’s part of what it’s about

Let me expand on those four points.

1.       Working hours are for client work, not housework

When you work from home, it’s tempting to quickly do a bit of housework. Resist this. Housework doesn’t pay the bills (unless you’re a cleaner). Mentally, I’m focused on my workspace – my keyboard, my radio, my To Do List, my view out of the window onto the street outside. Sure, I dip into the kitchen for coffee and meals, I walk around to stretch my legs, but I remind myself of my client work and the fact that 1) housework can wait and 2) housework doesn’t pay the bills.

When you work from home: TV crews need to come there too

When I work from home: TV crews need to come there too

I also know that when the kids get home from school, the house is noisier, so I like to ensure I devote that quieter alone time to client work and rather than waste it on housework.

The reverse of this also applies. I try not do client work on weekends. I remind myself that two days away from the office desk is important, and that weekends are the time for family and friends and slothing around – and of course, that pesky housework! As someone who works from home, I like to get out of the house on weekends.

2.       If you start working on a project even for just a few minutes, that’s a few minutes you don’t have to work on it tomorrow

Aka, my Anti-Procrastination Rule. I don’t put off until tomorrow, I make a start today because I know every sentence or idea or piece of thinking time contributes to the body of work a client is waiting for. (And yes, I hate me too when I make myself do this). This might be something as simple as opening a document, giving it a title, putting in some formatting, inputting some tasks and headlines, reminding yourself what the client wanted and typing in some hasty notes and early ideas, then saving and closing that doc until tomorrow. The thing is: while you’re there, you might find (like me) that other ideas come to you, that you feel compelled to write a little more and rewrite and improve pieces, so before you know it, you’ve actually got a decent first draft. #PatOnBack

3.       Recognise your down times and “can’t be stuffed” times and don’t fight it … as long as there aren’t too many!

I don’t work well on Friday afternoons.

On Friday afternoons, I tend to knock off when the kids are home from school. That’s it. It’s the weekend. But even earlier – say around lunch – I know I’m losing steam. So I save this time for easier and more administrative tasks. This includes deleting emails, banking and quick friendly ‘catch up’ emails to clients. I also do more of my social media promotional work here: drafting blog posts, thinking of ideas for next week’s Facebook posts, working through LinkedIn to see what opportunities there are there – those are fun tasks, for me, but not for everyone.

The reverse of this also applies. I am hyper-motivated on Mondays. So I try to use this time to bite off difficult projects. It’s the time when my brain is best able to come up with new ideas, complete a large document, or complete a new public presentation.

4.       Have some rewards for working from home: after all, that’s part of what it’s about

It’s fun working from home! Yes, client work is important, but keeping yourself a happy and motivated employee is also important. And if you’re not capitalising on some of the perks of working from home, that’s just silly isn’t it? You may as well be in a massive office with dozens of other people working in a climate-controlled environment.

So yes, I do sit outside in the sunshine with my laptop sometimes.

Yes, I do move my laptop from my work desk to the kitchen bench sometimes and have ABC 24 playing in the background – especially during exciting news periods.

Yes, when I need to stretch, I do walk around the block (a massive health advantage of working from home. In corporate environments I never felt comfortable about getting up and stretching, about taking time away from my screen, even though officially it’s encouraged, nobody else does it and it’s seen as either strange or time wasting).

Prakky presenting

I spend a lot of time away from my home office, working with clients and giving presentations

Yes, if I have a lot of reading to do, I can lie on the sofa or prop myself up on my bed.

These four principles work well for me, keep me on track, keep clients happy – and keep me happy.

I’d love to hear about your personal productivity routines. Share some in the Comments below, whether you work from home or not.



Categories: Personal / Anecdotal, working mum

20 replies

  1. [b]Working hours are for client work, not housework[/b]

    I don’t bill by-the-hour or whatever, I tell a client how much they’re going to pay me right off the bat. The point of telling this is that from that point on you are not working for your client, you are working for yourself.

    If I quote $3k for a job and say it will be delivered in 2 weeks, neither they nor I give a flying turdbiscuit how many hours it takes – it could be 3, it could be 200 – as long as it’s done in time is all that matters.

    Stop whoring yourself out to the hourly $ model, it’s way outdated and based on let’s say “physical” services. If you provide a goal/achievement-based service, charge for THAT.

    If you spend your life charging for your time, you’ll spend your life being a slave to the clock.

    [b]If you start working on a project even for just a few minutes, that’s a few minutes you don’t have to work on it tomorrow[.b]

    Getting “in the zone” is the most important part.

    I can sit there and stuff around on a client’s project for a minute or two here and there, but if I’m doing it whilst I’m also doing other stuff I can almost guarantee I won’t get much done.

    FOCUS, bitches!

    Turn EVERYTHING ELSE off. Twitter, email, phone, Facepalmbook, etc etc.

    Hell, use “incognito mode” on your browser so that when you’re “researching” on Google/Reddit/etc you’re not distracted by responses to stuff you’ve written, or even by stuff that might interest you personally. Put that shit aside.

    Frankly – I think that’s the biggest obstacle to most brilliant folk achieving anything – modern distraction.

    [b]Recognise your down times and “can’t be stuffed” times and don’t fight it … as long as there aren’t too many![/b]

    1000%!

    Sometimes I read research papers and can’t come up with anything but a “your mum” joke.

    Sometimes I’m sitting here and my fingers are too cold to dance across the keyboard.

    Sometimes I can’t be stuffed.

    Crack out a video game you haven’t played for years, read a book you’ve had on your Kindle list for eons, cook up a storm!

    Point is, you’re not doing yourself NOR your client any favours by slogging away when you can’t and don’t have to.

    Pressure is my favourite motivator, but sometimes we just don’t have it weighing us down, chill baby.

    [b]Have some rewards for working from home – after all, that’s part of what it’s about[/b]

    Hey, some days are just alcohol and video games – but in general most of the time it’s about pleasing who you deal with and making a good impression with those you wish to deal with.

    But yeah, if you’re all work work work – you’re going to get burnt out in short order, and the solo business-person thingy is going to get real old quicker than you can grow pubes.

    (Prakster, please edit my comment to bold your questions as I’m not sure of the formatty shit here)

    • Hey Ash, awesome comments, thanks – and I like the [b]boldy bits[/b] so I’ll leave it like that.

      When I say ‘working hours’ I don’t mean charging hourly rates, it’s just to coin a phrase. I work best when I set aside the traditional ‘working day’ for client work (and Prakky promotional work) rather than letting any housework seep in. I’m much like you: I charge for a large body of work with one fixed price, apart from personal coaching which I do have an hourly rate for.

  2. Echo Ash’s comment re charging for results rather than hours – my preferred pricing model is fixed price for deliverable(s) … takes the risk out of it for the client; takes a lot of the administrative overhead out of it for everybody, AND makes it easier to sell “working from home” to the client :)

    Re: the housework thing – given my work is a lot of “thinking”, I find a relatively mindless task like throwing a load of washing in doesn’t hurt; plus it gets me off my bum, which is also good for thinking …

    And, yes … if it’s not happening for you right now, step away from it for a while before it screws your head completely.

    • Cheers Ric. It’s good to hear about different working styles and I know a lot of people who like to mix housework with working from home – probably something to do with getting away from the desk and stretching.

      I’ll echo what I said to Ash: my phrasing wasn’t about charging an hourly rate and strictly working to that; that’s not what I do, but I do try to set aside the traditional working day as a ‘no housework’ zone.

      • Well, my comment was in response to Ash rather than you – I didn’t note any particular bent in your post re hourly rate etc.
        I’d suggest, too, that housework is something that might be more traditionally “expected” of you than me – it’s still something of a novelty for me :)

      • That’s a good point, Ric: housework may be more traditionally expected of females, so perhaps that’s why so many feel compelled to tackle that alongside paid work!

  3. When I have had the luxury of working from home, whether for myself or someone else, the most useful lesson learned was to have a “time to work now” routine. It just helped me get into the right head-space for working. For me it was partly about being ‘ready to work’ (e.g. dressed up enough for a short-notice Skype meeting, getting the coffee, setting up my workspace, reviewing a few technical blogs) and partly about laying out a plan for what I needed/wanted to get out of the day.

    Also having a distinct work zone in your house that isn’t used for other things helps both to set the scene for your time to work and to help you switch off at other times. If everywhere in your house is a work space then it may be harder for you to see it as a place to relax at other times.

    Something I also found useful is to leave something partly completed to come back to the next day. It is somehow easier to dive back into something part way through than it is to start with a blank sheet of paper (or word document) first thing in the morning.

    • Hi Liz, thanks for your comments. I think what you say about having a distinct physical space for work can be really important – especially to have a distinct weekend! I also agree that having something partly completed (or just begun!) is an enormous help and preferable to a blank sheet of paper.

  4. Hi Prakky,

    Love your 4 tips – and love how you wrote them briefly at first, and then expanded later.

    I wrote a somewhat more wordy list in August last year when I started working from home: it’s here if anyone is interested: http://scienceforlife365.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/day-13-home-office/

    Cheers,
    Sarah

    • Thanks Sarah – I loved your blog post! What you said about having the house in order before the school run – that’s exactly what I do. I stick to the same routine I had when I worked for employer in the CBD. The kitchen is clean, beds are made, everything’s put away: so when I return after dropping the kids at school, there’s no immediate cleaning up to get out of the way before I begin work. * No excuses * :)

  5. Great article! Loved all those tips.

    I have also been known to recommend to female clients who work from home that they wear their highest heels possible during work hours. This can stop you when you start to do housework (because I know I feel weird doing housework in heels). Of course, if you’re a Carrie Bradshaw who’s always in heels then it won’t work for you. But it certainly works for me and some of my clients :)

    • Thanks Rebecca!

      Tips like that are so important – those cues that tell us “it’s work time” or “it’s after work time”. I like to dress like a dag at home to enjoy that ‘working from home’ luxury but I know others find it useful to don office clothes or similar.

  6. A good story and one I identify with. I run a resume/professional writing business in Adelaide. I have a small office in town where I meet people but almost all of the writing is done in the home office. I’m on the computer and phone 90 per cent of the day working to deadlines but also writing short media stories on demographics, recruitment and generational change.

    My problem is I have a view of the ocean (very distracting) as well as a black labrador that wants to be walked every two hours. The ‘time to work now’ routine is the best, although I do find myself sticking my head in the fridge half a dozen times a day. Very dangerous.

    • Thanks Malcolm. The ocean view and black labrador sound like sensational distractions. I’ve been seeing more articles this past week about the importance of not sitting at a desk all day, so your working from home environment seems ideal.

  7. I do tend to combine housework, gardening, pet time and paid/research work. However I schedule the activities and as you mentioned above, the housework is more like a break, a stretching exercise. If I am working on a challenging topic I often have my “eureka” moment while I am hanging out the washing or similar. After a lifetime of working in an office and then fitting in housework and family time at the end of a tiring day/weekend, I have found working from home and combining the activities liberating and relaxing. It does mean I work later but it does bring about a contentment when my day is finished and I am relaxed and all scheduled activities completed. I am certainly more productive over a sustained period than when I am working in an office.l

    However, having said that, there is still rarely a day when I can work just at home. My work demands a high degree of interactivity so those work at home days are blissful.

    It has been interesting reading all of the comments. We all have different work styles and this is an important consideration for employers.

    • Thanks so much for your comments – and apologies for not seeing this sooner. The perils of blogspam! I like what you’ve said about having that eureka moment.I do find those happen when I’m switching off, going for a walk, doing something mundane. But equally I find I can have those moments – when I come across great ideas for a client – when I’m sitting back quietly at my desk and musing over the clients’ issues. It’s hard to predict and certainly, a lot of people can’t force it.
      Thanks again.

      • Another quick note on this: Richard Fidler (Conversations on ABC radio) and author Kylie Ladd have also discussed this phenomenon – how switching off your ‘conscious’ (frontal cortex) brain and letting it drift can lead to great revelations. He referred to it as ‘switching off your inner smart arse’, losing that part of you that cramps your creative style.

Trackbacks

  1. Do the research before you take work at home opportunity : Outdoor Fun with Glenda
  2. I Am Working From Home Tomorrow | jackcollier7

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,053 other followers

%d bloggers like this: