With no boss over your shoulder, people who telecommute or run their own business often find themselves wasting more time than they would in an office. Then, work hours leach into evening family time, and you find you're always working but accomplishing less.
Follow these tips to be more productive in your work-at-home space. Don't work from home? They'll help in an office environment too!
1. Set working hours.
If you have flex-time working from home -- or no boss because you run your own company -- it still helps to have a set schedule. This signals to your brain that it's time to work, and you'll be able to get down to business faster.
2. Stay off the Web. -
If you have to, disable your Internet access or use software to block certain sites (like Facebook) until you're disciplined enough to stay focused. If you must check your eBay bids or that amazing sale at MyHabit.com, set a timer for 15 minutes -- no more -- and use your time online as a reward after you finish a task you've been dreading.
3. Check e-mail and voice mail only during scheduled times. -
Timothy Ferris, author of the 4-Hour Work Week, popularized this concept, and many people have shown it to be a huge productivity booster. Checking email and voice mail at noon and 4 PM works well for many people who work a normal nine-to-five day. If you simply can't begin work without checking your email in the morning, do so. But don't get bogged down in responding to unimportant emails and squander this productive time of day.
4. Separate work and family when possible. -
It's not always possible as a manager or a business owner to avoid all work after working hours (just as you can't avoid a doctor's visit in the middle of the business day when your child is sick.) But turn off the smartphone and avoid any thoughts of work for at least a few hours in the evening -- and definitely during dinner time or when you're playing with your kids.
Similarly, avoid letting personal chores or lunch dates get in the way of working hours. You'll have to make up those hours at some point, and it will probably be in the evening when you'd rather be with your family.
5. Take frequent, quick breaks. -
People are most productive in stints of just 20 to 35 minutes. Don't be afraid to get up from your desk, re-focus your eyes to a more distant object, and take a quick break every 20 minutes or so. Just stay off the Internet, where that minute can turn into an hour.
On the other hand, if you're in the zone and work is flowing well, there's no need to break stride so frequently. But after 45 minutes or an hour, stop and take a stretching break. Your body needs it.
6. Seek out human contact. -
Workers in an office typically get two 15-minute breaks and at least a half-hour for lunch. Give yourself this time and do what your office-based counterparts do: seek out other people! Meet with another work-at-home friend virtually via Skype or chat at a pre-determined time, take a walk outside, or hit the coffee house for lunch and some company.
7. Feng Shui your office. -
A Feng Shui office, where the chi flows properly and your desk is set up for ergonomic comfort, will help you be more productive. This post shows you how to place your desk in the command position and other Feng Shui office tips.