8 Ways to Increase Effectiveness when Working from Home

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Over 35 million people in the U.S. wake up, have breakfast in their kitchen, and then stroll a few feet to the office.

Because of the proximity to familiar leisures (couch, TV, family) home-workers must cultivate serious discipline in order to maintain effectiveness.  Here are 8 helpful practices that people who work from home can integrate into their lives:   

1. Get up early

Because there is no “commute”, many home workers feel they can sleep later than normal employees.  I feel people who are fortunate to work at the house should take advantage of their saved time and start as early as possible.  Quite often, you can accomplish a greater amount early in the morning (the mind is not yet filled with clutter) and you should strive to complete one important task before 9am.  This will give you tremendous momentum and a feeling of confidence for the rest of the day.

2. Set daily task list

Home workers need to be extra disciplined, and for this reason I suggest setting a detailed task list every day.  Ideally, prepare the next day’s list the night before so you do not have to waste valuable time in the morning.  The most effective home workers schedule specific time to check and return emails, make phone calls, and participate in social activities (ESPN is my indulgence).  I highly recommend NOT leaving email, or IM, open throughout the day.  This will distract you and cause you to be more reactive instead of proactive.

3. Spend an hour on Sunday Night

On the same note, Sunday night is a great time to spend a few hours creating your goals for the upcoming week.  Once Monday morning hits, you will be swirled up in the usual tasks and it will be tough to step out of the routine and set larger goals.  Sunday nights are ideal for this, and worth spending a few hours writing what you intend to accomplish!

4. Stick to your Schedule

Although unexpected events will always come up, do your best to stick to the plan for the day.  If you do not complete a particular task in the allotted amount of time, that’s OK.  I encourage you to move on and stick to your schedule.  If that’s impossible, and you really need to finish something, re-prioritize your task list pushing the least important things until the following day. 

5. Be Spontaneous, shake up the routine

A lot of what I am saying in this article focuses on becoming more disciplined, but it can be very powerful (and healthy) to be spontaneous as a home worker.  This might mean taking an unexpected day off work where you spontaneously go to a park, go on a hike, or do something that you really enjoy (and, most importantly, do NOT feel guilty about it)!  The hardest lesson to learn is almost nothing needs immediate attention, and you will keep a lively attitude by shaking it up once in a while!

6. Exercise

Working out is a wonderful way for home workers to add some variety during the day.  I often take off from 4:30-6:30pm and go to the gym, hit the sauna, and eat some dinner.  This allows me to come back at 6:30 feeling nice and refreshed where I work effectively for a few more hours.  Other times, I rise early and take a Yoga class from 7-8am.  These activities work for me, and it is important to figure out what programs work for you and integrate exercise into your work schedule!  

7. Deal Effectively with the Unexpected

Not checking email is extremely helpful in deterring you from getting off track, but the fact remains that unforeseen issues will arise and shake things up.  Please read 8 Practical Tips for Dealing with the Unexpected for some really good advice when this happens. 

8. When you are done, you are done

With all this said, the most important practice for home workers is this: when you are done working, you are really done working.  This means not checking email, the blackberry or taking phone calls.  Paying no attention to work-related things can be challenging for home workers (because you are so close to it) and you must purposefully habituate the act of letting go. 

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This will benefit all the other areas of your life including your relationships, eating habits, and spiritual practices!

In all, working from home is a wonderful development for many of us.  However, it is necessary to be extremely disciplined and by following the advice given in this article you will become more effective!   

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10 Responses to “8 Ways to Increase Effectiveness when Working from Home”

  1. Christine says:

    Great article!

    I work from home and can relate to many of the problems associated with creating structure and discipline during the day as mentioned.

    I do try and make up my goals for the week on Sundays, as mentioned in #3, and find that when I do this, I get so much more accomplished during the week than if I don’t.

    I really need to work on tip #8 “When you are done, you are done.” This is a hard one for me and it’s great to be reminded that it’s O.K. to stop.

    Thanks for the valuable reminders and suggestions!!!

  2. Todd says:

    Tnanks Christine– #8 is the hardest one for many of us! But so important to try and implement…

  3. Jenny says:

    I would stay in my kitchen with my work if I could but we have such a small home it’s impossible. That’s why I like the bed. :D

  4. Todd says:

    Haha, i understand Jenny– for me, its helpful to get out of the house and go to a library or a starbucks to keep my mind more engaged!

  5. Alex says:

    Hi,
    Making the decision to Work From Home is sometimes more difficult than it needs to be. Work from home jobs number in the thousands, making the decision to work from home overwhelming. Maybe you’ve always associated being at home with relaxation. Maybe your home is your little safe haven.Making the transition to a work at home job, or finding a business you can work at home is no different.

  6. SootheSayer says:

    These are very effective, but personally, I’m not up for the Sunday prep time because I promise my self ONE DAY of rest, true rest. It doesn’t have to be Sunday, .. but I believe we need to promise and live up to an entire day to just sigh and “be” as you describe in #8–day is Done!

  7. John W says:

    Mind if I “reprint” this on my blog wfhpro.com with appropriate credit and links? I found this to be very relevant and informative.

  8. Todd says:

    Sure John, thank you for spreading the word!

  9. Liz says:

    Fantastic post – the keys to success at working from home are structure, consistency and balance – you’ve put together great guidelines.

    I found you on the Carnival of Working at Home on the Internet http://workingathomeinternet.com/WP/2007/11/02/working-at-home-blog-carnival-fifty-seventh-edition/

  10. gale says:

    i agree with your points, especially getting up early which just sets up the rest of the day in good motion. great post and stay in touch fellow blogger!

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