Remember when “Working From Home” was a catch phrase used to describe an ideal work environment? Everyone was vying to squeeze in at least one day a week where they can work remotely outside the office.
Lesson Learned. We now know that working from home regularly will challenge our discipline, mindset and overall sanity.
Most entrepreneurs run multiple businesses and with that, comes a myriad of responsibilities that run the gamut from mundane to intense. In order to stay on-task and work efficiently, you must maintain your focus. This can be difficult at home. There is less built-in structure; instead, you must create the structure yourself. That is the key to staying productive.
An office environment is usually crafted with an eye for limiting distractions. It limits interaction by creating boundaries between office spaces and distancing common areas from the work areas.
The first step to productivity at home is mimicking that office layout. Create a space that is strictly dedicated to you and has all the necessities at arms-length. Sounds simple right? Yet, many of you set up shop in the middle of the dining room or living room. No Bueno. A pop-up office lacks the intention and purpose necessary for success.
Your workspace cannot feel makeshift. It has to be concrete; solid; permanent. It must have everything you need to feel organized. This is how efficiency is developed. If you want to stay productive, you cannot be working in the middle of the household chaos. Take up permanent residence in a room or space separated from the communal areas of your house, like the kitchen or living room. Set up in room where you cannot hear the TV, the doorbell, or the pitter patter of little footsteps running around.
Now that it’s quiet(ish), be sure to take part of the kitchen with you. You’ll need hydration and fuel to stay focused. Bring some water and a few light snacks close by so you don’t have to exit the space and risk distraction. Each time you leave to get a snack or a drink, you shave valuable minutes off of your productivity. Distractions can throw you off your game for 15-30 minutes. That is a lot of wasted time.
Remember, your goal is to work efficiently so that you control the day, rather than being controlled by the day.
Speaking of limiting distractions, you must be sure to set boundaries with the people you live with. This may be awkward at first, but it will save your sanity and relationships in the long run.
You can’t assume that everyone knows what you need. Be upfront and honest about the boundaries necessary for you to be productive. Let your loved ones know that when you step into that workspace, you are unavailable to them. Interruptions, small talk, and favors won’t be welcome. The people in your space must act as though you are in the office and out of the house.
If this sounds harsh, remind yourself (and your family) that you are crafting these boundaries with your family in mind. Your goal as an entrepreneur is to slay it in business while also giving some love to each of the other important aspects of your life. If you allow distractions throughout the day while you’re in work mode, you’ll never be able to get into family mode later on. So, stay on task and set the boundaries early on.
Once you have an actual office set up and some boundaries in place for your loved ones, it’s time to hold yourself accountable. Get organized. You are not home. You are at work. You have businesses to run; money to make. Act like it.
If you view your home office as part of your home, you are already behind the eight ball. Step into your boss mindset and treat your day like you would if you were at the office. It is now more important than ever to take the time to make a plan.
When you wake up and go to your dedicated workspace, you must be ready to roll. The best way to do that is to plan out your day the night before. Take ten minutes before bed to organize your goals for the following day. Write them down. Make sure you know which are important and which will require the most focus. Then, prioritize your goals around your optimal brain power hours.
What do I mean by that? To be efficient and productive, you must know when you are at your apex hours for the day. Apex hours are when you work at your absolute best; when you are the most focused; they are your optimization hours. Whenever that time is for you, that’s when you will do the most important work. Plan your day around this time frame.
If your best hours are in the morning, for example, do all the heavy lifting in the morning. Structure your day so that the work you need the most brainpower for will be done as soon as you get to the “office.” Then, as the day goes on, you can add in the lower-focus activities.
For example, I need absolute focus when I am writing (contracts, book edits, articles). I need total focus and zero distractions. I know I am at my best during the early morning hours and that is also when I naturally get the least amount of phone calls from staff and clients. So, I schedule these tasks first thing in the morning.
During this time, I turn my phone off for at least an hour so I can push forward. In the early afternoon, I shift to staff meetings, discovery calls, coaching calls. Later in the day when my focus starts to trail off, I plan out my social media content and respond to messages. When you structure your day around your apex hours, you are setting yourself up for success.
Once you plan out your day and write down your goals, you can easily tackle them one by one. Fully focusing on one task at a time is a guaranteed way to knock out the to-do list. Multi-tasking is your enemy. It’s fancy way to tell people you can’t give your full attention to something.
Productivity is a product of efficiency. And the only way to work efficiently is to be completely present, without distraction and without interruption.
If you remove the noise – aka the chatter of too many things happening simultaneously – your efforts will be more concentrated, allowing you to work faster. You’ll see once you let the noise fall away, you will collapse time and start to accomplish more in a short time frame.
So now, you set up a dedicated space, created boundaries for the people you live with, limited distractions and organized your day according to your highest functioning hours. But what about your staff?
It can be difficult to ensure your staff has the resources they need while working remotely. Communication is key. Touching base regularly with your staff is paramount when you are working remotely because they need to know they have access to you and have support from above.
But again, boundaries are important. You cannot get distracted with constant interruptions. Scheduling “office” hours can be a helpful way to be accessible while maintain your productivity and limiting distractions. Someone recently told me about a creative solution they use: a virtual whiteboard where staff can write down questions or problems they need help solving. Then, you will have certain points of the day where you dedicate to answering these questions.
This method serves two purposes, that are quite brilliant. First, it prevents staff from interrupting you with low-level items and incentivizes them to problem-solve on their own before coming to you for a solution. Second, it helps you time block and maintain the structure of your day, while still being assessable to your staff.
Now you have the tools you need to stay productive while working at home. Implement these ideas and you’ll be on your way to a more successful work at home scenario in no time.