As much as I would love to have this blog focus only on home business opportunities, it’s also important to discuss the more practical sides of working online jobs from home. After I finally left my job to build up an online business I was left with a big question, how do I stay focused, creative and productive while working from home?
For the last four years I have been working as the lead engineer of a successful internet company. I had my own office which was very colorful, beautifully decorated and had lots of light. Trying to stay focused or creative was not a problem.
Before that I was going to school full time earning a B.A. in Computer Science. During those three years I spent much of my time working at my home office. I was very thankful for the time I had at home but my focus was lacking.
My home office at the time was really just a desk within our master bedroom. It’s difficult to work in a place which is also used to rest in. I also was not ready for the distractions that came my way. My two boys were only three and five years old at the time and they did not fully understand why at certain times of the day daddy had to be left alone to work.
Now after four years of working out in town I am finally blessed again with the chance of working from home again. I knew right away that I had to create some rules of edict for my “home office” in order to stay diligent with the work I had to get done and to prevent at home distractions.
Here are some of the helpful tips I have run across to help keep you focused, creative and productive while working from home.
Be Diligent in Everything
This by far is the biggest governing factor for all that you do. Once you set the rules for working at home, be diligent to follow them. The first time you break one of your own rules it will be easier to break it the next time. It helps to have an accountability partner to keep you on track until your new working lifestyle becomes a habit.
Set the Alarm Clock
One of the biggest misconceptions most people get from people who are self employed is the idea that all stay up late and sleep in. While it is true that working from home or being self-employed does allow flexibility when it comes to working hours, you still need to work. After all, the bills are not going to pay themselves.
Set the alarm clock just as you would with a normal job. Go to bed at a decent time so you will not be tempted to hit the perpetual snooze button in the morning. Make getting up at a specific time non-negotiable.
Set Daily Goals
The first thing I do in the morning after sitting down in front of my computer is to set daily goals. This is important to help keep me focused throughout the day. Setting goals is like keeping a financial budget. My wife and I learned from early on that if we don’t keep track of our money by the end of the month it always seemed to vanish into thin air. Time can be the same way. If you’re not setting goals it can be easy to get side tracked onto other tasks and by the end of the day you find yourself scratching your head trying to figure out where all the time went.
Setting daily goals will help keep you and your projects on track.
Set attainable daily goals that align with the overall project time line.
I am currently using keep.google.com for my simple daily TODO lists. There are all kinds of cool tracking programs out there, but keep.google.com is simple, straight to the point and can be accessed from multiple devices.
Create a Daily Schedule
Having a set schedule is important to help keep you focused and diligent in your daily work cycle. You are your own boss which means you will have to set your own working hours, break and lunch times.
Here is an example of my daily work routine I have set up:
- 7am – 8am : Family Time, Breakfast
- 8am – 2pm: Work
- 2pm – 3pm: Lunch and Exercising
- 3pm – 6pm: Work
- 6pm – 8pm: Family Time, Dinner
- 8pm – 10pm: Second Wind. Work, Promotions, Linkbacking
My most productive time during the day seems to be in the morning and then at night. Maybe it’s my age, but around 2-4pm my brain turns off. Then toward the evening I get a second wind.
Working from home does give you the advantage of setting your own working hours, but once you do, stay diligent to the schedule you have set.
Prevent Burn Out – Take Breaks
It’s difficult to NOT work on your online business 99% of the time in the beginning. Everything seems to need your attention and you’re bursting with ideas. If you’re not producing a survivable income the temptation to work 24/7 is all the more driving. This can be very dangerous for you, your family and the business.
I have talked to a lot of people that are currently working from home and the general consensus is to ensure that you divide your personal life from your work life.
- Take breaks
- Make sure you have carved out enough time with your family
- Keep weekends free of work
Doing these things will help prevent initial burn out and frustrations.
Separate Your Work and Play Areas
I love to play games and watch movies when I relax. My work computer needs to be pretty beefy for development. So it can be easy to use my beefcake work computer for my games and movie watching. In my experience, that’s a slippery slope. The two simply do not and should never mix.
Keep your work on your work computer and your entertainment on a different device. I am now getting into the habit of watching stuff on my tablet and leaving my work computer as only a work computer.
Lunch and break in a different room from where you work. It can be too easy to eat lunch at your desk. While the intention is to increase productivity by working while you eat, all it ever does is frustrate and cause an early day burn out.
Set Up A Productive Work Environment
For me, my working environment is the biggest factor of all for my creativity. My last job I worked in an environment that fostered creativity. I had an office with a window that brought in lots of light and fresh air. Contrast that with my home office which is nothing but a small corner nestled out of our main bedroom. The dungeon. It’s hard getting the same level of creativity I had working in my office out in town. The movie “Joe Vs the Volcano” epitomized the office nightmare environment at the start of the movie. For some reason I always think of that when I look at my current home office.
If you already have a room dedicated for your home office, that’s fantastic <golf clap>. If you’re like me and you are sharing the master bedroom, I feel your pain. There are some things you can do to help add a little more creativity to the space.
Light. Lots of Light. Set up accent lighting all around your work desk to help give the allusion of working next to a window. If you feel like you’re working in an old dark, dank cave, then your work is going to reflect that. Also try to replace a few of the “soft” light bulbs around your working area with natural light bulbs. You could also try to strategically place a few mirrors to reflect the natural light around the room from some of your windows.
Change your work location. Being able to change locations is a fantastic way to keep your working environment fresh and creative. You dont have to be tied down to a desktop computer. Invest into a tablet or a laptop in addition to your main work computer. Be variable with your locations to keep your creativity on a high.
Reduce Noise Distractions
So here I am, knee deep into development of the next ground breaking app and I hear my two younger sons fighting over a toy. My concentration has been broken, I forgot where I was at and most importantly, it’s going to take some time to get back into the mode.
There are all kinds of distractions you will run into working from home, the most being in the form of noise. Even now I hear a chain saw from a neighbor down the street which is reminding me of the three cords of wood I still need to cut for this upcoming winter.
To help alleviate these sound distractions I usually vie for one of three solutions:
- White Noise. If I really need to concentrate then I’ll run a fan in my room. The constant white noise tends to drown all the other noise around our house out.
- Music. I have a huge collections of all kinds of music just for working. The style changes based on the type of work being done. Soundtracks and Classical for content writing or deep thinking. Lyric based music for mundane tasks.
- Noise Canceling. Noise canceling headphones are a great way to kill most if not all the noise around you. I have had a few in the past, you get what you pay for.
What are you doing to stay focused, creative and productive working on your home business opportunities or online jobs from home?