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The Paradox of Working from Home

I love working from home, but it isn’t the best fit for everyone. Many people are either working completely from home or working from home a few days a week. There are two main issues with working from home: 1) not being able to focus and 2) letting your focus consume you. It has taken some trial and error for me to find my own solutions to both of these issues. Here are some helpful tips on both fronts:

Create your space

Not everyone has the space to have a designated office at home, but dividing your workspace from your personal space is important because it creates a mental separation for you (and anyone else in your home) between work and non-work. Set up some designated work space where you do only work. Make sure your space is comfy and inviting; this helps get you in there, so you will actually use it. At first I did a lot of work from my couch or bed (see “get dressed” below). While it was amazing to get back in bed in the morning with my computer or snuggle up on the couch with some HGTV as background noise, I found that doing work outside of my designated area actually made it harder to stop. I would often look at the clock and realize that it was 1pm and I was still in bed, or that 8 episodes of House Hunters had passed me by (…again). Having separate work and non-work space will help you shut it down when it is time to stop.

Make a schedule

Being at home often means that you can get distracted with other things that need to be done (e.g., laundry, dishes, etc). Being able to do these things is one of the greatest perks about working from home, but don’t let them distract you from your work. Create a schedule for yourself that allows for some designated time to do these things. This can also be a great way to break up your day. Perhaps have an appointment on your calendar that reminds you to take a mid-morning “unload the dishwasher” break, or an afternoon “walk the dog” break. As mentioned above, it is easy to get going on something and then not know how much time has passed. Without co-workers there to distract you, you can easily “get in the zone” and then before you know it, it is 4pm and you haven’t eaten lunch, or moved at all in the last five hours. Set some clear break times and stick to them. Put them on your calendar, set a timer, or follow the “get moving” prompts on the fitness tracker of your choice. Having designated space will also help a ton with this. Set a time when your day begins and ends, mark that time by entering/exiting your workspace.

Get dressed

This is another way to draw a line between work and non-work. I am not saying that you need to put on your pumps, tie, or pencil skirt to sit around the house. I actually just make a point of putting on my workout clothes instead of my pajamas (my life is rough, I know), washing my face, and getting my hair into some sort of order. This transition makes it feel more like a work day and less like a weekend day. I am not proud to admit it, but when I first started to work from home there were many days where my husband would come home to find me in the exact same clothes as when he left (when I was still in bed with my computer). It was only too easy to roll out of bed, grab coffee and my computer, go back to bed, and start working. Getting dressed (workout clothes are an acceptable form) helps break the day into work/non-work. This also helps me get to the gym, which is another great way to break up your day. Once I have my workout clothes on I feel obligated to work out.

Get out of the house

For some people (even with all of the tips above) your home is just too distracting. In that case, getting out of the house can be a great way to get focused. Set up a routine where you spend some dedicated time at a coffee shop or check out one of the many co-working spaces that are popping up across the state and country. Getting out of the house is also a good way to break up your day and create deliberate start/stop times for your work. Work some outside-of-the-house-time into your schedule to create boundaries on projects that you know may suck you in. e.g. “I am going to spend three hours at the coffee shop working on my newsletter content each day until it is done.”

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