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At the end of each working day, I turn the sign on my home office door from “open” to “closed” and then walk down the hall and go to dinner.
I've been working from home for almost 15 years now. And now, because of the health crisis, I'm less alone in this experience than ever before. While work can sound idyllic from home – the visions of working all day in pajamas – it has its own unique challenges that are sometimes difficult to predict.
For most people who work from home, there are two major challenges.
You stay productive.
The other thing is that your work does not take over your whole life.
In the 15 years I have worked from home, I have developed an arsenal of 10 hacks, with which I can mostly master these two challenges. I've taught these hacks to many other people in my consulting practice and they just work!
No system is perfect, but I find that these strategies help you be extremely productive from home while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Protect your time
There's a strange thing that happens when people find out that you don't go to the office every day. They start inviting you to things during the day when you have to work.
I've met some people who can really lead a flexible lifestyle and don't have fixed hours, but most people who work from home have to make sure they don't say yes to things that affect their hours.
Live on your calendar
This ties in with the last tip, but is somewhat different. Plan everything on your calendar. I'm using the Google calendar, but you can use the Apple calendar, Outlook calendar, etc. Heck, I know some people who still use pen and paper calendars.
The key is to hide the time for everything you have on your schedule. If you work with an hour lunch break from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., enter this. If you exercise three times a week, enter that.
Letting your calendar determine what you're doing at a particular point in time means making a lot of decisions and most people are far more productive.
Even though I am self-employed and own my own company, I still have one boss: my calendar.
Get out of your house
When working from home, leaving your home can often seem like too much effort. The errands you normally get on the way home from the office are often postponed.
However, leaving your home is important for most people in order to maintain their productivity.
To go for a walk. Sit on your porch with your laptop and enjoy the sun. Do something that you enjoy outside the four walls of your home.
Related: How to work effectively from home during a pandemic
Delimitation of home and working hours
In the intro to this article, I talked about the sign I have on the door of my home office. It says "open" on one side and "closed" on the other. When I work I set it to open and when I am not I set it to closed. You can get an open / closed sign at the local office store. As silly as that sounds … it really works if you commit to not working when the sign says "Closed".
When you work from home, it's easy to want to look productive and incorporate your work into your private life. But next, burn the midnight oil and wonder where the day has gone.
When I work from home, I am much more productive and happy when I have clear boundaries between work and private life.
Concentrate on the task at hand
It took a long time for me to master it. When you work from home, your environment can be much more distracting than when you work in an office. If you enjoy your work and don't want to be stressed all the time, it's important to focus on the task you're doing and then move on to something else.
Focus is a skill that can be learned and that is worth learning.
Get website blocker software
Most people who work from home work on their computers. It is very tempting to quickly check Facebook, watch a YouTube video or read a short message. Before you know it, a quick review turns into 20 minutes, 30 minutes or more. Of course, this doesn't help you get your job done, impress your boss, or make money.
If you routinely want to surf the Internet instead of working, you should seriously consider purchasing one of the many website blocking programs available on the market. There are many extensions for Chrome that work well. I personally like StayFocused because of its flexibility.
Get dressed real
While it's the fantasy that many people dream of working in their PJs all day, the reality is that for most people I know, getting dressed as if you're going to work can do a lot to be in the right mood to work.
I think that when I look presentable, I work harder and smarter than in pajamas.
See also: 10 tips from CEOs for effective and happy work from home
Track your time
It is VERY easy to waste time when you work from home. One thing that really helps is using a time tracking app. I've found that simply recording the time you spend on each task can help add an element of accountability to the place you spend your time and be far more productive.
I like the toggle chrome extension. It is easy to use and does the job.
Get up and move
Hanging a monitor all day is terrible for your back and your body. Most people do it better if they take a few minutes every few hours to go for a short walk or do a short task around the house.
If you use a productivity system like the Pomodoro technology, it will be automatically integrated into your schedule. My Apple Watch also reminds me to get up ten minutes before each hour and take a break.
Take your time for joy
When planning your calendar, make sure you include things you enjoy. That could be cooking a nice dinner, doing a craft project, or visiting with those you love.
All work and no game is good for no one. If you plan in joy, you can look forward to something and recharge your batteries so you can work productively when you get back to work.
As I mentioned earlier, the calendar is my boss. Fortunately, my boss asks me to do things that I enjoy.
Regardless of whether you work from home for years or like many other people are still preparing to work from home, these tips can help you work more productively, set work-life limits and work from home take time to enjoy life. Try one, two, or all ten and find out which ones work for you.
Related Topics: 3 Ways Strong Executives Can Support Work-from-Home Employees