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Working from home is a blessing and a (potential) curse. While you have the freedom to set your own schedule, you don’t have the provided structure of a 9-5 day job. After abandoning my position as the Operations Manager for a boutique wealth management firm of five years, I’m happy to report that this is my second year of blogging full-time. It’s been awesome, but I’ve really had to work diligently to formalize daily “bookends,” ie set routines for starting and ending my work days on the best note possible. It’s much harder to craft a sustainable routine that provides both structure and sanity to my life than I ever realized. Although my current schedule is from meticulous and/or perfect, I’ve put together ten tips for working from home for bloggers and entrepreneurs. I hope you find them useful!
10 Tips for Working from Home
1. Get Yourself Dressed Every Morning
As difficult as it may be, take a shower and get yourself dressed every morning. Do everything you can to mentally prepare yourself for a productive day at the office, even if your office is ten feet away. You don’t need to wear heels or style a new outfit– just be ready for an impromptu video conference call. Also, for bloggers specifically, there’s value in being photo ready (ie not in your pajamas) all the time. Analytics have shown that readers enjoy relatable smart phone snapshots, so you should be ready to capture quality Instagram content whenever possible!
2. Stick to a Schedule
Creating a schedule and actually sticking to it is huge. Since you don’t have the structure of a 9-to-5 day job, you have to create your own guidelines and hold yourself accountable for abiding by them. This includes waking up at the same time every morning, setting designated times for checking email, etc. Also, if you have a home office, a well-defined schedule is crucial for avoiding typical domestic distractions, like cleaning, laundry, and sudden urges to alphabetize your DVD collection.
3. Designate a Separate Office Space
I learned this the hard way, but you shouldn’t work where you play. It puts you in the wrong overly-relaxed mindset. When I first took the plunge to become a full-time blogger, I didn’t create a separate office space. Well, technically I did, but it turned out to be my living room, which turned out to be my couch and coffee table. It became way too easy to watch television while working. Also, crouching around my computer started hurting my back, which also prompted me to work less– not to mention I had absolutely no system of organization. It was a mess, and my productivity suffered greatly. Even if you live in a shoebox (like I did), find a corner and set up a teeny tiny desk. If you absolutely cannot fit an office in your space, consider a shared workspace. Trust me, it’s worth it.
You can also commit to working at a coffee shop or library every day, but remember, sticking to a schedule is key. For example, Kyle and I both work from home right now, and we make it a point to go to the library from 10-2 on my administrative days. Finding a workspace outside the home can actually be even more beneficial for those who are stimulated by the hustling and bustling of other people (chatter, traffic noise, etc).
4. Start the Day on the Best Foot Possible
Do whatever you need to do to start the day off on a positive note. I, for one, am not a happy camper without my coffee in the mornings. However, buying coffee from a coffee shop every morning can be a worthwhile albeit expensive routine. Plus, I don’t always have the time to wait in line for a shot of espresso. So, I’ve started picking up a round of Starbucks® Bottled Iced Coffees for me and Kyle every time I stop by Walgreens, and we LOVE them. They come in both Black Sweetened (made with Brewed Starbucks® Coffee, water, and sugar) and Unsweetened flavors, and they’re made with Starbucks® medium roast brew coffee, which is one of my favorite coffee roasts from Latin America.
Probably my favorite thing about Starbucks® Bottled Iced Coffee is that it was developed for the 25% of us who prefer iced coffee on-to-go without milk. I still like some sweetness to my black coffee, so the Black Sweetened flavor is my go-to. If you haven’t tried them yet, pick up a bottle next time you’re in Walgreens! They’re seriously delicious and a much more cost effective option for anyone with a morning need for premium coffee.
5. Avoid Personal Calls and Errands
You need to give yourself some boundaries in order to harness productivity (I talk a little bit more about boundaries in #6, as well). If you had a 9-to-5 day job, you wouldn’t be able to talk to your girlfriend on the phone for three hours or return something at 2PM in the middle of the work day. You would do it on your lunch break or after work. Obviously this doesn’t apply to work-related errands, but personal calls, visits, and errands should be prioritized as after-work afterthoughts.
6. Set Boundaries for Yourself and (Especially) for Others
At the end of the day, I believe our sanity is more valuable than our success. It’s crucial that we maintain a healthy work-life balance. This means setting specific office hours and simply not doing work outside of them. If your office hours are 10-7, do not open your computer at 8PM to answer an email. That time should be reserved for hanging out with your friends and family or going to the gym. Kyle and I are to the point where we intentionally leave our phones across the room at night, so we’re not tempted to check our email or Instagram every five minutes. It seems juvenile, but these tricks work– and they help you sleep better, too!
Also, I recommend that you set boundaries for friends and family members, as well… especially if you don’t live alone. As adorable as it was, we all remember the hilarious YouTube video of the news correspondent’s two kids (and later his frantic wife) bursting in while he was in the middle of a segment. Make sure you tell your family and friends when your designated office hours are and ask that they don’t disturb you during these times. A friendly “Do Not Disturb” sign is a great solution, as long as an understanding of what’s disturbance-worthy is reached. Also, as fun and innocent as “Oh, I was in the neighborhood and just wanted to stop by” visits can be, they’d be considered inappropriate in a traditional workplace, and they can potentially disrupt some of your most productive creative hours (more on this in #7).
7. Identify Your Most Creative Hours (And Harness Them)
Behavioral scientists have proven that we get a brief window of time every morning during which we’re most mentally capable of getting work done. Unfortunately, most of us waste that time. As a continuation of #6, identify when your core creative hours are. For me, it’s in the morning from about 9AM to 11AM. After two years of full-time blogging, I’ve identified that I get my absolute best work done in this small window. Nothing–and I mean nothing– should disturb me during this two-hour time block. I leave my cell phone in the other room, put on my sound-proof headphones, and get to work.
8. Get Yourself Outside
Spending time outdoors boosts our moods. It’s a fact. Also, a change of scenery can be inspiring and motivating. Go for a walk during one of your designated break times, eat your lunch on a picnic bench, or take a conference all outside. Do whatever you need to do in order to stay happy, healthy, and focused during the day.
9. Find an Online Community
Probably the hardest thing about switching from finance to blogging was the elimination of regular social interaction. I didn’t realize how much time I spent in face-to-face meetings, casually chatting with co-workers, and speaking with clients on the phone. In retrospect, I definitely took it for granted! I’m one of the biggest introverts I know, but it’s undeniably true that humans are social beings. Even though it may be uncomfortable for some of us to network or make small talk at the grocery store, we thrive in social situations. Find yourself an online community to be a part of and interact with fellow group members regularly, whether it be through email, phone, or video call.
I’m personally a member of about a dozen private Facebook groups, where we toss ideas around and discuss changes in the world of blogging casually. However, I’ve also established a core group of three other bloggers, and we schedule bi-weekly “mastermind” video conference calls to discuss issues face-to-face (thanks technology!). These strategy sessions are hugely valuable for all four of us, not only for personalized feedback but also for the routine high-quality social interaction among like-minded peers.
10. Implement Productivity Hacks
These tips for working from home are only effective assuming you already have measures in place for maximizing productivity. Even if you’re organized to the T, at the end of the day, you still gotta get your work done. Here are a few of my favorite productivity hacks that have more than tripled my work output over the past few months:
- Enabling StayFocusd, which is a Chrome browser extension that allows you to set a “time budget” for websites you’d like to avoid visiting multiple times throughout the day
- Sign Up for Last Pass, which saves time by electronically storing all 7338305 of your passwords
- Create and utilize generic email templates
- Stock up on snacks and beverages, like Starbucks® Bottled Iced Coffee at Walgreens, to keep you fueled throughout the day without having to disturb your workflow
- Stay organized with a project management system (like Asana or Evernote) that’s accessible across multiple devices
- Start the day with a 3-item to-do list
For the full list of twelve must-know productivity hacks that every blogger should know, click here!
Starbucks® on the Go Giveaway
Also, I wanted to mention that there’s a pretty sweet loop giveaway going on right now on Instagram here! If you complete the loop, you’ll have the chance to win one of 20 prize packages! 6 grand prize winners will receive a prize pack containing Starbucks® Bottled Iced Coffee (1 sweetened and 1 unsweetened), a $50 Walgreens gift card, and a Starbucks® Back Pack Cooler and Wheeled Cooler. Pretty sweet prize, right? Head over to Instagram for full contest details!
What are your tips for working from home? Any worthy techniques I left off this list? Feel free to share in the comments! Oh, and don’t forget to pick up a Starbucks® Bottled Iced Coffee next time you’re in Walgreens. I’m actually sippin’ on one right now as I finish up this post, and it’s pretty darn tasty! Hope you love them as much as I do!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Walgreens. The opinions and text are all mine.