When I quit my full time job in June 2012, I was beyond excited. My whole drive while working on my side business and balancing my job was the fact that, very soon, I’d have back my time so I could do with it as I wanted — working when I wanted without having to justify taking a 3 hour break in the middle of the day…
That first week was a blur… I would lay in bed till about 10am, reading Facebook posts and pinning on Pinterest, not getting up and starting the day till nearly midday. Not exactly the height of productivity here!
By the second week, I was starting to feel like a hamster on a wheel… I was unmotivated, stressed, lacking creativity, and struggling to deliver the freelance work I’d been contracted to do.
I remember thinking, “Working from home is meant to be all kinds of awesome, so why doesn’t it feel that way at all?”
The reason? Hello Lise, you didn’t set yourself up for success to begin with…
If you want to avoid getting into the same situation, follow (and implement) the tips below so that you are productive and creative while working from home.
#1: Set Work Hours
When I started out as a full time freelance writer, I loved the work I was doing, so much so, that I was working crazy hours, 7 days a week.
I’d also not long entered into a serious relationship and that wasn’t going so well. Mainly because I was working stupid hours and not able to spend as much time with this new person in my life.
This is not sustainable and definitely not healthy. If you want to avoid burnout early on in your entrepreneurial career, you need to set yourself some boundaries.
For me, that meant setting specific work hours, with as much flexibility within those hours to pick and choose what I was doing. It also forced me to focus on what I was doing and to stop wasting time on social media when I should be working.
There is a great book I’d recommend checking out, called The Productive Person. It helped me to create a schedule that I could stick to, that had built-in time off as well as dedicated blocks of working time. It will definitely help you create your ideal working day.
#2: Use the Right Tools
One of the best things about working from home, is that you can literally work whenever you want to.
However, if you don’t want to burn yourself out and alienate those around you who want to spend time with you, then you need to make sure that you’ve got the right tools to help you stay on task when you’re meant to be working.
My Top 5 Productivity Tools
- Todoist: you will love me forever once you check this out. It goes beyond your average to-do list and provides you with label (tags) functionality, color-coding for different projects, the ability to add notes and invite others to be part of a task or project. On top of all of this, it also provides you with data on how productive you’ve been…
- The Pomodoro Technique: if you struggle to stay focused more than an hour at a time, you’ll love this technique and app. The basics are that you set a timer for 25 minutes and work your butt off in that time, focused on one task until the timer rings, then you take a 5 minute break. Rinse and repeat as often as you need to get singular tasks completed.
- Freedcamp: one of the only true free project management apps available, I use this to keep track of all my client-related projects. It allows me to create tasks associated to the project, invite my clients to participate and collaborate on tasks as well as integrating with my Google calendar so I can keep track of deadlines. Without a doubt, one of the best productivity apps I’ve used. Another option to consider is Trello, it has similar capabilities to Freedcamp, but is not as clean as Freedcamp. It comes down to personal preference and having used both, I prefer Freedcamp.
- Focus@Will: do you find yourself easily distracted by the noise around you? Me too, which is why I love this app. It is a bit of a combo deal, in that it incorporates a timer + music to keep you focused on the task at hand. Backed by scientific research, Focus@Will has been the best app that has made the single biggest impact on my productivity.
- The Self Journal: this is not an app. In fact, it’s a physical product, but one that I can’t recommend enough, particularly if you like the physicality of writing stuff down. Filled with undated pages so that you can pick and choose when you use it, a 13-week goal tracking calendar to keep you on task as well as daily quotes to inspire you. It’s simplicity is what makes it so powerful.
Use all or just a few of these tools and you’ll be the master of your own productivity and wondered how you survived without them.
#3: Eat The Frog
As you get more comfortable with your working from home lifestyle, you can also grow complacent, and start to put off things that you should be doing, particularly things that take a long time to execute.
Six months into my full time freelancing career, I found that I had this to-do list of ongoing tasks that just didn’t seem to be getting done.
They were things like:
- Add a lead magnet to my blog
- Create an email sequence for my newsletter subscribers
- Add this month’s expenses to the Google spreadsheet
You get the drift. I’d keep adding them to my daily tasks and then simply move them to the next day because I couldn’t be ‘bothered’ dealing with them.
I’d had enough of seeing the same tasks on my to-do list that I decided to try and figure out how I can just get these tasks done… enter the concept of “eat the frog.”
I read about this from a blog post I discovered by Brian Tracy. In it, he talks about doing the things you hate the most, first thing in the morning, before you do anything else, even before you open your emails!
This is called “eating the frog” and forces you to just deal with whatever it is and then you’re not worrying about it or dreading it for the rest of the day.
#4: Get Out
So we’ve pretty much covered how we’re going to be productive, but what about being creative? How do you fuel your creative juices when you’re hanging around at home, day in, day out?
This was something I really struggled with initially. Again, I thought I would love working from home, and I did (and still do) but I also like a bit of variety to break up the seemingly mundane.
To achieve this, I just started going to my local cafe and working from there for a few hours. I found that this actually fueled my creative juices and the ambient noises surrounding me really inspired my writing.
I loved the sounds of the baristas making coffee, of regulars coming in for their fix for the day, chatting with the staff about what happened on The Voice last night, that sort of thing.
So I’d encourage you to get out and about too, at least once or twice a week. Hit your local cafe, co-working space or library and immerse yourself in a different location and see what inspires you.
#5: Surround Yourself With Inspiration
I’m really lucky to have a dedicated office at home, what’s not so lucky is that it doesn’t have any windows! It’s one of those horrible internal offices in an apartment, so natural light is nada.
It can be hard to get creative when you’re surrounded by the same three walls all day, so if you’re like me and less than inspired by your home office, surround yourself with inspiring things instead.
For me, that means having a lot of color (we lease our place, so no chance of painting a wall!) in what I put on the wall, as well as having inspiring quotes and images to inspire me.
I have a vision board as well that is full of color and I’m constantly adding to my wall of inspiration with more colors and words to inspire.
Being creative doesn’t always consistently happen when you want it to, but by surrounding yourself with inspiration, it does make it easier to tap into it when you need to.
Working from home is one of the best decisions I ever made. It can be the same for you as well, if you just implement some of the tips outlined above to make your own little productive and creative haven, right in your own home.
Guest Author Bio: Lise Cartwright is a Freelance Writer, Full-Time Author, and Coach who’s on a mission to help others be successful in their side hustle or freelancing career utilizing sites like Upwork, Fiverr, Etsy and Amazon. You can connect with her on Pinterest and Twitter, where she shares even more tips and tricks.
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