After a long four year engineering course, I was more than thrilled to take a break from it all. I promised myself it would just be a year of whiling away my time before I went out into the world to try and make it on my own. But as months flew by (basically zoomed at the speed of light), I found myself cringing at the thought of working in some multinational corporate company from 9 to 5.
When I shifted to my then fiancé’s (now husband) home, he encouraged me to start working from home. The trial period didn’t have to last long before I realized, I never wanted to stop – EVER. I loved taking care of my family, cooking for my dog in the morning before settling at down at my desk with a cup of tea to read my emails. My dog (foot warmer) then cozily sleeps by my feet as I start work.
Not only is working from home fun and adventurous (as you get to choose whom you work with) but is also mightily convenient because you get to make all the rules! You can shift to your housework, anytime you please, and you can get up to eat whenever you want! That’s quite a deal-breaker if you ask me. I’ve spent nearly 1 and a half years working from home. And there are a lot of things I’ve learned in that time. Here are 10 Ground Rules to follow if you work from home:
1. Claim your work space.
Yes, it can be fun to carry your laptop throughout the house and work on your dining table/in your bed under that warm quilt/on your L shaped couch with your dog resting on your legs but trust me, it isn’t practical. You need to access your notes, you need to get your thoughts in order. And none of this feasible unless you have a desk to work on. Buy a desk that you find most comfortable to work on. Or do what I did. Make one. Design your own table. I designed mine based on what I needed to do on it. I needed to access my notes, have plenty of surface area to draw and write and also work on my laptop. So I made it like this.
2. Be comfortable.
If you’re reading, drawing or sitting for long hours, consider getting a chair that is comfortable and helps you maintain your posture. Yes, I am a sloucher but I’m trying my best to rectify it. Make sure you have plenty of light in your dedicated work space. Natural light works best of course. But if you’re in a dark environment, get a lamp. Paint the walls a lovely color, something that inspires you. Keep plants in your office. Not only are your eyes most sensitive to green, but plants release oxygen during the day and this will keep your brain active and your mind energized.
3. De-clutter and personalize your work space.
Have a space for everything. Be it your notes, your notebooks, your pens, your tools, your computer cables and hard disks. Make your work-space neat and organized so you feel like sitting down and working. Inspiration comes from many things. Keep inspirational quotes all around you to help stimulate you to work. Print a calendar to never lose track of your time.
4. Set the mood.
Get good quality speakers and work with a little music. I prefer soothing music that’s soft and melodious. You can also work with white noise. There are loads of playlists on youtube or spotify that offer café noise. Park or soft ocean waves will do too. Browse the collection till you find something you like.
5. Set a routine.
I know a lot of people (including myself) who find it difficult to rise early in the morning to work. Yes, the temptation to sleep is stronger when you see your husband curled in his blanket dreaming his happy dreams or your dog curled in a ball looking like a cream puff dreaming those happy puppy dreams but the feeling you get when you’ve accomplished shit-loads of work by 9:00 am is priceless. Try your best to wake up early so you get uninterrupted hours of work.
Set a time table. This is crucial if you are working from home. I work from 7:00am to 12:00pm. I then make lunch and continue my household chores before sitting at my desk again. I then work from 2:00pm to 6:00pm. Sometimes longer if my husband is away. Experiment with different time periods until you find one that works best for you.
6. Plan your day.
This goes without saying. Waking up early in the morning without a plan is a waste. Use whatever you find comfortable to plan your day. I use my BanDo Agenda and Planner Pro which I’ve purchased for a yearly fee of INR300 ($5). You can also fill in all your tasks on a pretty piece of paper called the Daily Plan. It’s totally worth it. I love making little lists which I can scratch off every time I’ve accomplished a task. It’s like a pat on the back for finishing your duties. It’s quite rewarding.
7. Take little breaks.
Remember to sharpen the axe once in a while. Don’t get too busy cutting trees without taking a very meaningful break. Straighten your back, walk around, chase your pet, get a snack, watch a small episode of your favorite TV series. Do whatever, but get off your chair. Not only does this refresh your mind, but it may also inspire you to give you some much-needed ideas. Don’t work for longer than 1 hour at a time. You tend to lose focus and work more slowly.
8. Break away from social media.
The major con of working from home means, having no one to answer to. Yes, this is also a pro. But having no one to answer to means not being able to say “no” to distractions. Every email popup, every facebook notification needn’t be attended to ASAP. No. Have fixed timings for checking your email. I check mine thrice a day. Once in the morning, again after lunch, and lastly once more before sleeping at night. I’ve turned off my Facebook notifications to put all my distractions to rest. Especially when Candy Crush notifies me that I have 5 new lives. Oh, how sweet thy tempting apple is…
9. Make time for family.
However tempting it might be to sit at your desk and eat your lunch hurriedly so you can browse youtube or catch up with your email, don’t. Nuh-uh. No way. If you have a family, sit down with them. Give them your time. Set aside some hours in the evening to go for a walk with them, or just talk to them. Without your phone. Without your electronics.
Look into their eyes and have a goddamn meaningful conversation. Do not get so wrapped up with your work that you forget what’s really important. Talk about your work, but don’t centralize around it. Speak about ideas. Ask them what they did all day. Make them feel important. Unless you learn to separate your work life from your home life, you can never become successful. Nope.
10. Get outside the house once in a while.
By once in a while, I mean once a day. Yes. Go out into the sunshine and take a nice brisk walk. Go out and ride your bike. Or sprint with your beloved and pooch. You can even club your chores with this. I usually get out of the house for a nice walk and buy some groceries when all else fails to inspire me to get some fresh air. I try my best to not take the car even though it’s convenient to not get a bad sunburn. I take a break to read a book once in a while. I love that crisp paper touch of page turning and I most definitely cannot resist that quaint book smell. Do what you love doing but don’t let that stop you from having a life outside your work space.
It is definitely not easy to start incorporating all these tips in one day. But that’s okay. Take your time to slowly start getting comfortable with your routine in order to find what works best for you. Maximizing your productivity gets easier and easier as you get accustomed to your routine. If you have any tips that work for you, do drop a comment below. I will see you again next week, folks!