How to Stay Creative and Productive While Working at Home
If you’re one of the many creative freelancers working from their home, you know how difficult it can sometimes be to get any work done.
Sure, you don’t have to make a dreadful commute to an office every morning or deal with horrible bosses on a daily basis or put up with your coworkers’ shenanigans. However, that doesn’t mean working from home is a cake walk.
There are plenty more opportunities to get distracted, be lazy, and lose any sense of motivation you have when you work from home.
In my experience, I’ve learned a few simple tricks that have helped me stay on track even when the couch is calling my name. I’d like to share them with you.
1) Make Your Bed.
Wake up early. Shower. Get dressed in real clothes (not just sweat pants and a dirty t-shirt). In other words, get into a routine that does not allow you to just wander around your house “looking for something to do.” Create the conditions in which you’ll just have to get your work done.
By making your bed, – or doing any type of routine that kick starts your workday – you give yourself a subconscious reminder that sleepy-time is over and now “it’s time to get stuff done.”
2) Don’t Give in to Laziness.
Working from home means that there’s nothing to stop you from just laying on the sofa and watching reruns of ‘Friends.’ You work when you want, however you want.
However, this lack of structure also means that it becomes very easy for you to make compromises in your work ethic. It becomes very easy to just say “I’ll do something later” because a nap seems so much easier than working in Photoshop for the next 6 hours.
Fight this urge to be lazy. Just because you can do something later, it doesn’t mean you should. Maybe you want to do it later because you know how difficult it will be. That’s OK. But you have to realize that the thing you don’t want to do won’t get any easier the longer you wait. Instead of not doing anything, start doing the easier, smaller things and work up to the task you wanted to put off. Often, you’ll notice that it’s actually not as hard as you thought it was going to be.
3) Do the Boring Stuff.
If you’re looking for a mind-blowing epiphany and you’re finding it hard to come up with great ideas for your work, do the work that doesn’t seem exciting to you first; the work that you can do without even really thinking too hard.
Respond to emails, send out invoices, organize your work space. These may all feel unproductive and just “busy-work” — and that may be true in some cases. It’s not exciting or ground-breaking work, creatively speaking, but neither is the “nothing” you’re not working on.
By doing “busy-work” you’ll not only be getting something done, but you’ll also open yourself up to opportunities for your brain to wander into more creative thinking patterns. By going through the motions of “work,” pretty soon you’ll find yourself doing something really cool.
Think about all the great ideas you’ve gotten while shaving or taking a shower. These are boring, everyday things we do naturally without thinking too much. While we’re doing these mundane activities, our minds are free to wander into some pretty cool territory while still getting something done. Soon, some really great ideas present themselves and you’ll find yourself really motivated to work on them.
4) Structure Your Time.
There’s that notion that when you work at home, you can (and should) do anything you want, whenever you want as long as you meet your deadlines. This is a lie.
Think about how much time you actually spend recovering from your “work breaks.” When you’re working on something important, and you let yourself take a 3 hour break, you end up losing all of your momentum and you’ll find that it takes a while to get started on your work again. Switching between work and play is not like flipping a switch.
Set some kind of structure for your time. Divide work and play. When you’re in an office, that’s automatically done for you as soon as you walk in the door. At home, you have to consciously tell yourself what time you have for work and what time you have for just chilling out.
By setting a distinct time for work and a distinct time for play, you allow yourself to be more balanced and you’ll allow yourself more intensity in the way you treat either aspect of your life. Work is WORK, and play is PLAY. Capital W and capital P. Neither should suffer for the sake of the other.
5) Know Your Distractions and Fix Them.
As opposed to working in an office — where someone is always looking over your shoulder, working at home opens you up to getting sidetracked much easier. That’s because no one else around to tell you “no.”
For instance, when I’m doing emails or when I’m researching for an article online, I noticed that I had a rather severe problem of always getting sucked into weird youtube holes and wikipedia spirals, wasting hours of my time. When 3 hours go by just looking up the meaning of “filigree” and I end up in a Wikipedia entry about the Bridge of the Americas, it was clear that something had to be done even though I learned so much wonderful trivia.
I knew I couldn’t keep getting sidetracked every time I needed to get some work done at home so I simply blocked my own access to “certain websites” during the times when I’m supposed to be working. I use this chrome extension. I do wish I had a better work ethic but doing this works for me.
If you find yourself being distracted by useless things, find ways to make it more difficult for you to get distracted. If you find yourself getting distracted by the awesome music playing on your Spotify or Pandora, just turn them off. Work in silence. It’s not a big deal because you can listen to your music later and really enjoy it then. If you find that you get distracted by notifications about people liking your photos on Instagram, turn off notifications. It’s harsh, for sure, because you end up being your own party-pooper but it might be something you have to do. Besides, see #4 above.
I’ve worked at an office job and I’ve worked at home. And while it always seemed like a dream to work at home, I’ve realized that it does have its own pros and cons just like any job. To some extent, working at home, for yourself, can sometimes be more difficult than working at an office.
The lack of structure means that everything you do or don’t do is entirely in your hands. The key is to figure out what works for you and to keep doing it until it becomes a habit. It’s tough and it’s not always fun. But that’s a small price to pay for getting things done.
I know I’ve only scratched the surface and I’m sure all of you have some really great advice and tips about working at home. Share them with us in the comments section below!