3 Things That Help You Work From Home Effectively

Business.com / Human Resources / Last Modified: March 7, 2017

Set yourself up for success when working from home by taking advantage of these three useful tips.

In 2017, there are plenty of roles and businesses that allow someone to work remotely. Today, it’s not only easier than ever before to work from your home (or anywhere, really), but it’s also increasingly common. In a 2013 article on Forbes suggests that more than 30 million Americans work from home.

In my case, transitioning to working from home full-time was a rewarding experience, but also one that came with a few challenges that I hadn’t anticipated:

  • Remaining disciplined (and avoiding the many distractions in my home).
  • Establishing clarity between myself and my colleagues regarding deliverables and communications expectations.
  • Learning how to separate my workspace from my personal space (important for both productivity and maintaining a healthy work/life balance).

Discipline is Far More Important Than Motivation

How many times have you caught yourself wrapped up in some kind of distraction instead of completing your task? The number of distractions that you can succumb to are enormous (this is especially true when working from home), and while these distractions might give you a quick dopamine kick or an enjoyable way to pass time, they also prevent you from completing your work efficiently.

Far too often I hear people lament their lack of motivation. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to delay work or put off deadlines because you lack the desire to get the work done. Unfortunately, working from home can exacerbate this bad habit. You won’t always have the motivation to keep going, so you need to rely on something else to ensure that you complete your work. This is where discipline comes in.

Discipline Gets Things Done

Motivation makes it much easier to stay on task, but you don’t need motivation to get to work. I’ve learned a lot about how to be productive when working from home, and in my experience, the most important component of productivity is simply getting (and staying) on task. If you lack the motivation to get started or stay on task, discipline is what will help see you through.

Build Enough Discipline to Complete a Minute of Work

There are a lot of ways to build discipline, and determining which works best for you is something that only you can do. I follow the “give it a minute” approach, and if you find yourself light in the discipline department, I recommend you give it a try.

It works like this:

  • Sit down at your workstation with the understanding that you’re there to work.
  • Make a note of the time and start working.
  • After just 60 seconds, assess your progress. If you’ve done anything -- anything at all -- keep working and finish what you’ve started.

In my case, after a minute I’ve usually got enough done that, at least psychologically, it empowers me to keep working. Even if all I’ve done is read a memo or start a document outline, I find it much easier to stay on task once I’ve decided to start the task.

Establish Clarity Regarding Deliverables and Expectations

When you work with other people, this piece is critical. Misconceptions, miscommunication and uncertainty can quickly derail an otherwise productive environment.

Clearly Communicate With Your Colleagues

When you work remotely, communication is key. This is especially true in any role or organization where teamwork and collaboration are required. Adopting a couple of processes that facilitate effective communication will help ensure your productivity, even when working with a team of people that you rarely see.

  • Be clear with deadlines, and establish them in writing. I clearly call out the day, date and time I intend to deliver. This eliminates any potential confusion between myself and other stakeholders. 
  • Leverage collaborative tools to keep stakeholders informed. - Using project management software (such as Basecamp) is an excellent way to keep a project organized. Not only can you call out specific tasks and deadlines, but you can also keep all parties informed of progress on a forum that everyone can access.

Create a Defined Workspace

Working from home doesn’t mean that you’re going to spend the rest of your life working in your underwear from your living room. You can try, but I bet you won’t last long.

Set a Dedicated Workspace

It’s easy to get distracted when you set up shop on your kitchen table or the living room sofa. Save yourself a lot of frustration (and missed deadlines) by setting yourself up for success: give yourself somewhere to work.

You don’t need to have a home office to be productive (though it certainly helps), but you do need to have a space that you identify as your work area.

  • Keep your workspace clean, organized, and free of recreational items.  It’s hard not to get distracted when your desk is covered in old pop cans and dirty plates. Conversely, it’s also hard to stay on task when your workstation has items that will distract you (think: game console controllers, magazines, etc.).
  • Limit distractions. Wear headphones to drown out background noise and ensure that your workstation is comfortable to work from.
  • Keep this area reserved for work. If your workspace is also where you relax for the evening, the line between work and play can get blurred pretty quickly. If possible, ensure that where you work isn’t in the same room as where you sleep. The mental separation between the two spaces will help them be more effective for their intended purpose.

Habits Form Quickly

By leveraging the three points above, you’ll give yourself every advantage you need to enjoy working from home. They make take some time to get used to, but the payoff is worth it. Before you know it, you’ll have an established routine that will make your home office an effective and productive one.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/AstroStar

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