When people find out that I work from home as a freelance writer, one of the most common reactions I get is that they’re envious because not only do I not have to rush out to an office amidst the rat race every day, I must also have some very strong willpower and a great work ethic. Countless people have told me, “I could never work from home. I’m not disciplined enough to do it.”
You know what? I usually wash my dishes by 3 pm and I have a mountain of dirty laundry that could possibly rival K2. I’m definitely not the most disciplined person in the world. I’m notoriously lazy and can easily put things off until they reach critical mass. However, over the time that I’ve been working from home, I’ve developed some habits that help me to stay on track with work and deadlines most of the time. Here are some tips if you’re just starting out and don’t know how to actually make yourself work when you should be.
1. Don’t sleep in indefinitely. One great thing is that I no longer have to get up by 6 am like I used to once upon a time. However, there have been mornings where I’ve been exceptionally tired and have allowed myself to lounge around in bed until 9 or 10 am. Those days are consistently the ones where I have the most trouble getting and staying motivated. That’s when I find myself still hard at work at 11 pm, because I’ve slacked off so much that I have to play catch-up. Working at 11 pm isn’t fun. If I get up and get moving at a decent hour, I’m more likey to be very productive and those are the days I find myself finished with wirk by 2 or 3 pm, leaving me a great deal of time to do things I want to do.
2. The earlier the start, the better. In keeping with the above, if I can get even a little bit of work done very early in the day, I find it has a steamroller effect. When my oldest daughter was in school this year, I had to wake her up at 6:30 in order to leave by 7:30. I found that if I could get just one lone task done for work while she ate breakfast, even if it was a little task, it helped propel me forward. There was something about coming back fro mdropping her off at school and finding something checked off my to-do list before 8 am that was exceptionally motivating. Some days I found myself wrapping up by lunch time, finished for the entire day, just because of one little push early on.
3. Get dressed. Everyone thinks it’s great to work in your pajamas. I find it’s not as wonderful as it sounds. In theory, sure, but in reality I always find that if I get dressed right away, I’m more in a work frame of mind. It doesn’t have to be a suit, just something I would be comfortable wearing out of the house. Pajamas are tied in to relaxing. You don’t want to relax, you want to get your work done.
4. Eat well. It’s far too easy to hit 5 pm and realize you’ve been existing on cookies and ice cream. Don’t fall into the trap of neglecting your diet. Eat proper, healthy snacks, and take the time to eat lunch. Your blood sugar will thank you for it and you’ll be better equipped to work.
5. Take your lunch and breaks away from your desk. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that you have to chain yourself to your work. When you’ve done some work and need a break, get up. Go for a walk outside, head into another room, do something that is away from whatever you use as a home office. At lunch, resist the temptation to eat at your desk while you do a few things. You deserve to sit at your kitchen table and eat properly. Taking a proper break will make you less resentful about the work you have to do.
6. Sleep like you would if you had an office job. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. just because you don’t have to get up and go anywhere in the morning. If you needed eight hours of sleep when you were in the office, treat yourself the same way. Staying up too late because you don’t feel like you need to worry about it leads to sleeping in the next morning, which brings us full circle to point number one.
What do you do to help you feel more disciplined when you work from home?