Maintaining Productivity When You Work From Home

By Kaylin R. Staten

A growing number of Americans work from home. estimates that more than 3 percent of workers in the United States opt for at-home positions and self-employment, with that number only to increase within the next decade. The allure of flexible part-time, full-time and freelance work is all the rage, but what is it really like to work from home?

I started Hourglass Media with only my most ambitious dreams, MacBook Pro, Nikon D5000, iPhone 6 Plus, Adobe Creative Cloud software and a few binders from Office Depot. Since its humble beginnings in my childhood bedroom, my company continues to grow. (For one, we keep adding electronics to the fleet.) One of the unique aspects is that I don’t have a brick-and-mortar location -- I work from home. This is something I wanted from the very beginning. I’m a natural homebody and self-starter with a knack for leading myself with having to be lead by others. I wanted to be my own boss and only answer to my clients and the IRS.

I worked from home when it was still a bit taboo in my physical location to do so. I fielded questions from so many people who asked me what I actually did when I worked from home. I did my own personal PR campaign to show people that I was indeed working and not just sitting around watching Netflix and eating snacks in a bathrobe all day.

The bottom line is, I love waking up with the fiery passion of spearheading my own business and creating change for individuals and organizations. For me, that starts in my home office, the Maison de Hourglass.

Luckily, I can communicate from anywhere at any time. I’ve worked from Paris on a rainy Saturday, written on a deck overlooking the Chalk Sound in Turks and Caicos and checked emails in New York City. Storytelling is a worldwide venture, and for that, I am lucky. But, there is nothing like having a home base.

Whether your company’s structure allows for telecommuting position or you’ve crafted your own workload as a freelancer, consultant or CEO, there are still some best-practice tips to follow. Here are six ways to ensure that you maintain your highest levels of productivity while working from home:

Keep a regular schedule.

In the beginning, keeping a regular schedule stressed me out. After all, I was my own boss and could work whenever I wanted, right? True, but it was also making me burn the midnight oil and burn myself out rather quickly. There are times I do sleep in, but I wake up and start right to work (after brewing some coffee, of course). For me, keeping a schedule close to my husband’s allows me to work during my most productive hours of the day (usually 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.-1 p.m.), prioritize the workload and then spend time with him in the evenings. I’ll admit that time management has been an evolutionary process, one I have yet to master but I improve upon every day. I use Google Calendar to schedule meetings and project deadlines, but I still am old-school in the fact that I love writing my to-do lists in a physical planner. I downloaded Classy Career Girl’s Create Your Own Future to-do list template earlier this month, and it’s been a game changer for my productivity. Go with your own flow and do what works best for you to squash overwhelming feelings right out of the gate.

Have a dedicated space for work.

Some of us may not have the luxury of having a dedicated home office space. I’m very fortunate in that respect. My current home, Rêverie Vale (Daydream Valley), has three bedrooms, and I dedicated one of the bedrooms to Hourglass endeavors long ago during the renovation process. I’ve most certainly made it my own, down to the teal accent wall, vintage touches and displays of hourglasses, books and Leia Organa POP figures. If you don’t have an extra room to spare, set up a space in your home dedicated for just work purposes. It could be a small desk in a living room or kitchen. Keep all of your business stuff housed there. Trust me -- it makes a huge difference to keep all of your business items in one place! (And digitizing everything is a must.)

Put on actual clothing.

If you’re a lone ranger working at home, then you may not be inclined to wear a full set of clothing. By this, I mean, pants. I always feel better and at my most motivated when I’m wearing something decent. It could be a “Star Wars” graphic tee and yoga pants if I’m working at home all day. For meeting days, I wear my business casual clothing. Do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable, but please, put on some pants every day to work at your adult job, no matter where that may be. You just feel better. I sometimes even put on makeup. After all, “a girl can’t read that sort of thing without her lipstick,” à la Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Set meetings outside the office.

Skype, MyFreeConferenceCall, FaceTime, Google Duo and other webinar/video chat services are wonderful tools. I use them to communicate with clients, in addition to standard phone calls, emails, text messages and Facebook Messenger. In my line of work, it’s vital to maintain two-way communication with clients and partners. If I can, I meet them where they are, in their offices, for coffee, etc. It helps me get away from the house and office. Even as a natural introvert and practiced extrovert, I do need real human connections to help stories come to life. If you don’t have a meeting, run errands, take your dog for a walk, do something nice for yourself.

Stay healthy.

I still struggle with this one. When I get in the zone, I don’t like to step away from the work at hand. It’s vital to do this, however. You can’t just sit at your desk all day. Try to get up at least once per hour to go to the bathroom and rest your eyes and brain. Event days are always chaotic in my world, so I get adequate exercise during those days. But, let’s be honest, I don’t have the most active job in the world. So, I have to make time to exercise, whether it’s starting the day off with some yoga or going and taking a walk. Unfortunately, I can’t just walk out of my front door and take a walk because it’s a busy road without a sidewalk. I have to set aside time to exercise either in my house or drive somewhere. Needless to say, taking care of my work has always been the priority, but I’m working toward living a more healthy lifestyle. And also resist the urge to forgo the yin-yang of not eating or snacking all day. Choose healthy options for breakfast and lunch. After all, your kitchen is right there!

Limit your distractions.

I’m sensitive to everything, so there are times that it muddles my productivity. Then, I get upset and feel less motivated and enter the black hole of self-doubt and anxiety. Some things that easily distract me are the following: my cats, wanting to listen to music/watch something and work at the same time, irrelevant communications not about the topic at hand, clutter in my office and the house, a dirty bathroom, etc. I can do for days without these things aggravating me, but then, these distractions could hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s essential to limit your distractions as much as possible but also maintain a level of flexibility. Sometimes, an emergency will pop up and leave you without any checkmarks on your regularly scheduled to-do list. Try your best to go with the flow. All of us also work differently, too. What works for one may not work for the other. If music distracts you, then wait until you’re doing mundane tasks to turn on your favorite Spotify playlist. You have to be a bit of a self-starter to work from home most of the time.

Working from home has its pros and cons, but I wouldn’t change my workspace for anything. Projects come and go, are completed and another comes along, but one thing remains the same: I love having the flexibility of a home office.

Learn more about my journey by downloading our free eBook!

Copyright © MMXIX Hourglass Media, LLC

Kaylin R. Staten, APR is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer. She owns Hourglass Media, a consulting company based in Huntington, WV. 

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