How To Stay On Track When Working At Home

When you work from home, you understand how easy it is to spend the whole day striving to complete all the work you need to get done, only to feel frustrated, resentful and exhausted at the many roadblocks in your way. Maybe your family interrupts your work just as you get in the zone, or you find yourself constantly switching tasks. Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed and sluggish, so it’s a work-in-your-pyjamas, eat-cereal-for-dinner kind of day.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! There are some easy changes you can make today that will help you provide stellar service without the stress and make working 9 to 5 more productive, enjoyable and healthy.

Set a consistent work schedule

When you work from home, it can be difficult for your family, neighbours, friends and others to understand that just because your car is in the driveway, doesn’t mean you’re on vacation! Between staying on top of those household chores, spending time with the family, ensuring your work is completed with i’s dotted and t’s crossed and building in that ever-important work-life balance and down time, it can be difficult to keep everyone and everything on track.

That’s why setting and articulating expectations (and reinforcing them through action) is key to successfully working from home. Before you create your schedule, you’ll want to:

  • Consider your responsibilities on the home front

  • Track which times of day are most productive for you (are you a morning person, afternoon warrior or night owl?)

  • Discuss your clients’ needs and availability with them

  • Come to a compromise that suits everyone

While it might be painful for those around you until they realize you mean business, it’s imperative that once that decision is made, that you stick to those hours and keep communicating with all involved to make any necessary adjustments. Doing so will drastically cut down on miscommunications and misunderstandings that suck up your time. Eventually, your family will adjust to the closed office door (you do have a dedicated space to work, right?) and your specified rules. The calls from friends and neighbours during the day will stop when you stop responding until after hours, and you’ll find you’re more focused, productive and calm at work.

Bonus Read: Is disorganization killing your business?

Set up a specific workspace (not the bedroom)

After you decide when you’ll work, it’s time to decide where that work will happen most productively. If you remember back to when you were a kid sitting down to do your homework, you hopefully had a quiet space to call your own, with all the materials you’d need – textbooks, extra pencils, paper – and no distractions. Now that you own a business, technology may have evolved but things haven’t changed – you still need your own workspace away from the kids and the television, that isn’t your bed. If you don’t have these items, here are tools you may want to consider purchasing and using in your dedicated office space:

  • Desk or laptop tray

  • Comfortable, ergonomic chair

  • Printer/scanner

  • Good lighting

  • Computer or laptop

  • Stationery

  • Writing utensils

  • Calendar

  • Anything else you’ll need to be productive

You’ll want a specific space dedicated to work, not relaxing, so when you’re there your mind is focused and ready to get down to business.

Block off time slots for specific tasks

Because you don’t have a boss demanding reports on his or her desk by lunch time (another reason I love the VA life!), it’s up to you to maintain structure in your day. An easy way to do this is to pull up your Google Calendar (or your calendar of choice), and dedicate time slots to specific client tasks. That might look like putting ‘Design draft of brochure in Canva for Ruth’ at 1 p.m. on Monday, and ‘Draft series of emails for Kate’s launch’ at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. This way, you’ll fire up your computer in the morning knowing just what you have to do, when and for whom. No more panicking or wondering what you’ve forgotten – you can go home at the end of the day knowing everything has been taken care of!

Get dressed – no PJs!

We’re all guilty of this one at one point or another! When you work from home, you don’t have to see anyone most of the time (unless you have an important video conference call with a client!). It’s easy to slip into the habit of taking one (or five) pajama days, and to never go to the trouble of getting dressed. That’s a mistake, because when you get changed into your work clothes, brush your teeth, comb your hair and prepare for the day, you’ll feel less sluggish. Taking pride in your appearance even if you’re the only person who has to see your face will put your mind in the right place to work.

Prepare ready-made meals and healthy snacks

Now that you know where, when, and how you’ll work, it’s time to nail down what you’ll eat. Deciding how you’ll fuel your brain during the week and preparing ready-made meals and delicious snacks on the weekend is so much easier and less frustrating than having to make the choice when your stomach is rumbling and you have a series of client deadlines looming.

Why not Google some recipes online, or ask your Facebook friends? You can even stop by a roadside fruit stand in the summer or grab your favourite snack from the grocery store. Taking time to plan ahead also means you’ll have more options and make healthier decisions when you do get hungry. Maintaining a healthy diet will help you stay energetic and clear-minded so you can produce your best work.

Pro tip: For immediate productivity, we love this simple tool, and you only need a piece of paper to do it! When intensive task setting is too broad, grab a piece of paper and write down the next three things you need to do. Learn more about this powerful productivity tip. 

Meet your host

Sandra Booker, Founder of Changemaker Inc. (home to Sidekick COO and The VA Studio) and creator of Scale Society and The Advisory Board, is a mentor, Fractional COO  and growth strategist. She specializes in helping overworked, overwhelmed, multi-hatted entrepreneurs become the CEOs of sustainably scalable, and powerfully profitable businesses. 

After helping local businesses thrive, and receiving accolades in her community (like the 40 Under 40 award) Sandra turned her attention to the world of online service providers, and her clients include familiar names like Chanti Zak, Tarzan Kay, and Laura Belgray.

In her (efficiently used) spare time, she teaches others how to build and grow their own 6-figure virtual assistant practices and is on a mission to create a million jobs by helping her clients and students scale their businesses.

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