Yes, I work in my pajamas. Is it because I’m unproductive, or am I, in fact, VERY productive?!
I work at home as a freelancer writer and public relations consultant. I know…I know… I know EXACTLY what you’re thinking.
What about that sentence doesn’t make you think “dilettante.” The truth is, I get more done in an average day than most people I know.
The secret is that I create a schedule that works for ME, not one that is beholden to the old school 9 to 5 workplace.
Working from home isn’t for everybody. Common complaints include feeling isolated and struggling to stay focused with all the distractions around.
Here are some tips for working at home productivity and overcoming distractions:
Tip 1: Check Your Email First
While the majority of today’s professionals are equipped for mobile email, many still seem to wait until they arrive at the office to deal with most emails. Not me. I wake up my kids, toss some toast at them, make my coffee and sit in the TV room with my laptop while the morning carries on around me. By 7:00 I have responded to urgent issues, touched base with clients as needed and posted some sort of industry-appropriate article on LinkedIn. I look productive because I have spent the first 20 minutes of my day making sure that my clients and contacts know that I am already moving!
Tip 2: Establish Phone Hours
Despite my online communication, my house is chaos in the morning, thanks to three kids, with three different schedules. Occasionally I have clients on the east coast whose days are well underway by the time I wake up. I resist the urge to be “always on” (at least on the phone) by waiting to schedule any phone conversations until the kids are out the door. Not only is their presence distracting, but it is highly unprofessional to have an unexpected “visitor” knocking on your office door.
Tip 3: Wear Your Pajamas!
Or, don’t! The truth is, no one cares, but one of the major secrets to my productivity is that I have removed the biggest time suck of most working people’s day: the getting ready and the commute. For women at least, except perhaps the most wash-and-wear among us, getting ready can be quite a process and any commute takes more time than wandering into my office. Already, I have about two more hours in my day than the average working professional.
Tip 4: Don’t Overlook the Benefits of Working at Home!
Sure, you love the lack of commute, but don’t forget the other benefits. Yes, you’re working, but it only takes five minutes to throw in a load of clothes or defrost dinner. Sort socks or junk mail while you’re waiting for others to join the teleconference. Run to the gym when it’s not clogged with the after-work crowd. Pop by your kid’s school with a Subway sandwich. The key to making work at home work for you is to take advantage of these little schedule perks and work them to your advantage.
Tip 5: Take Time to Be Social, But Know Your Limits
Sometimes people razz me for being on Facebook “all day,” and I remind them that the only people I interact with all day, with the exception of a client phone call, are those on social media. For me, those virtual touches are just as important as a chat with a coworker in the break room to refresh and connect. But there is a big difference between checking your news feed every couple of hours and watching YouTube videos all day. If social media is too tempting to you, just say no.
Tip 6: Work When It Works for You
We all know it’s about the output, not the schedule. So, work when it makes sense for you. Besides getting the jump on the early morning email, I like to work after dinner when the rest of my house is calm. I revisit work that I did during the day and usually have fresh insights from being away from it for awhile. I send late-night copy to my clients in east coast time zones, knowing that they can review it as soon as they reach their desks in the morning. If you are new to working at home, it will take a while to figure out a rhythm, but before long you will determine the times of day that work best for you.
For me, that’s a solid block between 8 and 2:30, with maybe an hour break for a run. Then after-school mayhem ensues, and while I’m still available by email, and fitting in small tasks where I can, the treadmill of homework/ snacks/ sports/ dinner/ bedtime dictates that 2:30 to 8 is my least productive time of the day. That’s ok! I make up for it in the other hours and appreciate the flexibility that working at home offers.
About those pajamas? Yep, that’s how I know I’m productive. Because from the minute I wake up, until the minute I realize I am supposed to be somewhere, and look presentable, I have been so engrossed in my work that I haven’t had time to give a thought to my appearance.
By now, my FedEx guy is used to it, so it’s really only embarrassing if a neighbor stops by unexpectedly. And if they think I’m a slacker, who cares. My invoices and I know what a productive work-at-home day it has been!