Working from home is tricky. There are so many distractions to contend with, and staying on task can be a daily challenge.
Finding it hard to focus? Don’t despair, as it’s perfectly possible to become a productive and happy home worker.
Here are my five favourite tips.
1. Create a dedicated space
As a freelance content writer who spends every day working from home, I’ve found that physically separating work from family life is the key to effective home working. However, I didn’t realise this until 2020’s lockdown forced me to retreat into the only quiet, unoccupied space in our house: the spare room.
Before 2020, I spent most of my days working at a desk in our living room, which seemed like the ideal arrangement. But I found it very hard to switch off from work, so I’d often hop onto my laptop during the evening.
When I moved my laptop into our spare room and invested in a new desk, I immediately noticed a change. Despite the fact that I now spent my days surrounded by drying laundry, being able to close my laptop, turn off the light and close the door behind me made all the difference.
I’m aware that not everybody has the luxury of a spare room, but if space is tight for you, why not try setting aside a corner of your bedroom instead? You could even consider working in your local library, café or coworking space from time to time.
2. Structure your day
It’s not always easy to concentrate when you’re working from home, but sticking to a familiar structure could help you to focus. Experiment with sticking to set hours, so that your clients know when to contact you and your family and friends know when you’re free to socialise.
Worried about a tight deadline? While it’s tempting to just keep working until you’ve finished the task, doing this regularly will have an impact on your physical and mental health. Instead of risking burnout, I recommend punctuating your day with regular breaks, as these will keep you motivated and help you to produce better quality work.
If you find that you’ve finished a project and you’re waiting for feedback, take a proper break, then use the extra time to catch up with tasks like admin, record-keeping or marketing your services.
3. Banish distractions
Checking social media and emails every five minutes isn’t helpful when you’re working at home, so I recommend restricting yourself to checking them during your breaks. If you can’t resist temptation, make the most of your phone’s ‘do not disturb’ function. This will help you to focus by temporarily blocking out text messages, calls and notifications.
Reducing any background noise could also help you to concentrate, according to a 2018 study. This found that clerical workers in a noisy room were less motivated to complete tasks and had elevated stress levels compared to those in a quiet room.
Personally, I’m experimenting with putting the washing machine on super early so my thoughts aren’t interrupted by the shriek of the spin cycle! I’m also spending the occasional morning working in a local coffee shop, which is helping me to feel motivated and refreshed when I return to my desk.
4. Eat well
While home working means that you don’t have to resist the constant round of staff room treats, you’ll still have easy access to another source of temptation; your fridge. To stay energized, stock up on healthy snacks like dried fruit, nuts, oatcakes and dark chocolate.
Whether you prefer sushi, salad or a sandwich, always make yourself a proper lunch, as this will help you to be more productive. Try to include some protein-packed lean meat, eggs, beans or nuts and a serving of salad or veg.
Oily fish is also a great choice, as supplementing your diet with omega-3 fish oil could boost your concentration. Need some lunchtime inspiration? Check out the delicious recipes available at The Freelancer’s Cookbook.
If you’re keen to stave off hunger and prevent an afternoon slump, staying hydrated is essential. This means limiting the amount of tea and coffee you drink and opting for plain water, water with a slice of lemon in it or water sweetened with a little sugar-free squash.
5. Get out and about
Working from home can get lonely even if you’re an introvert, so it’s worth getting out of the house for a change of scenery now and again. Joining a monthly networking group, having lunch with a friend or meeting a client for coffee could all help to combat any feelings of isolation.
Getting out is also good for your physical health, because sitting for long periods of time slows down your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. So how about going for a brisk lunchtime walk or trying out an online yoga session? YouTube’s Yoga with Adrienne is a great place to start.
It’s also worth checking whether there are any activities happening at your local park, as outdoor fitness has really taken off in the last few years. For example, I’ve just discovered that the park near my home is hosting free lunchtime Tai Chi classes. The perfect way to unwind!
Take my tips on board and I hope you’ll find that working from home becomes a more enjoyable and productive experience. You’ll achieve more, feel healthier and be able to relax properly at the end of the working day.
What are your top tips for home working? I’d love to know!