Home-Work: 5 Ways to Be More Productive
For many makers, it goes with the territory: you will be doing some/half/all of your work from home. To the typical nine-to-five commuter, this could sound like a dream, and the flexibility is wonderful, for sure. But working from home comes with its own challenges and limitations. Whether you are a creative business owner making product and running operations round the clock, or you happen to have a job that allows for working from home a couple days a week, you will finding yourself facing the task of being productive in the place where you also live and relax, and in many cases, share with others and/or care for children. Everyone needs to find their own methods for making it work, but here are 5 tips to consider as you strive to make working from home manageable and maintainable.
One: Get Organized.
My great-grandmother often said something we all could benefit from: “You have to have a system.” Having your ducks in a row will help you keep your sanity in the long run. You don’t want your work to interfere with your home-life (or vice-versa), so put some front-end elbow grease in to prepare to help these two halves of your life co-exist peacefully.
Keep all your equipment and tools in a single location, preferably enclosed in a case or cabinet, so you can easily access it when you need it. Have a calendar somewhere, the old-fashioned, paper, use-a-pencil type of calendar, and write down your goals, your meetings, your events. Get a datebook (or download an app) to take with you wherever you go. And try to stay neat: nothing will frustrate you more than leaving your work out and then finding it’s not where you left it the next day, regardless of how it disappeared... (Speaking from experience, cats and children are often the cute, little culprits).
Two: Start Small
This advice is mainly for those of you who’re starting out, but working at home is often where small businesses begin, so this probably applies to you: start small. You may be feeling excited about starting your own business, and you want to jump in with both feet. Yes! Do it! But you don’t have to jump in and then swim fifty laps.
Set yourself small goals, hold yourself to a small output, work small hours to begin and build from there. You’re in this for the long haul, but you don’t want to burn fast and bright and then get discouraged and burn out completely. Think of it as a couch-to-5K instead of training for a marathon. If you go straight from no exercise to trying to run twenty-five miles, you’re setting yourself up for failure. But you can start with a mile-long jog. Then two. Then three. Let yourself grow.
Three: Embrace Limitations
Connected to the last tip, acknowledge and embrace your limitations. You may see other makers who seem to have it all: the space, the gear, the newest and best whatever-it-is, and it may make you think you need those things to be successful, too. But resist: don’t max out credit cards and take out loans to have the top of the line equipment and extra space right now. That can lead to trouble.
Instead, look at how you can work around these limitations and work your way up to this kind of equipment or studio space. Chances are, these makers didn’t instantly have all the hottest stuff to begin with, either. And you’d be surprised how adaptable you can be to some of these limitations. Figure out how you can rearrange your workspace to make it the most productive. Ask for tips from fellow makers how they found ways to work around their limitations. Allow your creativity to step in instead of your wallet.
Four: Find your Time
A perk to working from home for yourself is you don’t have a boss who sets your schedule for you. But oftentimes, there are extenuating circumstances that limit the amount of time you can spend on your work. Maybe you have a day job. Maybe you’re the main caregiver for your young children. Regardless, your time is precious (and ticking).
So you need to plan your time. Allow for some flexibility (it doesn’t need to be the same day or time every week, for example), but dedicate a set amount of time where you can work, uninterrupted, each week. Plan for it, write it down, and hold yourself to it. If you need to wake up a couple hours earlier to put in a few hour’s work, choose the days you’ll do that. If you need to put in few hours after the kids have gone to bed (and before you crash, too), schedule it on your cell calendar with a reminder. This is a real job, so make time for it!
Five: Roll with the Changes
One thing’s for certain when it comes to working from home: it’s not going to stay the same. You may move. Your business may grow considerably. Your family may change -- marriage, children. And these changes, even when they’re good changes, can be tough on your working-from-home situation.
So be ready to make adjustments. In the back of your head, remember that the only constant in life (and in business) is change. And then roll with the changes as best as you can. When you make a purchase for your business, for example, have that frame of mind: will this equipment only be useful for your business for the next few months (or is this something that will grow with you)? Is working from home still working (or has your business grown so much that it’s time to look at other options)?
Here’s the bottom line: If your business grows, you’ll be stretched beyond what you’re used to. You may even be stretched beyond working at home. It may become impossible just because of lack of space and volume of product. But that’s good news! A healthy, growing business is what you’re hoping for. In the meantime, figuring out how to make the most of what time and space you do have is worth the effort!