One of the great benefits of self-employment is being able to work from home. While that sounds like fun, there are lots of challenges. Being productive at home takes discipline and organisation. That means establishing an area that is clearly for work.
When you’re working from home you need to set aside an area that is designated as a workspace. If you’ve got a young family, you’ll need to find a way to quarantine your work space. If you’re working from a shared home space, like a dining-room or kitchen table, you’ll need to train your family into making it a “Do not disturb” area during working times. I know that can be difficult – my family was pretty young when I started freelancing – but you need to find a way. That can be by setting some rules.
The “Time Quarantine” Method
For example, you can designate certain times to be work times when you can’t be distracted. Or, you can set your working hours to work around your family commitments. If your kids attend school or kindergarten, you can set your working hours so that you work when the children are out. Then you can give your family some attention when they’re home but focus when they’re out.
It doesn’t matter how you use the “time quarantine” method but it’s important that if you find a way that works for you.
The problem with just being able to quarantine time to work means that you need to be able pack up your office. If you struggle with keeping your research and other notes in order then it’s worth looking at online tools like Evernote (that I’ve written about before) to help you keep organised.
The “Space Quarantine” Method
If you have the luxury of a dedicated workspace then many of your productivity challenges are already taken care of. However, are you getting the best bang for buck from that space?
If you use a laptop as you main work computer, it’s a good idea to elevate it so that the display is at an ergonomically appropriate height. The rule of thumb is to have the top of the display at your eye level. The cheapest way to do this is with a couple of phone books although there are lots of more aesthetically pleasing options around.
With the laptop elevated, you’ll also need a mouse and keyboard. The best combination is the one you’re most comfortable using. Many computer stores have several models on display. Try a few out to see which are best for you.
If you have a desktop computer, the same rules apply.
One thing to consider if you have the desk space and budget is a dual screen (sometimes called a two-head) set up. This is where your computer desktop spans across two screens. The productivity benefits are substantial as you can have two applications open at once. For example, if you use Google Books for research and type into your preferred text editor you can have both open side-by-side. There’s myriad research supporting the productivity benefits. Just Google “dual screen productivity” to find some for the research.
Some general guidelines
Regardless of where you set up your workspace, there are a few things that I find helpful. Here’s a short list.
- Keep your workspace tidy. Having lots of stuff you don’t need on your workspace distracts you.
- Remove distractions. If there’s something in your workspace that breaks your concentration, get rid of it.
- Have a filing system that works for you (here’s mine).
- Cleanliness – I find I work better when my office is clean. That means vacuuming each week (at least), emptying the rubbish and recycling bins before they overflow and not leaving junk on the desk.
- Make sure you designate your work area as a work area and that while you’re working, it’s a “no-fly zone” for others.
So, what are your home office productivity tips? Does a “no-fly zone” work for you? Tell us what works for you in the comments.