Are you one of the many small business owners working from home? Heck, in the age of COVID who isn’t working from home.
I was an early-adopter but I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated work space, which I’ve recently redecorated. It’s full of inspiration and keeps me motivated and focused on the tasks at hand. But I know not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Many remote workers set up camp at the kitchen bench or in a cramped corner of their bedroom. If this is you, then I congratulate you for keeping up the momentum!
The truth is, it really doesn’t matter what your set up looks like. What’s important is making it work for you. Unlike being in an office with a boss tracking your every move, when you’re at home you have to be your own self motivator, your own champion. You have to overcome the urge to procrastinate and avoid the distractions.
If you have kids at home, it can be even harder to find the right space. And I don’t just mean physically – to get any real work done, you need to be in the right mental ‘space’ too.
But as someone who has been working from home for several years, I’ve learnt a trick or two (or twenty-two) that help to keep me on-track.
In this post, I’m sharing the five steps I follow to successfully work from home.
Let’s get into them.
step 1: systems
Having really good systems in place is a sure fire to successfully work from home. I’m not just talking about systems for your business either – I mean systems for everything. Household chores, food prep, time with your kids. You name it, it should all follow some sort of system.
I work much more productively when I have my week and my days organised. I theme my days so that I can stay focused on a set of tasks. This helps me to work not just IN my business, but ON it too.
For example, Monday is my content day. I write blogs, create content for the week, schedule posts and work on Pinterest. Whereas on Tuesdays I schedule meetings and appointments with my one-on-one clients.
As a rule, I recommend that you batch similar tasks together. I use Wednesdays to make discovery calls with potential clients and on Fridays I record multiple episodes for my podcast.
Batching keeps me head clear and my tasks organised. Plus, I like knowing where I need to focus my attention each day!
I really can’t emphasise enough just how important it is to have systems for goal setting and business strategy, too. It’s essential to know what you’re working on and where you’re trying to lead your business.
You will be more productive and less distracted if you have a clear focus – and it will help you to achieve your goals in the most efficient way.
I talk about this a lot when I’m speaking to female business owners who are taking on the role of CEO. When you work from home, no one is there to witness how you use your time. You need to set your own hours and stick to them. So make promises to yourself, and make sure you fulfil them! You’ll only have yourself to blame when you fail to meet your expectations.
If you just work on whatever you feel like you should be working on in that particular moment, you’re going to have much less success with your business. My recommendation is to recreate the systems that would be in place if you were working in a busy office with a boss and lots of colleagues –even if it’s just you at home on your dining table.
Step 2: limit distractions
The distractions are endless when you work from home. There are always dishwashers to unstack, clothes to fold, dogs to walk or kids to tutor.
Almost every female business owner I’ve spoken to who works from home has said that they find it hard to concentrate. So you need to ask yourself why your ‘home’ tasks are taking priority over your paid work.
There are a myriad of reasons for avoiding doing your work. Perhaps you find it difficult. Or boring. Or you’re simply not in the mood. Whatever it is, you must address what is causing you to procrastinate so you can adjust your behaviour.
The other thing I’m always telling female business owners? Put your blinkers on! I know what it’s like to walk in the door after school drop off and see dishes to put away or toys to pick up off the floor. But my advice? Ignore them! Make your way to your desk instead.
Having a messy house can be really frustrating but if you worked in an office on the other side of town, there’s no way you could squeeze in a few chores between 9am and 5pm.
If you ever find it difficult to look beyond all those other jobs you need to get to, take a pause and remind yourself why you started your business in the first place.
For me I’m passionate about using marketing and content creation to help other women build successful businesses. But I want to make my business a success too! This keeps me on track and focused on the tasks that I need to do to move my business forward.
Of course, one of the biggest distractions for many of us are our mobile phones. They’re hard to dismiss because we often rely on them to complete important tasks. I suggest turning your phone on silent mode if you can or even moving it into another room when you need to concentrate. Turn the notifications off and put limits around when you can check them.
You don’t need to make yourself available 100% of the time – it really is ok to set boundaries and respond to that email or text at a time that suits your schedule. You don’t have to be accessible every minute of the day.
Step 3: workspace
Clear desk, clear mind – or so the saying goes. Now, I know this doesn’t resonate with everyone but it absolutely resonates with me.
As I mentioned at the top of this blog, I’m very fortunate to have a dedicated space in my house to work at every day but you might not be able to accommodate this, and that’s absolutely fine. Even if you just have a desk in the corner of your living room, if you can keep it organised and free of clutter I truly think it will help you to stay productive throughout your day and successfully work from home.
Step 4: TECHNOLOGY
If you’re like most business owners working from home, you’re probably wearing more than one hat. In fact, on any given day you probably adopt the role of CEO, administrator, marketing officer and accountant. Phew. I’m exhausted just typing it! Which is why ‘step 4’ is all about technology.
Lots of people have a fear when it comes to new tech and would secretly prefer to stick to pens and paper and notebooks. This is me to an extent too, but there is certain software that really does make working from home a breeze. I could go on forever about tech but these are the top 4 pieces of software that I rely on:
Asana is a task management platform that I use to organise my week and keep me on track. Tello and monday.com provide a similar service but I love Asana because it is a) free and b) it allows me to talk with my collaborators.
Nothing has streamlined my productivity more than Google Drive. As someone who juggles multiple clients at once, having a cloud-based system that allows me to share editable documents with my partners has been invaluable for my business. Plus, it’s so easy to use!
Zoom rolls off the tongue for all of us these days but I’ve actually been using it before it was a household name. My business is service-based and I rely on Zoom to host coaching sessions with my one-on-one clients. I also use it to record my podcasts, hold monthly meetings of my Thriving Business Mums Club and to join calls with other business groups. Honestly, I’d be lost without it.
Toggle is time-tracking software that I use to record how long I spend on tasks. It’s a brilliant project management tool that keeps me accountable for my hours and shows me if I’m charging my clients appropriately.
Step 5: Take regular breaks
Taking regular breaks is really important if you want to work from home successfully. Trust me! It might sound counter-intuitive for your productivity but staring at a computer screen all day is not healthy. Or natural.
I like to set a timer every 45 minutes to remind me to move around a little or do some simple stretches. Be diligent with lunch breaks too – by that I mean actually take one. You don’t want to get yourself into a situation where you’re burnt-out. Taking care of yourself is essential and will only make your business more successful. In fact if you’re not firing on all cylinders, there won’t be a business at all.
5 step recap
As you may have guessed, this is a topic I’m really passionate about. I love helping women like me create thriving businesses.
To recap, here are my 5 steps to follow if you want to successfully work from home:
Step 1: Get your systems in order
Step 2: Limit distractions
Step 3: Create a dedicated workspace
Step 4: Invest in the right technology
Step 5: Take regular breaks
And my final, bonus tip to help you successfully work from home? Invest in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones! Just do it.
I promise you’ll thank me later.
If you need any help with your digital marketing or time management, I’d love to help!
Do you want to get results from your marketing? If you struggle with making money doing the thing you love, it’s time to act.