7 Tips for working from home

I could probably write a better post about 20 Ways to Procrastinate While Working From Home, but let’s keep this inspirational shall we? It’s a blessing and a curse to work from home. And for those of you reading this from your real offices, you’re probably cursing me right now for having no idea how good I have it. The truth is, it can be extremely isolating and lonely to work from home, which is why I surround myself with furry coworkers. The problem is, they’re lazy and they inspire me to want to take cat naps and ball breaks instead of get work done. To keep myself on track and motivated these are a few ways that I keep myself productive while working from home:

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1) Create a distraction free, comfortable, creative space that you feel proud of. Having a whole room to turn into your office is great, but even if you just have a desk along a wall, make it feel special and make it work for you. I couldn’t find a desk big enough or one that I had-to-have, so I made my own. I found two old sawhorses that my neighbor was giving away and I bought a door from Home Depot for $22 and some chalkboard paint for $12.  I painted the door in a color I love and then propped it up on the sawhorses. The pre-drilled hole for the doorknob makes a perfect spot for threading all of my computer cords through and I love how big of a space I have to work on. On top of my desk, I stacked a few old books and laid a piece of old wood across it to make a shelf for frames, knick knacks, my lucky horseshoe and a carved wooden nose that holds my glasses that we bought in Switzerland as a souvenir. It’s all thrown together for just $32 and it sure beats the price of the Crate and Barrel $1,000 desk that I really wanted. I needed a desk to make money on, not spend money on.

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2) Put up a whiteboard. I can’t proclaim my love for my whiteboard enough! It’s life changing. I know it’s not the prettiest piece to hang on your wall, but having a whiteboard for brain storming, strategy sessions and deadlines has increased my productivity by ten fold. It’s great to have a to-do list in a journal or calendar, but having a board with your goals for the year, the quarter, the month, the week and the day lays it all out in a way that totally makes sense for me. Big dreams need to be broken up into smaller goals, and goals need to be broken down into manageable tasks. For instance, building an app is a big dream, but completely overwhelming if you don’t break it down into a million little steps.

Being able to cross off all of these steps and then erase the whole day once you’ve finished them is addicting. It also helps keep you moving forward when you feel like you’ve gotten stuck. I’ll tell myself that I have ten minutes to fart around and then it’s time to pick a task and cross that task off. Make sure to keep your to-do list to just 5 things if possible. It makes it much more manageable if you really need to think about what you can get done in a day without super human powers.

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3) Create a work schedule for yourself. When you don’t have an office to get to or people to see, it’s easy to work all day in your pjs and forget to do basic things like brush your hair. I’ve made it a goal to enjoy my mornings by checking email in bed with coffee, reading up on news and blogs that I follow, and then I get up to go feed all of the animals and clean up after the horses. Matt and I will eat breakfast together and then he’s off to work and I head upstairs to my whiteboard. I usually write down all the things I need to do the night before and then revisit it in the morning and break down the list down even more. From there I start working in two hour sprints. I’ve found that this keeps me on track and more focused. After two hours, I take a 15 minute break to do whatever I want, whether it’s taking pictures of my adorable coworkers and posting them on IG (so lame I know), or doing something around the house. Then it’s back to another sprint. I usually take a half hour lunch break and then after another two hour sprint I’ll do something on my fun chart (more on this dorky but wonderful chart later!). After having some fun, it’s another two hour sprint and then dinner. Fitting in 4-5 sprints equals about 8-10 hours of very productive work because I know that I still have time to play around or get other chores done in my break times.

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4) Be ok with breaking from routine and make sure to get out of the house. The scenario mentioned above is ideal and not especially realistic. It’s something that I strive for, but it easily gets derailed. Sometimes I’ll be so busy that I’ll work a four hour sprint and other times I’ll be distracted by going to networking events or having a day full of calls. The important thing is to do with the flow and not get stressed when things aren’t going as planned.

It’s also really important to get out of the house. It breaks up routines and can get you out of ruts. It’s also a great excuse to put on real pants and wear clothes that aren’t covered in cat hair. I love going to coffee shops like The Refinery in Santa Monica because it’s distraction free (no cute animals to stare at) especially if you get a desk that faces the wall. The beauty of working from home is that you can mix things up and if you’re a person who doesn’t thrive from routine you can work when you feel like working. If I want to work from 7am-1pm and then pick up again from 4pm-12am I can, but I’ll still be getting in some play and still be getting in some solid hours.

5) Make time for play. I feel like I shouldn’t be writing this because it might make me sound “lazy”. Our culture is obsessed with being busy. We are constantly telling people that we’re so busy as though it’s a badge of honor. I’m here to say that that’s bullsh$@. Being busy and working smart are two totally different things. I used to be that person. The person who was doing it all and I worked myself into a depression. After college I worked 12 hour days, 7 days per week and I had no time for fun let alone a vacation. I was happy doing what I was doing, but I was getting burned out and I wasn’t happy in my personal life. My business grew, but not as quickly as it should’ve been because I wasn’t able to think creatively and it was difficult to see the big picture because I was so stressed out. That’s when I knew things had to change. I took a temporary pay cut and hired my first employees to free up my time so that I was able to work “on” my business instead of physically working for my business. A huge part of being an entrepreneur is being able to think creatively about solutions to pain points and problems. Creativity comes from being in a state of joy and happiness. My happiness comes from riding horses, cooking, painting, spending time with Matt, playing with my dogs and spending time in nature. This is where my fun chart comes into play. As an entrepreneur it’s very easy to get extremely busy, but to stay creative and make good decisions it’s important to keep yourself balanced and happy. By having a to-do list that has activities on it that make you happy, you’re working on you and you are your business. I’m thinking about DogZenergy and Handlr probably 80% of my day whether it’s driving my car, riding my horse, or hiking with my dogs. I’m constantly problem solving and deciding how I’m going to make the hundreds of decisions that I need to make about my businesses every day. This way, when I return to my desk, I can execute decisions instead of sitting there figuring it out. If I don’t make time for play, I end up waking up in the middle of the night thinking about problems that I need to solve.

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6) Don’t be afraid to outsource and ask for help. Just because you work from home, doesn’t mean that you should be doing household chores all day or that you should be “doing it all”. Being busy is overrated. Getting real work done is key. One way to determine if you should outsource house cleaning is to total up the amount of all the hours you work in a year and divide that into your yearly income. If that number is lower than what it would be to pay someone to clean your home by the hour, then you should not only treat yourself to a clean home a few times per month, but also free up your time to work on your business because your time is valuable. You should be spending time on the things that make you money and house work only distracts you from it.

Another way to optimize your time is to outsource your time consuming tasks to a virtual assistant. I love using Odesk to get time consuming things done like data entry. If something like web research is going to take you ten to fifteen hours, you can find someone on Odesk who will be happy to do the work for you while you spend your time on projects that will propel your sales and growth forward. For example, if my time is worth $100/hour, it doesn’t make sense for me to spend 10 hours on data collection. That’s $1,000 for one spreadsheet, when I could just as easily save myself 10 hours of time and pay someone else $30 to get it done. It’s easy to make yourself seem busy, but working smart and making time to play will result in real success.

7) Travel. The beauty of working from home is that you can work from anywhere. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut when you work from home, so in order to keep your creative juices flowing, it’s important to put yourself in a new stimulating environment. I absolutely love getting on airplanes because it’s so amazing to have a perfectly good excuse to not look at your phone for a long stretch of time. It’s so awesome to be completely disconnected and to literally be floating in the clouds. It’s a perfect time to journal and reflect on your goals and where you see the future of your business going. It’s the perfect time to write down big ideas and explore where they can go. I love to bring a new business book on the plane and I’ll devour it by the time we land. While en route to new places I’ll look out the window and dream about what I can make out of Handlr. Thinking, dreaming, obsessing and talking about new ideas is where new businesses come from. Traveling gives me the time and the open mind to think about the “what ifs”. Coming home allows me to work on making these ideas a reality.

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I’m always looking for ways to make the most out of everyday and would love to hear your tips and tricks! Leave me a comment below or email me at Brittany@myhandlr.com. 

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