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Whether telecommuting or freelancing, more and more professionals are trading in the cubicle for the home office. We hear all about the perks of the work from home lifestyle – no long commutes, more time with family, conference calls in pajamas, etc. But what about the challenges? It’s not always easy to stay productive in the face of countless distractions.
If you’re working from home, chances are you’re a freelancer, consultant, or small business owner. This means your ability to get paid is directly tied to how productive you are. As a freelancer, wasting time equals wasting money.
Here are some tips on how to stay focused as you move through the workday, while still enjoying all the unique benefits of working at home.
1. Respect Your Own Time
When you work at an office, family and friends seem to naturally respect your schedule. But when you’re working from home, you’ll inevitably get calls at 11:00 a. m. or be expected to handle the daily errands. I’m not saying you shouldn’t wait for the cable appointment or chat on the phone, but be mindful of how easy it is to have time ripped from your workday.
It’s important to set boundaries, if needed. People will respect your schedule, only if you respect it first.
2. Impose Time Limits on Specific Tasks
It’s easy to become distracted, particularly when dealing with a task that’s challenging or a bit dull. If you find yourself losing focus, tell yourself to dedicate just 15 more minutes to the task on hand.
Knowing there’s an end in sight might inject new energy into the project. And if not, move on to something else and return to it when you’re in a better mindset.
3. Set Strict Deadlines
Ever wonder why you’re ultra productive when facing a tight deadline, while a simple task can take hours to complete? You might chalk this up to working well under pressure, but it could also be Parkinsons Law, which basically states that a task will expand to fill the time you can give it. Combat this phenomenon by imposing your own deadlines for specific tasks. These can be as complicated as finishing a proposal or as simple as responding to a client email.
4. Log Off for “Power Productivity” Hours
Digital distractions aren’t just limited to Facebook and YouTube. For most, the daily barrage of emails and IMs from friends and colleagues ends up being the day’s biggest time sink. If you’re stuck in your inbox, dedicate chunks of the day when you unplug from your phone and email to get work done. You can log back on afterward and power through the necessary responses.
5. Delineate Your Workspace
Ideally you can have an area dedicated as your office (and preferably with a door so you can shut out unwanted distractions). Creating boundaries not only helps you be more productive “at work,” but also helps you decompress during your personal time.
6. Slowing Down? Change Your Environment
If you find yourself stuck (and you’ve already tried the “just 15 more minutes” tactic), change your environment. Go work at the café for an hour, or brainstorm at the park. A change in scenery can spark new ideas and give you newfound focus.