I was talking to a friend the other night who has just broken free of the bonds of the office and begun working out of his home (My apologies if you are a happy office goer — I´ve been there and I would struggle to pretend I miss it, but I realize it works better for others). He is mostly enjoying his new work setting, but, like almost everyone who starts working where you live, he is finding himself tempted by all the joys and fun around him which seem, at times, to be more fun than work. I remembered back to when I started working at home. I wasted a lot of time. I can still do better than I do (If you don´t think you can, too, then you´re lying), but I get more productive and effective every week. As we chatted, we came up with a few suggestions that might help him focus:
Problem: Too much time spent surfing.
Solution: Try two browsers. My friend is an avid internet user and finds watching videos on YouTube far more addictive than preparing an expense report. He needs to use the internet for research and communication, but every time he opens up his browser, he heads to his favorite fun sites instead. I suggested that he use two different browsers. He uses Firefox normally, so he should keep that one for personal surfing. He should then use Internet Explorer for his business surfing. His business browser won´t have any of the bookmarks that his personal browser will, so he won´t be as tempted. By separating the two uses, he can more easily discipline himself to work when he needs to work and play when he has the time. It´s not foolproof, but you need some self discipline to work at home. This just decreases how much you need.
Problem: Likes listening to loud music during work time
Solution: Listen to it if it helps you work. One of the joys of working at home is that you can create the environment that works best for you. At the office you often have to work in relative silence out of respect for the people around you. At home you just have to respect yourself. You need to spend the time to figure out what works best for you. If loud music works for him, then there is no reason he shouldn´t listen to it. I personally can´t stand working in silence, so I always have the radio or CD player on. Often, I even keep the TV on. I don´t watch it, but the sound and the movement in my peripheral helps me stay focused. That works for me, but you need to figure out what works for you.
Problem: Can´t figure out when work begins
Solution: Dress for work. When I first started working at home I found it hard to get started in the morning. It wasn´t that I wasn´t excited about what I was doing. It´s just that the transition from pre-work to work seemed unnatural when I wasn´t leaving home as part of it. I found that the solution was to get up, eat breakfast and do all the things I would normally do in the morning, then get dressed as if I was going to work. That helped me get in the right mindset and got me going. I don´t have to do that now, and often I don´t. I´ve also learned that I prefer to get right out of bed and get some work done before breakfast, so I have adapted accordingly. Getting dressed started me on the right path to begin with, though.
I love working at home more than anything, but it´s not as simple as it seems. By actively considering your actions and managing yourself, though, you can make it work for you.