How to maintain creativity & productivity working from home

October 4, 2010 · 10 comments

by Jonathan Brealey

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Keeping motivated and inspired are two of the biggest challenges that working from home offers, so how do you sustain momentum over time? We’ve put together some practical tips and advice for working effectively and creating a healthy work/life balance.


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How to bypass procrastination and distractions

There are always tasks which you’ll put off because you just don’t want to do them. Set a timer, alarm, or visual alert of some kind, get your head down and do as much as you can in the time. This works best for short tasks of around 20 minutes or less and is suited to admin or repetitive elements. Make sure you set a realistic amount of time – too much and it’s not a challenge, too little and your attention will waver.

You know what your distractions and weaknesses are, so remove them. Put your game disks away, turn off the TV, close Facebook and Twitter and just get on with it. If you’re working in Photoshop or doing other offline work for considerable periods of time, turn off your wireless. But don’t deprive yourself all the time, because it’s unsustainable. Set aside a specific time for Twitter and other Internet-related distractions – half an hour, or an hour or so per working day. A common trap is to just think, ‘Well, it only takes me a few seconds to check’, because it will eat up a significant chunk of your day in small blocks unless you limit yourself to one fairly short block of time.

Another easy way to avoid distractions is to keep your professional email account professional. Don’t have Facebook notifications, newsletters and other online subscriptions go to your work account, and don’t open your personal email account in your working hours. If you have a desktop client for Twitter, close it, or at the very least turn off any distracting notifications of new messages. Same goes for any Instant Messaging clients.

Create a schedule which motivates you

Since you have the flexibility of working from home, don’t feel the need to shoehorn yourself in to a 9-5 schedule if you don’t have to; work during the hours you feel most awake and creative. A regular, consistent timeframe for working does help though, as does showering, getting dressed for the day and eating ‘breakfast’ before you settle down to work. Avoid the temptation to work from your bed or sofa as sitting at a desk will mentally put you in work mode, and keep work and play separate where possible by not working in your bedroom or in front of the TV.

If you find it impossible to work to a regular schedule, then set yourself strict deadlines and work to those instead. Use your time wisely, and reap the benefits of flexibility rather than wasting them. Sitepoint’s article on 10 Goal Setting and Motivational Tools is invaluable, GTimeLog is a great tool for seeing how you use your time, and Remember the Milk is a comprehensive list-making website. For a quick, inspirational productivity hit, try Productivity 501.

Get into work mode

Ensure you have everything you need within easy reach, and make your environment as comfortable as possible. Invest in a good chair, work with effective lighting and keep tidy. As well as keeping you organised, this will help to minimise distractions and displacement activities such as cleaning up. If you’re working from your laptop, use a stand to keep the top of the screen at eye level, and have a full size keyboard on your desk for comfort. Don’t underestimate the value of varying your surroundings though; even something as simple as working in a library or coffee shop occasionally can stimulate your mind and provide welcome inspiration.

Set specific, consistent breaks to get away from your screen and stop yourself falling into the trap of taking a few minutes here and there and losing momentum. Don’t use your lunch break as an excuse to surf the net, but instead get out of the house to clear your mind – this will also help you to avoid the ‘just five more minutes’ mentality.

Work effectively

Know when to stop – don’t sit at your desk twiddling your thumbs and waiting for an idea, and don’t try to force creativity. Keep pen and paper to hand for doodling whilst you think, but if you’re getting frustrated or going round in circles then take a break so you don’t put pressure on yourself. Setting up a separate Delicious account with work-themed inspirational links can prove invaluable, but resist following links all over the web as a distraction.

As a last resort, if you can’t be productive, then be semi-productive! If you need tools to help you be effective check out this article: Business Tools for Improving Freelancer Efficiency. Sometime working effectively also requires collaboration and managing others… 35 Very Useful Online Tools for Improving your Project Management and Team Collaboration

Maximise your efficiency

Increase your efficiency by setting realistic boundaries and aims. Balance your workload to work a similar amount of time each day, and try to avoid extremes of too much or too little work. If your problem is working too much, then choose a cut-off time and don’t return to your computer after you’ve officially finished for the day. If it’s still an issue, then chances are you’re taking on too much – don’t be afraid to compromise with clients or say no.

If there are other people in the house whilst you’re working, then create clear boundaries and avoid family distractions by sticking to a separate room where possible and making it clear that you’re working. This also goes for personal calls, requests, and so on. Just because you’re working at home doesn’t mean you have all day free to buy groceries, tidy the house, mow the lawn etc.

Alongside defining boundaries, define aims. What do you want to achieve? What’s the best use of your time? Making a list at the end of the day for the following day can help, and has the added bonus of helping you maintain day-to-day efficiency and stop you forgetting smaller tasks.

Finally…

No matter how driven and efficient you are, you’re always going to have bad days, so don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go as well as you planned. Just draw a line under it and try to avoid thinking about work after you’ve finished for the day.

Author : Jonathan Brealey

Jonathan Brealey is the director and co-founder of Heart Internet web hosting, one of the UK’s biggest web hosting companies.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric | Negocios en Internet May 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm

one of the things that make my work hard is the distractions like email or facebook, but I will put into practice what you mention in your article. thanks

Reply

Dave April 15, 2012 at 1:00 am

Great article! I try and follow everything you cover on a daily basis. However, we are human and some days you’ve either not had enough sleep, or you’re feeling a little burned out, or you’re just not that interested in getting much done…that’s ok! Don’t beat yourself up over that, it’s human :) However, 90% of your days should be as productive as you can make them to be.

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Business English June 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Good motivation is one of the main components of business

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web hosting June 8, 2011 at 8:51 am

Will take all of this onboard, very intrested read A++

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Giacomo Colddesign October 4, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Great and useful article..

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Billy October 4, 2010 at 11:44 am

What helps me is to leave a task half done so you can jump right into it the next morning.

(Might be me but that photo does not look like a Jonathan. :) )

Reply

Smoozy October 4, 2010 at 10:43 am

Nice photo Jonathan????

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Dzinepress October 4, 2010 at 9:26 am

this article also productive. thanks

Reply

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