Do you work from home? My tips for being efficient.

It appears to me that there is great momentum for the self-employed/stay-at-home-parent/entrepreneur, or even employees allowed to work from home a few times a week.  I think this is great on many levels though I find staying on task and working efficiently is sometimes difficult.  Anyone else feel this way?  I’m sure I’m not the only one!

It has been a long time since I worked in a traditional office setting, and I am grateful that I have been able to continue, albeit in a limited capacity, my original career as an engineer, from home through contract work, while my children are small.  Essentially self-employed, less than part-time.  I am grateful to my husband for getting a consistent pay cheque for many of those years, so that I could stay home; we are really fortunate.  That all changed in 2013 and you can read that story here.

So life changed drastically in 2013.  In addition to opening a gym, I also decided to pursue my passion around food and health.  I started a year-long, part-time, distance education course through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become a holistic health coach.  I am 75% through the program and during the course of my studies have started transforming my life.

As part of this transformation, I’ve had to become more clear on my schedule.  This is part of the working from home pitfalls, I guess you could say.  Now instead of only a few general things like the administration part for the gym, and home and kids, I also need to make time to study, work on any contract work and take care of myself (luckily I have access to a gym that offers CrossFit and yoga!) Not to mention starting to grow my coaching business and keep my blog up to date – which you can see I’ve struggled with.

Through these changes, I’ve come to realize a few things.  The following list has helped me, and I hope it will help you too, if you’ve struggled on keeping yourself on task, feeling  grounded (and not scattered) and just getting things done!

  1. Create a weekly schedule. And stick to it.  Clearly outline blocks of time for different projects and stick to it (this is important so worth repeating).  If you get an email and it’s not related to what you are doing right now, don’t answer it!  Even if it’ll “only take a minute”.  The time spent switching gears is a sure way to lose momentum, especially if the task/job you are currently doing is not your favourite thing to do.  For example, if you were in an office you would not be able to do your laundry (laundry can also be called procrastination).

    Sample personal schedule
    Sample personal schedule
  2. Get dressed for work.  Yes, I know I am at home, but staying in my pajamas doesn’t make me feel ready to work or inspired.  In fact, it feels more like a lazy Sunday morning.  So I get dressed as if I was going to work in a dressy casual office.  Yes, I even brush my hair and put on mascara.
  3. Create time for self-care.  And schedule it.  Even if it’s just an hour to work out, go to yoga, meet a friend, walk in nature, or read a book.  Making time for yourself is important, regardless of where you work.
  4. Go to bed early and get up early.  I go through phases where I’m really disciplined in this.  Then The Good Wife started a new season, and one late night turned into weeks of going to bed too late.  I am most productive when I go to bed early and get up early – at my most creative at that time.  My #5am club helps with that.
  5. Be flexible.  Once in a while, things don’t go as planned.  There are doctor appointments, meetings and other things that can’t be scheduled in the desired time slots.  But if it’s a friend that asks you for coffee or spending time on Facebook for personal reasons, be strong and stick to your schedule.  It’s about being accountable to yourself.

These five things have helped me.  What do you do to help yourself stay on track?  Do you have a group of virtual co-workers that keep you accountable? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Have a great day!

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