I first worked from home in the early 1980s and I’ve now been doing it full time for 8 years. My ten top tips for survival are:
1 – Have a timetable. I’m an early riser, and usually working around 0600. I make a point of going no later that 0800 before getting upstairs for a shave, shower and get some clothes on; at least smart casual – going native is not clever. If you’re smart and looking ready for work, you’ll think like work: Behave like a slob and it’ll show in your work,
2 – Schedule your day in whatever way works for you, but take breaks. I don’t do more that 90 minutes on the computer without stopping to do something different. A brisk walk round the block a couple of times a day is good. It gets the blood flowing and that gets oxygen into the brain. Other 15 minute distractions I’ll use include time in the garden doing a little weeding or pruning or to do some prep work on tonight’s dinner.
3 – Set yourself deadlines and monitor progress. Plan to get x number of calls made, write x hundred words or to finish certain tasks (or make a start on them). Use a desk diary or put it on Outlook or your phone or whatever, but do have a plan for the day/week/month.
4 – It’s easy to forget to eat and drink properly and neither omission will do you any good. Avoid too much caffeine, and eat sensible foods. One way of taking a break I use is to prepare a decent lunch. I take my food break at the dining table as well, sat up properly to aid digestion. Always aim to take your refreshment breaks at regular times.
5 – Try to have a working area set up in the home so that you do, if effect, go to the office and leave the office. It is an important psychological break point. If you don’t have a separate area and have to use the couch or the dining table then have a couple of stacking crates that you keep your files and working stuff in so that you can pack away and put the boxes in the corner. You have to maintain separate home and office regimes.
6 – One of my cyber pals talks about life – work harmony. He doesn’t like the term Balance in this context and I think that he’s right. It is more about harmony in your life and ensuring that you, and the other people in your life, feel good about your lifestyle.
7 – Replace those water cooler moments with some other form of business contact. For me that’s a business club. What you need is a couple of hours every couple of weeks where you can relax and chat with fellow business people from a variety of functions. If there are presentations you’ll learn from them and get the chance to do your own which practices another skill.
8 – Don’t feel guilty about time shifting your hours. If you want to use daylight or weekdays for something personal, as long as you hit your deadlines, do it, but try to make the time in advance by putting the evening or weekend hours in first: It’s hard to play catch up.
9 – Stay safe: Take care with cables and extension leads even if you are the only one home. Keep information and equipment secure, and do your back ups. It’s your office.
10 – Have fun – otherwise there’s no point.