In my work from home environment, I have fallen victim to naps on my couch, a few binge sessions of Broad City and One Tree Hill and cleaning my house while baking to avoid what lies inside my laptop. In the two years, I also learned some tips and tricks to actually remote work successfully, meet deadlines and finally complete projects.
I am currently on the eve of starting a full-time gig in a real-life office, so as I depart working from my couch, I will leave you with what I have learned over the last two years.
Create a System of Accountability
Not only do I work remotely, but I also work for myself. I quickly had to create my own personal systems of accountability. I give myself deadlines (not just the deadline something is due), organize my past/present/future projects in a Trello board and I use a GCal like you wouldn’t believe. I also set up a Monday co-working meet up on Monday mornings to force myself out of my house and into a routine. We meet on Monday’s and work together as well as talk shop.
Develop a routine
This has all been said before, but create a morning and evening routine and stick to it. I can’t start my work from home day without taking our dog on a short walk. It allows me to briefly get outside, gather my thoughts for the day and come in the door ready to work. When I finish up for the day, I always check the next day’s calendar and jot down any “to-do’s” I have to make sure I get done the next day. This helps me clear my mind and completely unplug from work. I eventually solidified my routine and found an affordable co-working space (where I am currently writing this). If you are in Austin, check out CRAFT on the East Side for an artsy space and great community.
Whatever you do, don’t sit on the couch
I learned within the first few weeks of working from home that if I let myself sit on the couch, or bed for that matter, I would never ever get up. One episode of Scandal would soon turn into five and there goes my day. I had to make a hard and fast rule, no couch sitting until I am COMPLETELY done with my to-do list.
Figure out when and where you work best
This took me some time to figure out, but I eventually learned I am most productive in the morning. I hold this time close to me and will rarely schedule meetings first thing in the am. I hold afternoons for calls and meetings because I am sluggish and craving the social interaction by then anyway. I also learned on days when I have to get A LOT done, it is necessary for me to get out of the house and settle in somewhere. I have a favorite secret coffee shop I camp out in and I can knock out my most dreaded projects over a green tea and noise cancelling headphones. Everyone works differently, so take the time to figure out how you work best.
Time blocking can be magical
I don’t always do this, but when I have a lot on my plate, I block out time on my calendar for each project based on how long I think it will take me. This allows me to not feel overwhelmed because my calendar proves it can be done! And it holds me accountable to each project, not just the ones I enjoy doing. I set 1-2 hours on my Google Calendar and I link them to the Trello card for the project, leaving little time to diddle daddle and maximum time to write. I wish I was disciplined enough to use time blocking all the time, but alas I am not and only utilize when on tight deadlines.
Whether you own your own business or work remotely as an employee, figuring out how to work remotely is a challenge. Learning about your specific work style and how to be most productive will be beneficial in creating a lifestyle that works for you. Now, wish me luck on my next endeavor as I re-discover the nine-to-five.
Mallory Lehenbauer is a writer and entrepreneur. She’s also the Founder and Editrix in Chief of Writing Home Society.