The 5 Keys to Success
In today’s technological age, more and more people have the opportunity to work from home. The lure of a better work/life balance, flexibility and freedom can be real attractions. Combine these benefits with a reduction in travelling time, overheads and office politics and it can seem an irresistible option.
But beware! Working from home can present a whole host of new challenges, as I discovered for myself when I left my busy, office based job to work from home. I found myself faced with a variety of new experiences, not all of them positive!
I needed to turn this situation around. Was I the only one being distracted by laundry or growing grass (never a problem before!) Why was my productivity dropping? Where had my motivation gone? All of a sudden I had discovered the unique challenges associated with working from home.
So, in the interests of research, (not procrastination – honestly!) I asked other people about their experiences and found that I wasn’t alone. One business woman said, ‘When you work in a commercial environment you have a structure, you know the boundaries and you have social interaction. I felt adrift when I first started working from home’
Throughout my research, the key issues which came up time and time again were staying focused, lack of balance between work life and home life, distractions, isolation and negative internal dialogue.
So, I asked people who had successfully overcome these barriers for their tips and tried them out for myself. Thankfully I found that they really worked for me and have now been working home successfully for 6 years!.
Key Number 1: Stay Focused
When we focus we get more done. But make sure that you are focusing on the right things, in the right way. Set business goals which excite and inspire you. Plan your diary in advance, giving time for actions towards each goal. If you like flexibility, make space for that in your diary. Follow this simple focusing process to work towards your goals:
Find your Goal(s). Make sure you know why you really want this goal. What are the benefits to you? Can you see hear and feel what it will be like once you have achieved it?
Open your mind: If you don’t have anyone to ‘bounce’ ideas off, you will need to be creative when looking for opportunities. Try mind mapping to look for solutions and to move your business forward.
Clarify the gap between where you are now and where you want to be (your goal). How many ways could you get to your goal?
Understand the actions you will need to take in order to bridge the gap. Work out which ones will work best for you and prioritise accordingly.
Step Forward. Once You know what you need to do, break your actions down into small steps and schedule them in as priorities for each day.
Key Number 2: Create Boundaries Between Work and Home Life
Decide on where in the home you will be based and make the environment permanent, comfortable, and sacred to your work. If you are lucky you will have a separate room with a door but if not, choose a regular space and ensure that all of your resources are easily accessible.
One home-worker I know has a filing cabinet on wheels in which she keeps all her documents, stationery etc. Each evening she closes it and wheels it back into the corner of her living room.
Establish your working hours, how long and when. Working from home doesn’t have to be 9-5 but there does need to be a structure if you want to be productive whilst avoiding burn-out.
Have a ‘start work and finish work ritual’. This can be opening in the office door, wheeling in your filing cabinet, or even a particular type of music in the background. Whatever you chose, make sure you associate it mentally with beginning and end of work.
Have a work ‘uniform’. One successful businessman told me that he dresses for work and then gets changed when it is ‘time to go home’. He finds this helps him to compartmentalise between work and home life. Personally I like to wear comfortable clothing but I put shoes on at the beginning of my work time and change to slippers at the end! (It works for me!!)
Key Number 3 Eliminate Distractions
Distractions can be disguised in many forms! By setting a focused plan and structuring your work day you will be half way to eliminating distractions. However, some seem to be out of your control so here are a few tips:
Inform everyone who needs to know what your working day will be. If you get uninvited visitors, just be polite and tell them you have deadlines. Schedule some time with them for another, more convenient time.
Be aware that trying to work whilst caring for children or other dependants is a recipe for disaster! You will need to break tasks into tiny steps so that you can maintain a sense of achievement.
Set up your ‘to do list’ the previous day. If you leave this until the morning of day itself it is easy to prioritise the wrong tasks (by choosing the easiest not the most important to do first). At the end of the week, set your goals for the following week and your actions for the first day of that week.
Filter emails and switch off social media alerts! (Unless your business is solely conducted on social media!)
Use a stopwatch to focus on tasks for a certain time period. This is really useful for completing routine tasks. For example, you can say to yourself “I will complete as much filing as possible during the next hour” and make it a game to get through as much as possible during that time.
If you keep getting distracted by other tasks or chores, make a note of each one and schedule for another more appropriate time.
Key Number 4: Reduce Isolation
Working at home can be very isolating, which in turn can be counterproductive to achieving your goals. Apart from loneliness being cited as a major downside of isolation, working alone for hours, or days at a time means that there is no-one to bounce ideas off. You don’t learn from your peers and you are often not accountable for deadlines etc. I love working on my own so found it surprising when I encountered all off these problems at first. However, this does not have to be a problem if you:
Join and attend industry specific and local business networks (not just virtual networks). You will get chance to learn from others, discuss your business and bounce ideas.
Sign up for relevant courses. Similar to networks, you will develop your knowledge and have a forum to explore ideas.
Change your environment every now and again. I love to take my laptop to a café every now and again and work amongst the noise and bustle.
Find an “accountability partner”. Obviously a coach like myself will hold you accountable but you could choose to meet another home-worker on a regular basis and share your goals and timelines. Then you each make a commitment to report back on an agreed date and time.
Schedule 15 minute ‘virtual coffee breaks’ with someone in your industry who also works from home. A short break on Skype or Zoom will replace that interaction you would have at the water cooler or kettle in an open office environment.
Key Number 5: Avoid Negative Internal Dialogue
Have you ever caught yourself being critical to yourself? Whilst this is good at times and helps you to improve, it can be self destructive if you create a habit.
This is also known as ‘mind chatter’ or ‘monkey brain chatter’ It is easy to spend time rehashing things that have happened already and rehearsing things that may go wrong! Being mindful of your thoughts is even more important when you work alone as you are likely to be over critical of yourself and damage your confidence and self esteem
To avoid this dangerous scenario:
Be mindful of your thoughts. Every time you find yourself indulging in negative thoughts, replace them with something more positive.
Treat yourself with the same respect as you would treat others. For instance, you wouldn’t say to someone else “You idiot, you made a complete mess of that, you are useless!” If and when your mind chatter treats you like this replace it with a different conversation, for example “That didn’t work out. What did I learn? What will I do differently next time?”
Working From Home: The Five Keys To Success
Linda Ford is a Personal Development Coach and Trainer. She helps her clients to set and achieve their goals through focusing on the right things, in the right way.