When I started ER Marketing Services in 2018, I was so excited to be working from home. Everything was so great! I got a workout in after the kids left for school, caught up on chores, and cooked lovely meals.
It was a luxurious treat I had been craving. Until I realized that, my business work wasn’t happening as much as it should. As you can see, working from home is not without its challenges. It can be difficult to stay on task and remain efficient. As I’ve tweaked my way to balanced productivity, I’d like to share my top tips when working from home.
Working From Home Planning
Whenever I feel that I’m busy but not productive, I sit down and plan to get myself back on track. My friends giggle when they ask about my weekend and I report that I binge-watched YouTube time management videos. I find it exciting to see how others are using systems to be productive and then tweak my version.
I probably overdo it, but this is what my planning for my business looks like for me. Note, I usually don’t do all of these at the same time. They each have their place for when to focus on them.
At the beginning of the year I braindump all the things I want to accomplish and set out big project goals. For example, a course I want to take or a product or service I want to create and sell. Then I break them down by priority and earmark them for a quarter or a month to look at and tackle.
Each quarter I look at my annual plan, review my past quarter and review my year-to-date revenue and income. I then set goals for the next quarter with good, better, and best specific $ number or dated deadlines.
Looking at my quarter goals, I once again break them down. I either make them weekly or bi-weekly goals and put dates beside when I want them done by. This helps prioritize and focus when I go to plan my weekly tasks.
Each Sunday I prepare my agenda and include three to five quarterly or monthly tasks to chip away at. These tasks get their own special colour so I know this task will move me toward my big goals. I make sure that each day I have set aside one hour to work on this type of project.
Do you plan this intensely when you are working from home or in an office?
Start Your Day With A Strong Morning Routine
I’m really big on predictability and consistency each day. Do I always get through all of the things I’ve planned? No. But with a plan, it sure helps increase my chances of being productive.
Each morning I review my plan for the day. If there are meetings, I confirm alarms are set so I don’t forget to show up! Next, I do some basic rituals that I learned from the Flylady. I make the beds, get dressed, do a quick pickup, wipe down a bathroom, and turn on Roombas.
My husband is home these days to get the kids out the door but I do occasionally prod and follow up with them that they are doing what they need to to get out the door on time.
Health And Wellness
Working from home means that sometimes I don’t leave the house for many days. If it’s been more than a few I may walk with my son to school to get in the sunshine and fresh air. Movement or a focus activity helps the day start right for me. When I miss it I seem more distracted and it’s harder to get to work. These activities are only 10 to 20 minutes because I don’t have a lot of time.
I try to make a smoothie the night before so that it’s ready for me in the morning so I’ll either pull that out of the fridge or make one up quickly. Eating breakfast is a slow event for me so that’s why I like smoothies to sip on throughout the morning.
I also fill my 32-ounce water container and drink as much as I can. Ideally, I add some lemon but if not, plain works for me. My goal is to get in 64 ounces a day. When I first set this goal I was at 8 ounces a day. I was shocked when I discovered that and it made so much sense that I was foggy and tired. It’s taken several months of increasing my intake but I’ve had better skin and more energy (and I snack less) as a result. Some days I’m only at 24 ounces while others I am over my goal. Being mindful is my trick and I’ve enjoyed my average intake dramatically improving. I strive for improvement over perfection.
Finally, before I sit down to work, I review my menu plan. Sounds fancier than it is. On the weekend I open the fridge, freezer, and pantry and write down food I want to use up. I cross them off the list as we eat them. That said, when I look at the list I will pull out the foods I need from the pantry and set it on the counter, confirm the fridge has the item, or pull out what I need from the freezer to defrost.
By gathering the items I will need, this makes it easier to make it up during my morning break or at lunch. Sometimes I even put my lunch in the crockpot at this point so I can enjoy a hot meal with little prep. Yes, sometimes turning that microwave on for one or two minutes is too much of a chore and I’ll skip lunch altogether. At lunchtime, I also try to get in a 15-minute walk around the block to change the scene and increase my energy for the afternoon.
Believe it or not, at this point in my day it’s just before 9:00 AM. To give you context I roll out of bed around 7:00 or 7:30 AM on average.
Each weekday morning at 9:00 AM I join a Zoom with my accountability group. I started this group because I was missing being social with other solopreneurs who also were working from home. This helps each of us focus our day because we do a roundtable update on what we did the day before and what we plan to do that day. Giving this update sets the tone for the day.
Set Clear Boundaries When Working From Home
Setting up an ideal schedule of what you’d like your day to look like was an excellent activity for me. I determined how many hours a day I could work on my business, in my business, and also added time for other priorities in all areas of my life.
Most importantly, I add breaks between projects as well as lunch breaks and when I want my day to end. Adding “buffer” time and set times for eating has made a big difference in balancing my energy and focus. At the beginning of each week, I simply plug in projects where there is availability.
My days do not perfectly reflect my ideal schedule but I’m not as overworked or burned out because the buffer time adjusts if a project takes longer than the time I’ve blocked off.
I always make myself available when my husband or children arrive home. We aim to sit down for meals together and I take time off when I have low energy. When you take into consideration the buffer time, I’m only booking my day at about 80% of the number of hours. This makes it so much more comfortable if I have a cold or need the day off for a mental health break to be able to make up the projects on another day.
Before Bed Routine
Just as important as starting my day right, so is the end of the day. As with my morning routine, I follow the FlyLady system.
I review my appointments for the next day, set alarms, lay out clothes, and do a quick pick up.
Then it’s time for self-care. This may involve a bath, a shower, then watching a movie or listening to an audiobook while knitting or crocheting. I try to go to bed at a reasonable hour after yoga and meditation.
Working from home as an entrepreneur has its perks but, no matter where you work, having a solid routine is key. It lets you go a little on autopilot while still hitting specific goals in different areas of your life.
Focusing on myself, my family, and working on my business are what I’m striving to balance at this point in my life.
I hope you picked up a few tips to structure your routine to make working from home a positive experience. For more ideas, read 10 Simple Time Management Tips for Working at Home.