Do you work from home or hope to someday work from home but aren’t sure how to actually make it work? I know many people who feel like they need the structure of an office setting in order to be the most productive they can be. And while working in an office can be great, many men and women who work from home don’t have that option. So what’s a work from home mom or dad supposed to do when scrolling through Facebook sounds a lot more appealing (and easier) than being the “self-starter” in a work-from-home job?
Here are some of the things I do that help me automate my systems, stay on task and motivated, and focused when it really matters:
1 | Set short and long term goals
This goes along with prioritizing (more on prioritizing in a minute) but it’s a little more organized than that. Before you even begin to schedule your time, automate, and focus, you’re going to need to clearly define what your goals are. For my blogs, I have goals of things that I would like to get done this year, and then things I would like to get done this month, and things that I would like to get done tomorrow. Of course, working from home often has its flexibility, but if I’m going to meet my long term, bigger goals, I need to do my best to stay on track with my littler goals- you know, like building blocks.
I use Trello to help map out my goals. I used it when I was working as an employee and I use it still now that I work for myself (I also use it for others things such as packing lists, keeping track of monthly bills, etc.)
Basically, I create lists titled things like “This Year,” or “This Week,” or “Eventually.” I try to keep that board as small as possible because something about the word “eventually” stresses me out and feels unorganized. You get the idea, though.
2 | Schedule your time
With your short term goals, figure out when you want those goals completed by, what steps needs to happen in order to complete them, and how long each step will take. I like to use Asana for their calendar, delegation, and “subtasks” features. Basically, I can create a task, assign a due date to it, assign people on my team to the task (that is, if I had people. Which I plan on having hopefully later this year. That would be a dream come true) and outline all the subtasks that need to be done in order to see that the task is completed.
Here’s an example that I might use as a blogger:
I need to write an important blog post by the end of the month. Put that blog post due date on the calendar. Now I create subtasks such as 1). Outline post 2). Research 3). Write 4). Create social media images 5). Create post draft in WordPress and add all necessary links 6). Publish and share or schedule for social media.
Now, with any one of those subtasks, I could assign them to someone who is a part of my team to get it done for me. I can assign it its own due date and they let me know if/when it’s completed. I can really see how this would be useful as a home management system as well. Except I don’t believe hubby would appreciate getting an email reminding him to take the trash out. But it might be worth a try.
This model works WONDERS for both small and large goals. And since I can switch my tasks to a calendar view, it helps my visual brain see and prepare for when things are due! Asana is the best. If they had an affiliate program I’d be all up in that; but since they don’t (because they’re 100% free) I’m sharing them purely out of the love I have for them in my heart.
3 | Channel inspiration and motivation
Find out when/what inspires and motivates you and take advantage of that.
For me, I know that I write better when I’ve just had an espresso and I can listen to some of that weird “focus” music on YouTube. Yes, we do have a Spotify account which would make finding that type of music much easier, but my husband is never not on Spotify. So I fulfill my listening needs through YouTube. It works for now.
I know that coffee and good music helps get me focus, inspired, and ready to buckle down for work. What is it that helps get you in the zone?
4 | Utilize automation
Lots of jobs have mundane tasks or busywork that can take up our valuable time and leave us feeling tired and unmotivated to move on the the harder things or things requiring more creativity or brain power. This is where automation comes in. As a blogger, I use Viraltag to schedule about 80% of my social media posts ahead of time. Scheduling ahead makes my life and job so much more productive because I’m not spending hours doing tedious work when I could be applying myself to more important things!
Another system I use for automation is MailerLite. When a new person signs up for my email list, I send out a series of automated emails because I want to make sure that every email subscriber starts out in the same place and gets the same useful information as everyone else. This is a system that I only had to put in place once, and then MailerLite takes care of the rest! *proudly claps invisible dust off hands*
5 | Cut out distractions while you work
Literally, close out of all internet tabs that are not important to what you’re doing now. Put in some headphones and pump up that focus music.
I know myself. And I know for a fact that if I have Facebook open or my phone not on silent, I will inevitably fall into a black hole of distractedness and not be able to climb out until a frustrating amount of time has passed. Since I work from home, I have no boss that I have to quickly change tabs for when they walk into my “office.” My time is controlled by me (ok, and the tiny humans (and sometimes a big human) that live in my house). But when they’re sleeping or busy with their own thing, I decide how I spend my working hours and as much as I may want to just zone out for a bit, I need to think ahead and make that not even a temptation when I know that there are more important things to do.
6 | Prioritize
This is something that I need to do MOST when I am feeling the overwhelm of having too many tasks and not enough time in the day. Know the feeling? Besides making a list of things I need to accomplish, I need to order that list withe the things that are most pressing first. I’m the type of person who will procrastinate by cleaning the house or doing easy or small tasks because the thought of starting a big task it a bit overwhelming at the moment. And sometimes that’s actually a good thing to do. I know that I’m actually a lot more focused when my house is clean. So sometimes I know that in order to do my best at a certain task, I need to first clean the house or ask for help from the hubby in order to be able to put my best foot forward. But as soon as that’s out of the way, as much as I might not want to, I need to get the most pressing task done first.
7 | Know your “why”
Sometimes motivation and inspiration isn't going to be enough to keep you going on the tough days or the days where you only got 4 hours of sleep the night before. That’s where your “why” comes in. What’s my why? I blog to support my family and help women live more joyful and fulfilling lives. So on the days when I’d rather zone out and just scroll through pretty pictures on Instagram, I know that neither of those things will happen unless I push through my lack of motivation to get it done anyway! Since this is something I’m passionate about, my motivation always returns to me- usually after a nap, moment of silence during nap time, or a much needed cup of coffee.
So work-from-home mom or dad, what are your tips for staying focused and on-task at your home office? Share your own tips in the comments below and share with a WAHM or WAHD pal.