Whether you work from home every day or a few days a week, there’s no denying the benefits. You can enjoy a flexible schedule, skip the daily commute and go about your day without someone breathing down your neck. But the ability to make money on your terms doesn’t mean you’ll always be productive, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’ll always be happy.
What’s interesting is that happiness and productivity go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other. Happy workers are typically more productive on the job, and unproductive workers can find themselves unhappy due to a domino effect. Unproductively can lead to missed deadlines, which can lead to tension with clients or your boss, which can then lead to stress.
I haven’t had a traditional day job since 2005, and while I wouldn’t trade what I do for anything, I haven’t always been as happy or productive as some freelance writers. Early on I knew the importance of coming up with a to-do list to keep my workflow on schedule, and I knew I had to minimize distractions throughout the day. But I had to do more. It wasn’t until I made drastic changes—and stuck with these changes—that things improved for the better.
Here’s what I did to stay productive and happy while working from home.
1. Set the alarm clock
If you’re self-employed, one of the best perks of working from home is not starting your day at the crack of dawn. But while there’s the freedom to begin working at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., or later, sleeping in every morning and getting your day off to a late start can kill productivity.
After getting up at 7 a.m. every morning for many years, I vowed that once I began freelancing I would never set my alarm clock again. I followed through on this promise, and for a while it was nice waking up when I finished sleeping and starting work when I felt like it. But as someone who also prefers “not” working into the late afternoon or evenings (I’m at my sharpest mentally earlier in the day), this schedule was stressing me out because I was constantly behind on work. I was only dedicating about three hours a day to work, and at the time this wasn’t enough. I came to the painful realization that I had to make some changes, which mainly revolved around starting work earlier.
I didn’t start my workday super early, but I was realistic and began working at a time, that allowed me to complete all my work in a single day. I no longer carried the day’s work into the next day, thus I felt more productive, accomplished and happy.
2. Get dressed
There are days when working in my robe and pajamas doesn’t affect productivity. Even so, if I go more than a few days without getting dressed for the day, I do notice myself slipping into a slump where I feel lazy and unmotivated. Obviously, this doesn’t happen to everyone. But if you’ve been lounging in your pajamas all day and you feel uninspired, get dressed and see if you feel better. I’m not suggesting throwing on business attire like you’re going to a corporate meeting. Instead, get dress like you’re running an errand or meeting a friend for lunch.
3. Don’t forget to eat
Sometimes I would forget to eat breakfast or lunch when I’m in a zone, which resulted in crashing hours later. This smashed my motivation and performance. And once I finally ate, it took time for my energy level to catch up, which meant I ended up losing valuable work time. Now, I make sure to eat healthy meals and snacks through the day to keep my blood sugar and energy up. My concentration has improved and I’m able to accomplish more in a shorter span of time.
4. Commit to off days
The same way employees get two days off a week and time off for federal holidays, you also deserve breaks. Since we control our income, it’s tempting to work seven days a week, but this can tire us out and lead to burnout and unhappiness. Plus, there’s no fun in working on holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Labor Day when friends and family are enjoying themselves. Therefore, plan your workflow so you can have mental downtime.
5. Find a space that inspires you
Make sure you find a space in the home that inspires you. Some people can work anywhere—I can’t. I don’t know why, but certain spots in my house give my creative juices a boost. We have a dedicated home office since we both work from home. But ironically, I don’t work here. From a creative standpoint, this room does absolutely nothing for me. My sweet spot is upright in the bed or sitting in the corner chair in our living room.
In similar fashion, if you’re not productive or happy, switch up where you work to get your creative juices flowing. Keep in mind that you’re not limited to inside the house. You might work better on your porch or deck, at a coffeehouse, or at the library or a bookstore.
Working from home can be a dream scenario, but only if you’re productive and happy. Granted, this isn’t the right situation for everyone. If you don’t want to throw in the towel and head back to a traditional work environment, changing how you conduct business in the confines of your home might make all the difference.
My new course just launched, Tame Your Finances (& Save $5,000 in the Process). I’m so excited to share it with you. It’s different than most other personal finance courses because we start out talking about your mindset, limiting beliefs and all the other stuff that’s getting in the way before we ever start to look at your financial situation. I truly believe if you want to change your life you have to change your thoughts first. I know it works, because I did it! Visit tameyourfinances.com to learn more.