How to Work at Home: Improving Productivity of Freelancers

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How to Work at Home

For Freelancers, Digital Nomads and Solopreneurs, part of the appeal of working from home is not have to make that horrid commute — walking, taking public transit, biking and worst of all driving.  But sometimes working from home is a productivity-killer, there are so many distractions and sometimes living blends too closely with professional work that it’s hard to get things done.  Below is a definitive guide to — How to Work at Home.

If your home or temporary abode also doubles as your office as a Freelancer, Solopreneur or Digital Nomad, then personal life blends with work-life.  Sometimes it’s very useful because you save time and you can wear your pajamas to work (we’ve all done it before) or you can just do work right at the kitchen table, but sometimes it can backfire and make working unproductive.

These are the unintended consequences of living and working in the same space.

Recently, with the advent of the gig economy and freelancing in general, 3rd party spaces of popped up.  Look back even further, I would say Starbucks was probably the first to formalize this concept with the creation of what they called the “third place”.

Starbucks’ idea was to create a space where it wasn’t the home and wasn’t your employer’s office, but it’s an additional space where you can relax away all the cares of personal and professional life.

In line with this, freelancers now have many venues called Coworking Spaces that allow for freelancers to rent out a desk, a common space and even private rooms for the day.  There are also monthly passes that can be bought as well.  We’ve profiled some of these in our Coworking Space and Services section with some key feature coworking spaces in major hubs around the world!  Check them out.

So while there are options for the freelancer, this article is really about how to work at home instead.  You can always go to a Starbucks or local cafe to work, but sometimes that’s just not preferable with the loud music, potentially loud conversations and inconvenient if you need to make client calls.


Working at Home – Laying the Ground Rules

Because you work for yourself and that you work alone and that you call the shots, it’s sometimes tough to in-still discipline in your work schedule and the way you work.  But with some simple ground rules, it could make working from home much more enjoyable and productive.

Here are 8 tips, suggestions or guidelines to follow to achieve an effective work-from-home experience and maximize your productivity:


1. Try to not work in your PJs

The mindset of working should be separated from living or sleeping in general.  This comes as no surprise that dressing for success also means find another outfit to wear to do work (even if it is just nice lounge pants, which is what I do.)  The idea of getting up, brushing your teeth, doing the regular thing you do as if you had to go to an employer’s workplace sets the tone for the rest of the day.  This is the first step in being in that mindset to help you be more productive and for longer periods.


2. Get a Pet

Now that you have time and are working at home, getting a pet is a very good piece of advice.  It’s been known that pets (any kind of pet really, even low-maintenance ones) has a positive correlation with health and well-being.

And it doesn’t even have to be the stereotypical dog that lies there with you though there are many benefits to owning a dog over other pets.  Most pets like a cat, fish and even reptiles can have the same effect.  Though with a pet dog, there are added benefits.

The dog more or less requires to be let out for its nature’s call, and that usually means that it forces you to also take frequent breaks and ones that’s outside where you can get some fresh air.  Which leads us to the next point…

(There are services where you can be a home to a dog for the day or stay overnight if you’re interested.  One of these services is DogVacay.)


3. Taking Breaks

Now this is something the only plagues those that work at home, but really any worker in general.

Taking breaks is hard — especially when you’re on a roll.  If you’re like most freelancers who are mostly doing their jobs at a desk then it’s very good to take breaks.  It’s been proven that taking regular breaks can improve productivity and the rule there is taking a 10 minute break for every hour or work.

If taking a break is tough for you to handle, you should build in something in your schedule that can remind you to take a break.  Set the timer on your phone to remind you.  An additional tip here is to create a break that’s fun or something that you NEED to do at home.

One of the things that I do in the apartment that I live in is the need to laundry.  Doing laundry helps make me take breaks and for a definition about of time.  I have to get up, lift things, walk around.  It’s what I call an “active break” which is even better than a passive one because it keeps you occupied and likely take your mind off things.

Learn to take breaks and build that into your daily habits.


4. Partition Your Space

If you’re home is big enough, you’d likely already have a dedicated home-office.  If you’re really lucky you probably have that home-office in a room with a door.  But not everyone can have that so for those of you that don’t, it’s important to partition your space.  Create the space to divide where you work and where you live.  It’s a matter of setting boundaries.

I see this all the time, freelancers who work at home tend to work just about anywhere.  Because our computing devices are mobile these days means we can wake up and work right in our PJs and right in our bedroom.  While the effects of this aren’t immediate, it can do more harm because it invites the attitude that you’re bringing work into the bedroom and the precedence that you are available to work at anytime in the day.  Over time, this attitude contributes to burnout and not being able to set boundaries between live and work.

Again if you don’t have a dedicated space like a room with a door, partition your physical space with a physical divider like this below:

The idea is to create a working space, create a physical boundary which leads to the mindset of setting a boundary between work, play and your personal life.  After-all you are your work Freelancers, but it’s not 100% of you.


5.  Clean Up Your Space

You’ve probably encountered this book before or known someone that read it.  It’s one of the Best-Selling books and it’s gone viral in many circles.  It concerns The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

Essentially, the idea is our space and environment is a reflection of our state of mind and vice versa.  Haven’t you encountered this before, the more junk you have, the more clutter you accumulate and it becomes a downward spiral.

Aside from the clutter that can grow exponential if left unkept, it also concerns and address those that have a hoarding mentality.  Most of us are not as extreme as the ones on the hoarding shows on reality tv where you cannot being get to the rest of your house because your stuff is in the way, but all of us have a potential to keep things longer than their welcome.  The book, talks about how to declutter by removing things from the home.  Sometimes these things are things we are emotionally attached to.  Most of the time, they were meaningful to us at one point in the our lives and no longer serve us.  Some have nostalgic efforts on us.

What the author, implores us to do is to consider each object and see if it brings us “joy”.  If it, at this very moment, can bring us joy then keep it.  If it doesn’t, it’s a sign that it should not be in your space any longer.

Luckily, there are a lot of places where these objects can go.  If they still have value, listing them on eBay and Craigslist and a whole host of other online marketplaces is common and convenient nowadays.

Besides selling the item you can also barter.  There’s an app called BUNZ where you just snap a photo, write a description and see what others want or negotiate a fair trade in return.  Who knows, you might also find a new friend in the process!

Lastly, goes without saying that you can give things away.  There are also many local shelters and thirst stores that take donations.  They in-term sell this for their own charitable works and it’ll be good to know your unwanted stuff went to something good, no?


6.  Filling the Space with Life

Haven’t you noticed that in the last office space you worked, that there have been some plant life around?  Don’t you see that gardener or horticulturalist come by to water the plants every week or so?

Plants have a way of livening up the space.  They have this quiet disposition, you might not even notice them, but they are there all the same.  It’s been proven (by NASA, yes the space agency) that they have a restorative effect by cleaning up any potential pollutants in the space.   Here’s an article on the top plants for purifying your indoor air.

It sounds hypocritical but I’ve never had any luck with growing plants in the places where I live.  Some of these do require light and depends greatly on your climate where you live too.  I happy to live in an apartment that faces west and in the winters my poor plants don’t get enough sunlight (that’s my excuse anyway).  For those of us sorely missing a green thumb, I’ve opted for a mechanical option for air purifying instead.


7.  Eating (relatively) Scheduled Meals

It’s easy to have one task bleed into another.  “Take breaks” was advice number 3 because that consistently is a tough one to break (no pun intended).  However, it’s just as easy, if not more so to skip meals because there is no set schedule.

I’ve been a victim to this habit before and maybe you’ll recognize this in yourself — booking your online calendar schedule so your clients can schedule calls at anytime even during noon of your timezone because you don’t want the clients on the west coast to be miss that time-slot.  It’s tough and I’ve been there.

What is vitally important is to schedule enough time to even make your meal or plan ahead and book enough time to eat.  In the employer-employee working world, most people are allotted 30 minutes.  I don’t know who eats this fast, but 30 minutes seems like a very short period of time to relax, eat, socialize and then get back to the cubicle.

So when you have the freedom to do it your way, please schedule your lunch time for at least 1 hour.  After all, everyone deserves it.


8. Lastly, Go Out of your Home!

It is absolutely counterintuitive that an article on “How to Work at Home” suggests you to go outside.  Trust me this is probably the most important one.

When (and yes it’s a when) you get sick of working at home, you need to find this space.  I spoke earlier that Starbuck’s concept of the third place was driving by the need to have this relaxing environment away from office and the home.  When your home IS your office, then there is only one space and it’s healthy to find another second place away from all that.

I spoke above of the many options.  Your closest Starbucks, your local cafe and the many beautiful and zen Coworking Spaces around the world and where we’ve featured some in our magazine.  So that’s working outside the home.  If you had a dog, you would be taking these breaks as well on your daily walks with a dog.  So there are many ways to accomplish this, but the key is the put on those shoes and just go.  I myself have a hard time doing this too, but it’s usually the mindset that if I were to take breaks I would lose my momentum when in fact there’s plenty of evidence that the opposite is true.


Do you work from home?  Any more tips for us to add to this guide in your experience?  Write us and comment below!

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