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One of the benefits of freelancing is the freedom that comes with managing your own schedule—including being able to work from home.
But working from a home office presents a challenging balancing act. Not only are there more distractions—hello sink full of dishes—but it can also be hard to shut off at the end of the day. After all, your computer and everything you need to work is so accessible, not left behind in an office somewhere. All of these little challenges can deteriorate your efficiency, making your days less productive.
To avoid the common ‘work from home’ issues, optimize your work hours and find balance after hours with these tips.
1. Schedule breaks
Burnout is common for freelancers and entrepreneurs because it often feels like you’re always on. If you were at an office all day, you would take a lunch break, chat with co-workers, and take long strolls to the restroom down the hall. At home, however, it’s easy to fall into the habit of eating lunch at your desk or working until 7 p.m. With less distractions, you may feel more productive, but you run the risk of doing too much and burning out.
To avoid this, schedule short breaks into your day. Take a walk around the block, do a few quick stretches, and leave your desk for meals. If you need a reminder to get away from the office for a few minutes, use the Pomodoro Method. The idea is simple: you set a deadline for what you’re working on with a timer, and take a break when the timer goes off.
“When you have a deadline, you are more productive,” says Ian Cleary, founder of Razorsocial. He explains that he sets timers for everything; the looming feeling of the deadline drives focus and intensity. Then you can enjoy a brief break and come back re-energized and ready for your next work “sprint.”
2. Outsource home chores
It’s easy to get distracted by daily chores when your home doubles as your office. You take a quick break to wash the dishes and all of a sudden you’re tidying up the entire kitchen. Now you’ve lost valuable (billable) time to getting that stain off the cabinet. If you were in an office, you wouldn’t stop a project to clean.
If you can’t avoid this distraction, and don’t have enough time or energy at night to clean before the next workday starts, outsource chores that might distract your workflow. Here are a few examples:
- Use a same-day wash and fold service to avoid laundry distractions. Cleaners have gone high-tech, so they’ll even send an email notification when your laundry is done, according to CD One Price Cleaners. Suddenly, laundry is done and you can take one of your breaks to run out and grab it.
- If your dog needs walking and you’re too busy, use on-demand services like Wag or Rover. The walker comes to your home or apartment and you keep working while your pooch gets exercise.
- Consider hiring a cleaning service, even if it’s bi-weekly, to give your home and workspace a deep clean. According to HomeAdvisor, the national average is $50-$90 per hour; build it into your budget and stop cleaning during your workday.
- Use a grocery delivery service to bring in your staples once a week. Check out the Penny Hoarder’s list of the five best options and stop doing groceries in the middle of a project.
3. Invest in your workspace
Your home office needs to be set up for comfort, productivity, and efficiency, but you don’t need a huge budget to completely renovate your workspace. Instead, think of small details that will help you work better. If you don’t like sitting down all day, for example, DIY your own sit-stand desk solution with this idea from PC Mag.
If you’re not sure where to start, make a list of anything that might be a roadblock to your productivity and then find solutions. Look at this as a fun experiment. For example, you might not realize how much noisy neighbors or street traffic is affecting your performance until you get noise canceling headphones.
Remember, as a freelancer or contractor, most purchases for your home office are also tax deductible. Not to mention, if you actually enjoy being in your workspace because of a comfortable chair or inviting candles or plants, your workday will go by that much faster.
4. Pretend you aren’t home
Many times, remote workers will answer the door or phone during the day or agree to doing favors for friends. For example, your roommates may ask you to be around when a repairman shows up or family members ask you to run an errand that can only be done during work hours.
All those small tasks are distractions. Not only are you focused on getting something else done, but then you have to get back into your flow when it’s over. Instead of saying “yes” to these tasks and distractions, take the “Nobody’s home!” tact.
If someone knocks on the door, don’t feel obligated to answer. Avoid interactions with friends and family and say no when they ask you to do something mid-day. If you need to, spend time working at a coffee shop during the week. Taking yourself outside of your home office may be what you need to finally say “no” to tasks that distract from your workday.
5. Enjoy the flexibility, but set a schedule
Freelancers value their flexibility. The Anywhere Workers study revealed that 62% of those that work remotely chose to do so for the freedom and flexibility to work from wherever they choose. While working remote provides autonomy over your schedule, this flexibility can make it easy to find distractions.
You might choose to do personal chores or take a break during typical work hours, but then have to make up the work somewhere else. This means you may have to work evenings, which can lead to burnout or missing events with friends who work a traditional workday.
To find a balance, set a schedule for your week. If you want to do groceries every Tuesday morning, that’s okay—but plan for it. Better yet, take stock of how your week goes when you do that. While it might be nice to miss the Sunday afternoon crowds, you may find that you’re consistently feeling behind on those days or missing out on your hobbies to get work done that could have been done during the day.
Work efficiently from your home office
Working from home offers both benefits and challenges. If you make a conscious effort to limit distractions from your everyday life, take breaks to avoid burnout, and create a flexible schedule, you may find you get more done and feel less stressed. With your efficiency at home dialed in, you can truly enjoy the advantages and flexibility of freelance remote work.