Many of us are used to working in a virtual environment in one way or another, but taking it from part time to full time can be a surprisingly big shift. We likely already have the skills and the equipment, but creating routine and maintaining motivation are totally different challenges.
This post looks at how to boss your virtual/remote working by reviewing or implementing processes and tips to boost motivation and productivity. And if you’re a Lyrical Host customer, there are downloads that work well with this post in the Resource Library.
Refining your work environment
If you’re not used to working full time from home, the first thing to do is consciously review your workspace. If you are used to working from home, this is still worth doing if you haven’t done it in a while!
Make sure you have comfortable seating and that your computer screen is positioned so the top of the screen is eye-level. If you don’t have a stand, big books or small solid boxes are great alternatives.
Have something in your work environment that makes you smile. It could be a photo, quote, small desk toy, favorite cushion, lovely stationery, whatever you like. It’s an easy way to create a good association and good vibes for your workspace.
But don’t go crazy….try to keep your workspace as clear as possible, especially if you’re starting out in a new place. If you’re a tidy person, it will help you concentrate. If you’re a messy person, things will get chaotic later anyway so you may as well start with the maximum possible space to put things!
If you tend to work from different places, either within your home or remotely, treat your laptop bag or prepare a work bag as an extension of your work environment. Pens and sticky notes are a must, and a portable charger is always useful. Being strict about what you put in there will help keep you keep organized long-term.
Creating or reviewing your toolset
Tools can be a huge timesink if you let them. You can research them endlessly, and there always seems to be something new to look at. The best tools are the ones you like using, that do what you want, and that are a reasonable price.
If you’re just starting to look at things like time trackers and calendars, it’s worth spending some time to make sure you’re using a good tool that does what you want, but not letting it become a block or a reason not to start/submit/launch/take a leap of faith. If you ask any long-time business owner or blogger, they’ll tell you that the tools they used starting out aren’t the tools they’re using now. Your tools will evolve over time, so don’t worry about them being perfect right from the start.
Good rules for tools:
- Don’t waste your time investigating or trying something just because it’s positioned as “the next hot thing” (unless you’re actively unhappy with your current tool). There are far more tools released every week than you could ever use or have time for!
- You don’t have to use the same tool/s as someone else, even if they’re in the same business or niche. While recommendations and starting points can be useful, their tools don’t have to be your tools.
- There are no magic tools. A tool doesn’t directly make you any more or less successful. That’s down to you!
It’s always fun to nosy through someone else’s toolkit (you can find ours here: 10 Fantastic Tools & Services We Use To Run Lyrical Host) and check out new tools, but don’t become a tool-hopper. There’s no magic tool that will radically make you millions, and you’ll waste precious time regularly switching.
Developing a schedule
This one is tricky. Not everyone loves schedules, and no one has full control over their time.
If you hate schedules, try to craft a “skeleton routine,” where you slot in the things you have to do every day at a certain time (e.g. brush your teeth, do the school run), and then let your work tasks flow loosely around that. Daily task lists may work better for you, so you can keep things fluid and just move things to tomorrow’s list if something comes up or you don’t feel like working.
If you’re not opposed to schedules, you may want to take a more structured approach. It’s likely that the reality will end up differently to how you plan – whether it’s a boss, clients, family members, life commitments, or a combination, other things willl influence even the best intentions.
To reduce frustration, add an element of flexibility. This could be giving yourself longer than you need to complete tasks, or dividing your time into “blocks” of different themes/tasks with non-specific start and end times.
Start earlier than you’ve planned for where possible. This way there’s less pressure to catch up when life inevitably takes over.
The most important realisation: Not all your time will be fully productive. There will always be a delivery to get up for, or an invoice to sort out, or a quick social media break, or a few hours (or days!) where you don’t feel like working. If you’re going into full-time freelancing, the amount of billable hours you have is likely to be less than you’d expect, especially if you have a family or other commitments.
Psst: Are you the kind of person that is surprised to find it’s gone dark outside? If so, schedule in your breaks (even set an alarm if you need to). Just a couple of minutes to stretch your legs and grab something to drink will give your eyes a break.
Tips for overcoming common problems
“My family/friends/neighbors can’t understand I’m working and come in/ask me to do things all day.”
People treating you as “always there” – whether it’s your colleagues/clients or your family – can really kill your time and motivation. Sadly there’s no magic solution, other than running away.
Going “off-grid” by setting your status to away (or going offline altogether) can help with online demands; worst case scenario you’ll get a slap on the wrist.
Creating different door signs (or pictures, for younger ones) to let people know whether they can disturb you or not, is worth a try! If all else fails, try to set a timer for ten minutes and see what you can get done (or hide in a car/shed).
“I keep getting distracted by all the things I need to do in the house/my life.”
There will always be more laundry or more tidying to do, so if you can put everything unrelated out of sight of your workspace. Try to shut the door on it or simply turn your back; you’ll forget about it quicker than you may think!
“I can’t stop snacking!”
Work as physically far away from your fridge and food cupboards as possible. If the food is out of sight and boredom distance (and ideally on another floor), it’s less likely you’ll find yourself scouting for snacks.
Prepare a snack plate in a break and have it at a regular time. Or have only freezable snacks that need fully defrosting, so there’s no impulse snacking.
“I can’t seem to get motivated.”
Take advantage of the novelty factor. A new keyboard, new font, or a new spot to work from can all motivate you. Don’t try to force yourself into a way of working that just isn’t right for you. For example, if you know you hate mornings, don’t set yourself up to fail by creating a 5am routine. If possible, avoid comparing your achievements to other people’s, and conversely don’t let their complaints or excuses bring down your mood. Just do the best you can, and aim to do a little better tomorrow. Over time, the consistency will pay off.
Lyrical Host customer? For more motivation tips, grab “How To Motivate Yourself When You Just Want To Watch Netflix” and “Mastering Mindset” from the Resource Library.
Be kind to yourself. Even if you’re used to working from home, working from home full-time over a prolonged period takes a lot of getting used to!
What are your home working tips? Please share them in the comments!
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