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It has been just over a year since I started working full-time from my apartment. Luckily, I'm still at it. But I've learned quite a bit more since I originally wrote Staying Sane While Running a Business From Home.

A Yearly Update

I mentioned several items last year about how I try to stay sane from home, namely taking breaks, keeping regular business hours, and working from a coffee shop every now and again. How did I do?

  • Take Breaks / Coffee Shops – I sometimes went for walks, read, or did other things – but I found it very difficult to take non-computer related breaks. Because I'm incredibly more efficient when working at home, walking to coffee shops was a good way to both get out of the apartment and take a break. Unfortunately, going too regularly put a large dent in the wallet so I tried to limit my outings.
  • Regular Business Hours – While this might be the most difficult for others, I found this to be relatively easy. How did I keep to my limits? Well, because my wife works regular business hours, and has a short commute, I tried to make sure I'm not working before she leaves for work, and that I am done before she gets home.

What Have I Learned?

Even though I was successful to some degree in challenging myself as I worked from home, there was still something missing: efficiency. As it turns out, I was very inefficient with my time. Tasks that should have taken 5 minutes took 10, 20 minute items took 40, and before long it was the end of the day. 

While that might sound like fun every once in a while, it isn't a good way to run a business. What did I do? So far I've tried improving my efficiency by doing the following items.

  • Add More Tasks
  • Manage Those Tasks
  • Set Goals

Add More Tasks: I realized that I just didn't have enough to do in the day which made it unnecessary to be wise with my time. By adding more tasks to my day, I've found that I work more diligently to finish them faster, which has the result of completing more in the same amount of time.

Manage Those Tasks: With more to do, I started getting lost in the shuffle of it all. And to make it worse, I was using some sort of weird written note/email inbox system. I recently began using a task managing service called Todoist and have become much more prompt in finishing my tasks. Now, tasks that would previously slide by unnoticed have suddenly started to remind me of their presence automatically.

Set Goals: Another insight I had was that my tasks were often somewhat meaningless. No, that doesn't mean they had no purpose, but they were simply being completed for the sake of being completed. One adjustment I tried to do was frame my tasks within the context of achievable goals. That way, what used to be tasks became something fun to try and strive for. I also worked to create some longer term goals that were less-easily achievable as a way to challenge myself to dream big.

Enjoy Yourself, But Don't Be Too Casual

After having some time to think and boil down what I've learned, I'd encourage others to enjoy working from home, but not to get caught up in the casual lifestyle of it all.

When I first began, I can definitely remember have the idea/dream that I'd basically just be hanging out with friends, drinking coffee, and writing casually. Though that sounds fun, it created a mindset of being too casual, which almost seemed to poison my work activities.

But luckily, I've had the good fortune of finding some issues with my work-from-home arrangement and making what seem to be positive corrections. Hopefully I'll still be writing in a year from now to let you know how it is coming along.

Tip Roundup For The Home Office Worker

1. Have the tools you need to be productive – It might seem obvious, but this is incredibly important and probably underemphasized. When creating a home office work environment, setting yourself up for productivity success from the start is key. I added a second monitor to my workstation which has personally helped me be more organized on the computer.

Another idea would be to create useable workspaces out of several areas in your home so that you can move around and still get work done. Turnstone's Personal Table can help you be productive at the couch.

2. Add, Manage, And Set Task Goals – Once you've created a workspace ready for productivity, it is important to understand how much work you currently do in a day. Once you find out, optimize your day by better managing your tasks and then being able to add more. Setting goals can be a good way to get your productivity up.

3. Keep Regular Hours, but Allow For Breaks – I still think this is incredibly important as overworking is entirely possible. And for me, working long days can generally be attributed to a lack of productivity. But when I find myself needing to work longer, it is still important to break the timeup so my brain has time to process what it has been working on.

How have you become more productive while working from home? 

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