Driven to distraction? 7 top tips to stop procrastination when working from home
“I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do the day after” – Oscar Wilde
Working from home sounds great, doesn’t it? No office politics to worry about or difficult boss to please. Instead, you get to do things your way – working when you want, where you want and how you want, and saving on commuting and travel into the bargain.
What’s not to love?!
But while there are definite advantages of remote working, there are distinct downsides, too.
Working from home comes with a lot of distractions – Netflix, housework, emails, endless notifications and the temptations of social media… not to mention your family or flatmate!
It’s easy to get to 5pm without having achieved a thing and be left wondering where the day went!
Whether you’re an experienced freelancer or new to working from home, here are 7 top tips to stop procrastination sapping your time and to give productivity the upper hand.
It might be tempting to roll out of bed whenever you feel like it, but if you want to make home working work for you, setting a regular routine is key to staying focused – as well as a great way to set a boundary between work and home life. What’s more, setting your own schedule makes it much easier to focus on the task in hand.
The hours you choose matter less than the regularity – ultimately, your clients don’t care what hours you work, as long as you get the job done on time. Design your routine around your most productive times, whether that means starting and finishing late, or getting up at silly o’clock and being done by lunchtime. Schedule breaks and time for exercise and end your day at a set time.
If you’re struggling to complete anything, you might be suffering from overwhelm. Start the day with a list of everything you need to get done in order of priority, and tick tasks off as you go. If it helps, break each task down into small, manageable chunks. Taking simple steps that are easy to do tricks your brain into focusing on what you can do, rather than what you can’t. As the saying goes, the only way to eat an elephant is in small chunks.
At the end of the day, take a moment to reflect on what you’ve achieved.
We’re all different. I know some freelancers who can’t work without the buzz of daytime television and others who need absolute silence to focus. Whichever camp you fall into, schedule time where distractions and interruptions are minimised, and you can focus on the task at hand.
Step away from the TV remote, stay off social media, disable pop-up notifications and resist the temptation to check your email every five minutes. Consider setting an auto responder that lets your clients know you only check your emails a couple of times a day – then stick to it!
Today’s achievement culture implies that we should all be experts at juggling – and I’m not talking about circus skills! Yet far from being a sign of efficiency, too much multitasking actually lowers your productivity and can lead to overwhelm.
Limit your use of social media, avoid multi-screening, and focus on one task until it’s complete, rather than keeping a dozen projects on the go at once. And remember, it’s okay to say ‘no’ to work if you really don’t have the time. Clients will respect you more if you do a consistently good job than if you try to take on too many things and end up lowering your standards.
Manage your time
It’s a lot easier to focus when you feel in control of your time. One tried and tested productivity hack that works for me is the Pomodoro Technique. Start by setting a timer for 25 minutes and focus completely and utterly on the task at hand. When the time is up, take a five-minute break. Step away from your desk, make yourself a drink or do a few simple stretches – whatever helps you relax. You’ll come back to the next part of the task refreshed and ready to refocus.
Minimise cabin fever
Most of us spend way too much time being inactive. It’s easy to spend your day hunched over your laptop when you’re working from home but taking regular breaks can help you stay focused and productive.
Use your lunchbreak to get out on your bike or to go for a walk around the block. Take your laptop to a coffee shop for a change of scene (and a decent flat white). And swap some of those endless Zoom calls for walk and talks. Chances are your client will be equally delighted to leave their desk for a bit, and the fresh air and exercise will give you a mental health boost.
Curb your perfectionism
We all experience imposter syndrome from time to time. Even Tom Hanks, Serena Williams and Maya Angelou have admitted to it! It’s that nagging inner voice that tells us we’ll never be good enough. Don’t listen to it!
Instead of striving for perfection, remember what Sheryl Sandberg said: “Done is better than perfect”. Remember – we fail, we learn, we grow – and the only real failure is failing to try. So, give yourself permission to make mistakes and go for it! You’ve got this!
Want to read more?
My bestselling book, Survival Skills for Freelancers, is your secret weapon to help you get more enjoyment from self-employment. It’s available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and audiobook formats, or you can buy direct.