Here I am, a little over a year into this working from home thing, and I finally feel like I have established some routines. Recently, one of my college roommates and I were chatting about working from home. She just transitioned from an office job of seven years to freelancing at home after the birth of her first child. I was suggesting a few things to her that I thought might be useful based on what has worked for me in the past year, and thought some of my suggestions may be relevant for others in the same situation.
1 / Set a schedule the night before. One of the last things I try to do before I go to bed or finish up my work day is to set a schedule for the next day. Scheduled reminders for activities I need to get done help to keep me on track, and not having to plan things out in the morning makes it easier to get started on the day. There are a plethora of ways this can be done, but I simply set schedule alerts in my iPhone calendar app. As a bonus, these sync to my computer and iPad, and I can also sync with Andrew's calendar when need be.
2 / Choose a couple non-negotiables and center your day around them. Non-negotiables are things that have to happen every day. For me, it's getting showered and dressed by 9am at the latest, exercise, fulfilling orders, and eating lunch. Each of these items needs to get done every day, and if I stray from them I notice that I am less productive. My non-negotiables are the constants that I can use to schedule the rest of my day around.
3 / Give yourself breaks or one free day to recharge. I found that while it's much more productive to have a routine, I also have a hard time sticking to the routine if I don't cut myself a little bit of slack. Throughout the day, I give myself a couple short 15 minute breaks to separate activities. Usually it involves an afternoon coffee or snack, some quick reading, or that sort of activity. Additionally, I often leave my Friday afternoons completely open, and I use the time to either recharge or get creative.
4 / Make manageable to do lists. While having a schedule and a to do list helps me keep a routine, I also notice that putting too many things on my plate for the day is bad news. I shut down and become completely unproductive. I try to pick the most pressing task first, and then I add one or two tasks that have been sitting on the back burner.
5 / Schedule bigger tasks for times that are more productive. My routine is set up based on how productive I am during particular times of day. I am not a morning person, so I set more familiar and less intensive tasks for the morning hours. I read blogs, respond to blog comments, fulfill orders, and other such things in the morning while I'm drinking my coffee. I leave my afternoon hours open for larger wholesale orders, custom work, and designing because I know I am much more productive at that time.
Do you work from home? What are some of your best strategies for creating and sticking to a routine? I'd love to hear any other suggestions you may have. While I have found much more balance in my daily schedule, I'm still not perfect!