You're not going to get your best work done in your slippers.
Photo by: winnond
For those of us who work from our homes, it can sometimes be a challenge to keep up our professional demeanor. After all, it's hard to feel like you are at work when you have Dora the Explorer yapping at you in the background! But if you don't put yourself in a working mindset, you are unlikely to actually get anything done. Feeling professional can help you stay on track during the day and increase your productivity, ultimately leading to higher paychecks.
1. For Pete's sake, get dressed.
You are not going to feel professional sitting at your desk in your robe and bunny slippers. Nobody is asking you to wear a dress suit or a tie -- although I wouldn't fault you for doing so -- but at least get out of the sweats and put some shoes on. Fixing your hair and putting on a little makeup will help you feel more professional as well, if that's your thing. Basically, dress as if you were planning to meet people today or were planning to go to work at a casual office.
2. Schedule your day.
Remember that calendar I told you to keep here? It's about to be useful again. Every evening before you close up shop for the day, check your calendar for the next day and the upcoming week. Use a spreadsheet or even just a piece of paper to draft out a schedule for the following day. Take note of which projects should have priority. While making your schedule, include personal things that need to get done during the day. Household maintenance activities can be done while you work from home, but put them in your schedule so that you know when they are to be done and when you can forget about them for awhile. Include breaks and other predictable activities in the schedule as well. Don't be overly rigid, but try to stick to your plan as much as possible.
3. Keep your work area clean.
Having papers covering your desk is a surefire way to guarantee you will be distracted. Keep papers filed away except for the immediate project you are working on. Don't mix "work stuff" with "home stuff." If this means separate filing cabinets, so be it.
4. Get off the Internet!
Okay, so you probably need a search engine open to look up information or research your project, but that's it! Fine, and maybe one for music too, if it helps you work better. I personally can't write or edit well with music playing, but some do. But for the love of all that is holy step away from the Facebook! Every time you click over to find out what your friend thinks of your dog or play the Sims you are stealing valuable time from yourself. Not cool. Think of it this way: Don't do something that you would fire an employee you were paying for doing.
5. Be professional on the phone.
You should have a phone that is dedicated to work when you work from home. Don't make it your home phone, since other people are likely to answer it. Make your cell phone your work phone or, if you can, have a completely separate cell just for work. Answer it professionally and judiciously. If your son or daughter is home with you and the phone rings while they are having a meltdown, let it go to voice mail. It is better to return the client's call later when things have calmed down then to try to have a work conversation over the sounds of a screaming child. It's probably old hat to you, but imagine what that sounds like from the client's end. Are you likely to hire someone who appears to be working in such a chaotic environment? Come up with fun activities to keep your kids quiet and self-entertained while you work. If you can, hire a sitter. It might seem strange to have someone else watching your kids while you are at home, but if your kids are especially rambunctious it might be the best option.