Working from home: 5 top tips to help you focus

On a client social media poll, I recently asked self employed business people what they consider the best thing about working for themselves.

Many people at the start-up business stage work in a home office or studio. Most cited working from home as their favourite thing about being self employed, for a number of different reasons: Spending more time with children, lower costs, home-cooked lunches and receiving deliveries. Others said not making the office tea, focused working hours and listening to music were great reasons to be self employed.

For me, as a freelance copywriter, it’s undoubtedly the ability to manage time myself. Teaching has been under scrutiny in the recent news, as teachers generally work at least a 60 hour week, despite being contracted for the standard 35. It’s all true! With my background in teaching, I was used to those long hours and pricey holidays. And for a time, I loved it. I’m not shy of hard work, but I enjoy being able to create my own schedule.

Of course, I told you about the cat thing before, didn’t I? I do enjoy having time to be soothed by the princess  of purr, but she is a distraction; albeit the best kind! Here, I’ve come up with five tips to help you focus if you’re self employed and working from home.

#1 Walk to work

But you’ve just said you work from home? I do. Creating a short commute to work allows you to set yourself up for the day. Exercise charges the mind and enables us to think clearly with its releasing of endorphins. Plus, it gives you the opportunity for some human interaction.  I’m fortunate enough to live next to a large inner-city park, which means I can create a morning ‘commute’ in a green space. However,  city walking can create provide opportunities for networking. Why not combine your walks with distribution of flyers or buying a daily paper?

#2 Set out your space

Be it the corner of a hallway or a detached shed, set out a physical space for your work and stick to it. To avoid falling into the trap of struggling to separate work and home life, make the boundary a clear one. Closing the door really helps on this one, if possible. Psychologically, if you can still see the rest of the home, you have not entirely disassociated from it. Of course, this works the other way around too! Keep your space organised to maximise production.

#3 Stay social

Whilst exciting, starting a business can be a lonely process. Joining a local meeting or group and working it into your schedule means you’ll still get to be a part of something. Whatever your business, use the internet to search for keywords and append the word community. Regular meetings with other people mean you’ll get to exchange ideas and talk through new approaches and developments in your field. At the very least, use online communities as a way of staying in touch with the rest of the world. Following trends on twitter and using hashtages quickly develops a sense of community. It can be a great way to make new contacts too.

#4 Take breaks

Ever get the feeling that your boss is a real taskmaster? Me too! Ease up on yourself. Taking breaks actually increases productivity. Allowing your mind space to breathe gives you clarity, and may offer a new angle. Ideally another walk will stimulate your mind, but a least having a cup of tea, or even doing the washing up, relaxes you and breaks the day up.

#5 Dress to impress

Not for anyone else and not because you have to; dressing in ‘work’ clothes provides mental signals that you need to stay focused. Having routine is essentially the most important element in working from home, and getting dressed in the morning is part of a normal routine. What’s more, if you’re following the steps above, then you don’t want to be caught walking ’round the block in your pyjamas!

Over to you: What are your tips on staying focused when working from home? Add something in the comments below.