We all know that working from home without a boss breathing down your neck is great, but it takes intense discipline to remain focused and get through that mountain of work ahead of you.
But creating a few good daily desk rituals can make the transition from home to work far easier.
These habits performed at your desk as you sit down for your working day can help shift your mind to work mode, and for some, can even help overcome procrastination.
Bec Derrington plonks down at her desk each day and turns on an app that plays the sounds of a busy café. The founder of SourceBottle, an online service that connects journalists with sources, loves the white noise of others getting a caffeine fix when she’s finding it hard to zone out. Find it here.
Derrington also loves a free app, Simple Pomodoro Timer, which helps her commit to concentrating on a certain task for 25 minutes until an alarm goes off. She keeps hitting the timer until the task is finished.
“Another daily ritual that puts me in the right mindset for work is showering and dressing in smart casual clothes and putting on lipstick before sitting at my desk at the start of the day,” Derrington says.
“Turning off the internet and email alerts when I really need to apply myself to a task is important. I’m too easily distracted. I’m still working on restricting these distractions to set times of the day. I also write daily paper lists so I can cross them off.”
When her coffee app isn’t cutting it, she ventures out to a café to hear the real thing.
“If all else fails, I go to the closest café and set up shop there,” Derrington says.
A productivity tool helps keep copywriter Anna Butler accountable. She runs it permanently in the background while she works, which records what she does on her computer.
“Each Monday, it sends me a report which shows me how I’ve spent my time, and if I’ve been wasting too much on non-essential social media, article reading, etc. It’s quite good at wagging the finger at me.” You can find it here.
A ‘to do’ list is a favourite desk habit for many home-based business owners. Sticking to it is the key, though.
Melbourne PR professional Simone Heydon writes her ‘to do’ list daily, but admits she’s not overly strict in terms of watching the clock and timing how long tasks take her.
“When at my desk, I allow myself a five to 10 minute Facebook or online news break every hour. I consider it my water cooler time and it’s very important for me to connect with others in this way. I think that without social media I would get too lonely to work from home,” the Handle Communications co-founder says.
“Some days I find myself working away still in my pyjamas at lunchtime. I think that’s okay though. In fact, it’s one of the great perks of working from home,” Heydon says.
Not answering personal calls is also important, with brief texts or emails to friends preferred.
Listing priorities is also a favourite approach for founder of The Homemade Company, Emma Morgan.
She sets herself to complete three tasks each day then works from a general list that needs to be done at some stage during the week. “Prioritising really helps me not feel too overwhelmed.”
Taking her laptop and leaving her desk works for her sometimes, too.
“If I have to concentrate and write a core communications document or creative brief, I take my laptop upstairs away from my office where I get distracted and go and sit on my bed and work. Somehow, being away from my usual working space allows me to concentrate and get something done,” Morgan says.
Writing a ‘to do’ list is one thing, but staying at the desk until you’ve finished it is another matter entirely for some. But Richard Eastes, founder of online car rental comparison website vroomvroomvroom.com.au, absolutely doesn’t get up until he’s met his objectives.
“I’m a really lazy person. I like to relax. I take the easy option. Following this path of least resistance is not healthy for a work at home businessman. I used to suffer from this laziness until I realised the best gift I could ever give myself would be discipline.”
Now, he starts each day creating a list of what he wants to achieve. “I don’t let myself go to sleep until that list is complete. And before I permit a break or food, I must complete at least one task.
“On two occasions, this has meant working 36 hours straight. That is, 9am until 9pm the following day.”
Setting up a few scrolling personal affirmations under his screen works well for Nick Terrone, who is a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist living in the Blue Mountains. Daydreaming could be easy given the amazing view out his office window, he says.
“Knowing the power of the subconscious mind, these affirmations are a great tool for me. Even though I may not look at them directly, the subconscious is absorbing it.”
When he’s feeling tired mid-afternoon, Terrone steps away from his desk for a 20 minute meditation session, which science shows is the equivalent of a six hour sleep, he says.
“After that I have much more energy to get through the rest of the day.”
Terrone also likes to turn off his mobile phone during the day when he needs to focus.
“I also have an alarm going off every two hours as a reality check, so I can review my ‘to do’ list.”
Butler says the other motivation that helps her as a home-based copywriter is sometimes looking at her bank account. “No work equals no money, so that’s always a great motivator!”