Remote working is a dream to many, but, spoiler alert: It’s not always easy! Distractions are abundant, from dishes in the sink to family members knocking on your door. Then there’s that whole willpower thing. Like, do you reeeeally need to finish this task now, or can it wait until after you binge Tiger King?
Work from home problems, as we call them, exist because many of us have a hard time merging the concepts of “home” and “work” without ending up pantless in front of a computer with Netflix playing in the background. 😉
In fact, if you ask an experienced remote writer how they manage their day, they’ll likely give you a list of habits, routines, and tips they’ve developed in order to stay on track and get their work done.
Many remote writers will tell you they don’t even work from home! Some prefer a coworking space, where they can channel the focused energy of those around them. We don’t have that luxury now that we’re partaking in the #StayAtHome movement (which needs no introduction). In light of this, we thought it might be the perfect time to gather up some work from home tips for freelance writers like yourself.
Luckily we have a community full of seasoned experts on working from home effectively. When I reached out to the community to source some tips, they stepped up in a big way! Below are some of our favorites.
Structure your day for success
Tip from Monique Wise, travel writer, digital content developer (Wanderlust My Way)
Create a routine that works for you—and stick to it. When I had a 9-to-5, I would sleep until the last minute and rush to get ready for my commute. Now with more time, I start my day with breakfast, watching YouTube videos, meditating (very important to me), and sometimes working out—all before I sit down to work. I’m very much into my routines.
Regarding habits, a common tip is to get dressed even if it’s casual. Just brush your teeth, wash your face, and get out of those PJ’s. I don’t work in bed either. It’s solely for sleeping. If you can, set up your work area outside of the bedroom so it stays your resting sanctuary and not a space you associate with work.
If you have a hard time staying productive, allow yourself to take a break. For me, my breaks are YouTube. Work for one hour and then take a 10-minute break. Whatever works for you! It’s all about giving yourself something to look forward to.
Also, remember to eat!
Keep the little ones happy
If you’re working from home with a small child on your hands, my best advice is to get them in their “happy place” before you sit down to work. A lot of people tell you, “work when they nap,” but one or two hours usually isn’t enough to get everything done. Also, your kid may not actually nap anymore.
I personally dedicate my morning to getting my toddler settled and content. She is fed, watches Sesame Street, gets dressed, has some mommy time, and gets to wander the house and stretch her legs while I get myself dressed and caffeinated.
By that point, she’s babbling and singing contentedly. She is far less likely to fuss when confined to the office with me and a few toys. She usually entertains herself for about two hours, and then it’s time for lunch and nap, when I get another burst of work in.
If it’s just one of those whiny days, headphones, lo-fi tunes, and some kisses on the forehead are another tip to get you through.
Having a routine helps both me and my daughter out, giving me designated hours to work while making sure all her needs are met on a comfortable schedule.
Designate time and space for work
Tip from Clem, remote work & travel expert (Travel With Clem)
Set specific blocks of time to do your work. One of the best ways to cultivate discipline when working from home is by creating routines. This involves doing the same task at the same time, every day. This is why setting specific blocks of time to work (when working from home) is crucial. Your body and mind will progressively get accustomed to your new rhythm, and you will be consistent at getting more things done.
To limit distractions, set a timer before you can move to the next task. Two of the main challenges of working from home are accountability and focus. In order to limit distractions and stay focused, avoid multitasking. Don’t move to a new task unless you are done with the previous one. You can also set a timer on your phone (or computer) to keep you on track.
Define a working space. Because the home environment is naturally designed for relaxation, it can be difficult to associate it with a place where you can work. Defining a working space is crucial when working from home. It puts you in a “work mindset”, and this automatically activates your brain and helps you to switch from relax mode to work mode. For instance, if you were at work, how would you set up your office? Your desk? Your work station? Think about it when re-creating your working space at home.
These tips have consistently worked for me, and I hope they will work for the next freelancer too.
Manage multiple tasks & deadlines
If you ever feel overwhelmed by a huge number of tasks with strict deadlines, this one’s for you:
First, list all the tasks on a physical notebook in no particular order. Then, write the deadlines beside each of them and account for the number of days at hand. Let’s say you’ve 5 days. Allocate time for each task every day. You’ll work on a piece of each task every day for the next 5 days.
Be sure to stick to your task’s allocated time with the timer on your phone. It may sound a bit mechanical, but it works! I’ve found great results with this hack. The idea is that our mind gets bored after a certain time if we’re continuously engaging in the same task over and over again.
So, simply switching it regularly (but not too frequently), can help you stop getting bored and save you from procrastination.
Decide on your priorities in advance
Being self-employed and entrepreneurial means we are constantly learning new skills and adding things to our to-do list. I find that I end up with a long to-do list and staying up late or working really long days if I’m not intentional with my daily schedule.
My tip is to write a new to-do list daily with 5 main priorities to tackle on that day. I make sure they’re in order of highest importance to lowest. That way I feel productive at the end of my day and not as easily overwhelmed or distracted. If I don’t get to tackle all 5 tasks, I simply add them to my 5 priorities for the next day.
As the near-global lockdown continues and we ride out this pandemic, we hope you’ll be able to use some of these work-from-home tips to keep your freelance writing career chugging along!
Do you have a work-from-home tip to share? Drop a comment below and let us know! And don’t forget to join our Freelance Writing Cafe Facebook group to hang with other writers and get support when you need it. We’re here for you.