These days, young tech professionals and freelancers require little more than a functioning digital device and an Internet connection in order to transform their living space into an office. But working unchecked and unsupervised on a computer means combating a slew of perpetual and ever-evolving temptations, time-sucks, and even morale killers. Here are five secrets today’s work-from-home professionals use to keep themselves and their careers on track.
1. Take power-breaks
Gone are the days of working until your fingers bleed and your eyes droop. Recent research confirms what every elementary school child knows intuitively: after about 20 minutes of focus, the mind needs a break. If it’s going to continue to function at its best, your brain needs short reprieves.
What this means: Stopping to day dream, grab a glass of water, or watch the birds at the feeder will actually improve your productivity and the quality of your output throughout the day.
What it doesn’t mean: Resting more than you work will somehow miraculously result in increased success. No, you’ll still need to put in the hours. Just avoid pummeling your brain without giving it a few seconds’ rest.
2. Mind your time-clock
Speaking of time management, make use of the advanced technology hiding within your preferred handheld device by designing your own personal time clock. Without a manager to ride you each time you show up late, leave early or stay after hours it can be easy to let your home life and your work life merge (especially if you live alone). So, take charge the modern way and find an app. Whether it be a notepad, a timer, or something else, make sure you attend to and respect your own system.
What this means: You should have a set work day with specific hours, and you should do your best to adhere to and record those hours.
What it doesn’t mean: That you can’t or shouldn’t continue to reap the benefits (sleeping in, taking vacations, and socializing) of a flexible schedule, or that you should never put in extra hours when they might be necessary.
3. When you’re not working, leave the office
You wouldn’t stay in your cubicle if you didn’t have to, so why stay in your home office all day? Many professionals chose to mix up their work locales, sometimes opting for a table at a cafe, and other times electing to work in one of the public work spaces gaining popularity among young tech upstarts. But what’s even more important is getting out into the world before and/or after your day of work.
What this means: Wake up and take a run or a walk, or run some errands before you work, and do the same after.
What it doesn’t mean: Staying home all day is a fate worse than death. Occasionally, those who work at home will end up at home all day. If this happens to you, don’t panic. Tomorrow is a new day.
4. Stimulate your mind’s reward zone (and protect its self-punishing center)
Employers encourage performance by offering rewards. These can be emotional (praise), monetary (raises and bonuses), incentives (small prizes), team-based (holiday parties, reduced business hours), or perks (tickets to a show or sporting event, a company vehicle or phone). For at-home workers, these kinds of rewards must be self-generated. Not always an easy task.
Another important aspect of success when working independently: limiting exposure to shame-inducing and isolating social networks such as Twitter and Instagram. Nothing is worse for morale than sitting in your living room, feeling you’ve accomplished good work, until you see your friend’s highly doctored luxury travel photographs on Facebook.
What this means: Establish yearly, monthly, weekly, and performance goals for yourself and pair them with appropriate but enticing rewards. You know yourself best, so finding ways to set yourself on fire should be a breeze.
What it doesn’t mean: That it’s not important to derive satisfaction and motivation from your work, minus the perks.
5. Dress for comfortable success
Those extending advice on working at home always reinforce the importance of regularly showering, dressing, and following a standard hygienic routine, but today’s home work-force wears skinny jeans and understands the nuance of the hair chalked faux-hawk. They wear ironic T-shirts and leopard print jammies to bed. If you’re one of the many who dress to impress the furniture, maybe it’s time to take a few steps in the other direction.
What this means: It might be time to get sloppy, or at least comfortable. As good as you look in that x-s (super hideous) wool holiday sweater, maybe wearing it when you’re home alone isn’t the way to get the job done.
What it doesn’t mean: That comfort doesn’t matter. If you have platforms aching your feet, a headache from all that hairspray, or can’t see past your false eyelashes you simply won’t focus. So, yes, you should always shower, but no, you don’t always need to get gussied-up if you have nowhere to go.