Image via: SamsonOS
It happens to everyone: you’re sitting at your desk, staring into the distance, or out the window, silently kicking yourself because you know you should be working, but it’s just not happening. Every little distraction seems to be much more interesting than what you’re meant to be doing, yet turning your attention to the work at hand is easier said than done. This is even further accentuated when you’re working for a small company, starting your own business, or work from home.
Creating the right work environment is a low-cost but effective way of improving and maximizing productivity; it‚Äôs about making your business work for you. Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or have been working from home for a while, following these simple tips will help bootstrap your way to success.
1. Create a Comfortable Environment
Given that space can be a problem for a lot of people, deciding where to put your workstation can be difficult. It may feel natural to place your desk facing the wall or in a corner, but this can make you feel boxed in. Instead, position your desk so the outside is visible, but don’t face it directly into the window, have it at right angles so you’re not blocking the natural light, and won’t be easily distracted.
If the room lacks abundant natural light, paint the walls a light/neutral color, and try to set the lighting to the most natural level you can achieve. The temperature of the room is important, too. There’s no ideal set temperature; have what works best for you. Just keep in mind that if it’s too hot you’ll feel sleepy; too cold will make it hard to not focus on anything but the chill factor.
2. Invest in a Good Chair
Image: Ergomonic Rescue
If there’s one thing guaranteed to help boost your business, it’s a good comfortable work chair. Dodgy chairs often lead to dodgy backs, making working effectively almost impossible. It doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune, it just means putting a bit of thought into it. Hard wooden dining table chairs, or flimsy fold-down chairs are rarely nice to sit on for a dinner party, never mind a whole day. Make sure you get one that’s adjustable, with lumbar support. And remember, what’s right for one person may not be right for another, so test a few out before you buy. Check out how your seat should be positioned too, good desk ergonomics are equally as important, to prevent stresses and strains on the body.
3. Make the Most of Your Workstation
Having your desk, chair and computer equipment at the correct height and layout for your body means you can prevent future posture problems, and improve your overall well-being, which will increase current and future work production. If you’re on the phone a lot, invest in a headset to avoid straining your neck; it will also free up your hands so you can do other things.
Cluttered Desk: Not Good
Image via: Dotloose
A cluttered desk or workstation makes it harder to find things and stay organized. Ensure all paperwork is filed within a reasonable time frame, i.e., weekly, but is still accessible, leaving you space to work.
Tidy Desk: Good
4. Get in the Right Mindset
If you’re working from home, always have a shower first thing in the morning and have a set time to be at your desk. Try to steer clear of old track suit bottoms and holey T-shirts while you’re working. The comfort factor is tempting but dressing like you’re set for a day on the sofa instead of in the office will surely affect how you work.
One of the hardest parts of working at home is being surrounded by all of your home comforts. Try to walk into your office and metaphorically close the door to your home life.
Once you enter your office space, you should be in work-mode. Don’t worry about the breakfast dishes, the shopping or the washing. You wouldn’t be doing it if you worked in an office so why do it at home?
5. Put on Your Business Hat
Focus on your business acumen when at your workstation. Treat every email, phone call and chance client encounter/handshake with the same attention. They may be the building blocks of important future work connections.
6. Structure Your Day
Having a start, middle and finish to your day helps you focus for longer. It’s important to plan the day, too, for example, going through emails first thing in the morning, or working out the best time of day to do cold calls etc. But don’t spend too long on emails. Set yourself a time limit in the morning and then check them just once again in the afternoon. Too many people get waylaid by answering time-consuming emails that aren’t important. And, make a pact with yourself to never check time-draining social sites like Facebook during work hours. Yes, you.
7. Make a List
Image: Jayel Aheram
Have a to-do list, so you can check off each thing you need to do. This can be done as often (daily/weekly) as necessary; whatever works for you. Write the list in a diary and tick them off as you go or enter it into a project management database. Seeing them ticked off at the end of the day gives a sense of achievement, which in turn keeps you motivated.
8. Set Goals and Have Rewards
Having short- and long-term goals promotes accomplishment and helps you work towards achieving your aims, no matter how small or complex. What do you want to achieve? Sit down and create a list of what you want from your business, and where you want to be in X amount of weeks/months/years. You need to have something to look forward to once you have reached these milestones. Give yourself a pat on the back. Go out for a meal, theatre, drink etc. Do something that you enjoy.
9. Stand Out From the Crowd
Investigate how others in your profession are doing what you do. Know your competition! With that knowledge, develop an edge that makes you different from others, and more marketable. What are your best points? Promote these when selling yourself to potential clients. Use past experience for examples. If you‚Äôre starting afresh, tailor past experiences that may not necessarily be in your current line of work to suit the kind of work you are now promoting.
10. Maximize Your Image
Image: Ian Britton
It can be harder to make your business look professional when you’re starting out or working from home. To counteract this, meet clients in cafes, restaurants or at their place of work. Dress to impress. You don’t need to break the bank to do this, but try and wear attire that you think suits the people you are meeting with.
11. Utilize Your Software
There are so many tools within the standard computer programs that can help you save time but maximise productivity. For example, use the calendar function within your email and you‚Äôll get automatic email reminders of recorded events or meetings. It’s also a good idea to set up templates for emails you send regularly, or set up rules to filter certain mails into set folders. If you don’t already use them, set up macros (a set of actions you can use to automate tasks ‚ in certain programs you use frequently). They can be huge timesavers; even the simplest macros can benefit you immensely. Ask your friends or family for assistance, or take a course to help you improve.
12. Log Your Hours
If you’re a freelancer and are working for a few different companies it’s important to keep track of the hours you’re working for each one, and log the time. Not only do you have all your working hours documented so you can see how you’re spending your time, it gives your employer a bit of reassurance that even though you’re working from home, you’re still organized and reliable.
13. Stretch, Drink Lots of Fluids and Take Regular Breaks
Image: Lex in the City
This may seem obvious, but a lot of people don’t realise how important it is to follow these simple work rules. Stretching relaxes your muscles and boosts your energy. Drinking fluids, especially water, increases your brain activity. And taking a short break, even for a few seconds, rests your body from the rigidity of sitting in front of the computer screen. It’s especially important to look away, even for a few seconds, to rest your eyes. Take productive breaks that refresh you enough to stay focused on your work. And, always take a lunch break away from the desk. This should apply whether you’re working from home or in an office. On the whole, people are much more productive after a break away from their work space. Use the time to fit in some of your exercises, which will help to invigorate you for the afternoon ahead. And try to lay off the lunchtime booze, too.
14. Combat Loneliness
If you ask most home workers what they miss the most about working in an office, their answer will more than likely be, the people. We humans are a funny bunch, when we’re around people we want to be in our own space, when we have it, we crave human interaction. To avoid feeling isolated, make sure you meet up with people for lunch or an after work drink a couple of times a week, or use your lunch hour to make social calls.
15. Ignore the Weather
It’s always incredibly tempting to take some sneaky time off when it’s hot and sunny outside. Well, who would know? The answer: you the next day when you find you’re way behind in your work and are having a mild panic attack because you know it will never be done in time. This means you stay up late to finish what you need to, your wonderfully-thought out timetable has gone out the window, and you end up cranky for the rest of the week because you still haven’t caught up on the sleep you missed. Don’t do it, it’s not worth it.
About The Author
Fran is a banker and a freelance writer, currently living in London and freelance writing for an Australian price comparison site where you can easily compare credit cards online. She grew up in New Zealand; the Land of the Long White Cloud and many, many sheep. Ten years ago she left farm life to build a career in investment banking, in the financial capital of the world. She has worked for numerous big name banks, and is currently with JP Morgan. She loves writing and finance, so combining the two is a dream come true.