Work Naked if You Have To…a Few Rules to Break for Work-at-Home Productivity

Going from corporate environment to working for yourself at home can be a big adjustment.  When you’ve been following the strict routines of a corporation for a while, working at home can feel a little weird at first—like you’re breaking the rules. But that’s OK, you’re supposed to break a few rules and make up your own as you go along. Here are a few to get you started…

1) Don’t get dressed.

I know this advice flies in the face of everything you’ve heard. According to popular wisdom, you’re supposed to treat your home business like a job and get all dressed in your suit or your “business casual” because it proves to yourself and the world that you’re working. And I don’t deny the motivating influence of a shower and a dry-clean-only outfit. But I have accepted that in the work-at-home life, every day is different. When my workday consists of client meetings and networking, I dress professionally and I believe in presenting the best possible image for my business. But other days, schedules go awry and I go from bed to breakfast to parenting to work and back again about a million times, and if I am not required to leave my house, then yes, I probably do it all in my PJs. Because squeezing 8 hours of projects into a 4-hour workday takes maximum focus and efficiency. I am not taking any of that precious time away from important projects if I only need to look good for my computer screen.

2) Don’t take a lunch break.

You make your schedule now, and you need to learn to take the breaks that feel right to you. Base your routine on how you work best—a few 10-20 minute breaks per day, an hour at lunchtime, whatever! You get to decide. But the key is to decide. Sometimes I’ll find myself needing a break and my own corporate training will assert itself, “No, it’s not lunchtime yet, stay at your desk and work.” So I try to work, daydream, click the mouse a few times and…What? What? Where did that half hour go? It went to Facebook—my brain hijacked me into a forced break. But it didn’t feel like a break, and now I’ve lost that time and I’m more tapped out than ever. Take a break when you need it, and that time away will refresh you for more productivity when you get back to work.

3) Stop networking all the frickin’ time.

Doesn’t it feel great to network? Meet new people? Talk about all the possibilities? Yes, it does! But there is such a thing as too much networking. Think of it like dating for your business. When you’re networking, it’s like a giant singles bar (and it is, for some, but that is another whole article). But if you’re already managing a full roster of clients, networking is like leaving your spouse home alone every night to hit the bars. The spouse gets lonely and eventually strays…do you see where this is going?  Networking is a means to an end; it’s part of your work, it doesn’t replace working. You’re not doing this to collect business cards like baseball cards in a big plastic binder. Be selective and targeted about your networking, and find events that are fun, stimulating, and appropriate to your business so you can continue building your clientele and resources. Then go back to your home office and work!

4) Break your own rules.

In a recent Harvard Gazette article about writing routines, author Tayari Jones said, “I’ve worked hard to train myself not to have any requirements for writing, only preferences. I want to know that I can do it anywhere and anytime…” This is true of our businesses, too. When you work at home, you have an opportunity to develop your business routines based on your preferences: being a morning person, preferring to work in PJs, etc. But don’t let your own rules make it impossible for you to work any other way. Be flexible, be open to change, learn from your mistakes, and go with the flow. Work naked if you have to, just get the work done and done well. After all, when you work at home, you have to break the rules sometimes—even your own.

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