Freelancing and gigging are gaining popularity fast. Not only do you get the flexibility to work when and how you want, a lot of these jobs let you work from home. However, if you’ve never worked from home before this can be a challenge.

Treating your home like an office can take practice, especially if you don’t have enough space for a dedicated home office. If you’re freelancing and want to work more efficiently, here are some tips to help.

Clock in

The first step in creating a home office is separating your work from your day-to-day life. An easy way to do this is to have a morning routine. Don’t work from your bed or stay in your pajamas all day. Treat your home office as you would any other office. If you’re living in a small space, doing little things like making the bed or tucking the TV remote out of sight can do a lot to help your brain switch gears. Also, don’t fall into the trap of waking up and having your breakfast sitting in front of your computer. Carve out the time for yourself to relax and have your breakfast or coffee before you jump into work. It will be another way to signal to your brain that you’re switching from home to work.

Another way to help you be more productive when working from home is ensuring you’re working the right hours. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Optimize your schedule by altering your sleep schedule to so you’re at work during your most productive hours.

Setting up for success

Once you’ve clocked in it’s time to get your office set up. Ideally you would have your own room for this, but most of us don’t have the luxury of a dedicated office. Find an area of your home that has limited distractions, or the right kind of distractions. A lot of people like to face their desk toward a window so they can look outside. Try and face your workspace away from your TV or an any other distractions. You don’t want to be looking at a reminder of others things you could be doing.

If you’re really tight on space you can use something called Activity Based Working where you find the right area for each task. This could be responding to email in your recliner, catching up on Twitter at the table, and searching for your next gig while at your desk. Depending on what tools you need for everything you do, you can find an area that suits each. For instance, you can browse Twitter on your phone or a tablet, so you don’t necessarily need your laptop, this means you can do it from a chair without having to have your computer on your lap.

Dividing up your work by area will also help you get less distracted. If you only check Twitter at your table you can break yourself from the habit of checking it in between responding to emails and searching for another gig.

There’s other ways to break up your day to improve efficiency. A popular time management system is the Pomodoro Technique. This technique requires you to set a timer for 25 minute intervals. You work for 25 mins and then take a break, with longer breaks every four cycles. The idea is that mini deadlines will force you to complete each task before the buzzer goes off. If you do work that requires longer per task you can always change the time limit. Or you can change the time based on the task you’re trying to complete. For instance, give yourself 30 mins to address all the new emails in your inbox. When the timer goes off you have to move on to a different task. This will stop you from languishing over the perfect responses or leaving the most important emails to last.

If you really can’t break from the distractions you can try apps like Freedom that will temporarily disable your wifi while you work. Or try working in a single tab opened the full size of the screen. This will limit the things you can see while you’re trying to concentrate. If it’s the analog that’s distracting you there are ways around that too. If you find yourself tidying up before you work, or suddenly getting the urge to organize all your files when you’re supposed to be filing your expenses, it may be time to declutter. Don’t give your mind anything else latch onto when it’s supposed to be working. If you’re still having a problem, refer to our first tip to find a way to create a distraction free workspace.

Clock out

This one seems obvious, but it’s something less and less people are doing with the rise of mobile technology. When you’ve hit the end of your day, be done. It’s common for people who work from home to still be dabbling while they make dinner, watch TV or tuck the kids in bed. Just shutting down your computer isn’t enough.

Like creating a ritual to signify you’re going into your office, you need a similar one for ending your day. Whether it’s putting aside all technology for a few minutes to think, going for a walk around the block, or leaving the house to run a few errands, your brain needs the separation. Once you’ve completed the ritual, don’t move back into your workspace for the rest of the night.

By optimizing your home office you can make the most of your most precious commodity, time. It’s important to work more efficiently so the hours you’re putting into your business are yielding the greatest results.

Andrea Silvers Xero

Xero is beautiful, easy to use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. Xero provides business owners with real-time visibility of their financial position in a way that’s simple, smart and secure.
Xero has over 700,000 customers in more than 180 countries around the world and is listed on the NZX and ASX.