The future isn’t real.
And it’s killing your ability to get anything done.
According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, we tend to put tasks into one of two categories:
Now and later.
And guess what?
Later tasks never get done.
Which only leaves now.
And now is a tricky place.
Especially when it comes to building your business and managing your focus from the comforts—and responsibilities, endless distractions, and urgent demands—of home.
It’s not easy.
This is particularly true if you’re trying to build a business in your “spare time.” After dealing with the daily hassles of your “nine-to-five,” the amount of work you need to get done only seems to pile up as the days go by.
There’s always another email to read, another webinar to watch, another notification from Facebook…
And these things are keeping you from creating a lifestyle business where you’ve got as much time as you’d like to spare with friends and family (and recreation and travel…or maybe even sitting around doing nothing at all!).
After all, you’re building your business to have more time, not less, right?
So what do we do?
First, decide your time is a precious, endangered resource.
Second, create an infrastructure and an environment that reduces distractions and pulls you away from your focus—because if you don’t focus on what matters then you’ll find distractions to focus on instead.
Let’s dig in…
Here are 12 tips on how to optimize you home workspace and get your work done:
1. Establish a Dedicated Workspace
Your home office doesn’t necessarily have to be a whole room. Nevertheless, it should be a defined space that is NOT used for anything else—which leaves out the living room, dining room, and most certainly the laundry room as possible candidates for your home office!
Having a designated space exclusively for working will allow you to get (and remain) in the “working mindset” much more easily. By stepping into your designated workspace, your mind and body will unconsciously understand it’s time to get down to business.
This is proven.
While you may feel the need to take your laptop into the living room, just to mix things up a bit from time to time, you still need a dedicated workspace to go back to when the distractions of the outside world just won’t leave you alone.
2. A Little Color Goes a Long Way
There is an increasing amount of evidence suggesting that color can have an effect on your state of mind. A 2009 study from the University of British Columbia revealed that red improves performance when working on detail-oriented tasks, while blue boosts creativity.
While colors may have a different effect on different people, depending on their previous life experiences and mental associations to specific colors, some of them have a common effect on the general population.
Green and blue have soothing effects; orange can boost people’s enthusiasm; when used as an accent color, red can excite and stimulate people, but when used as a main color (on a whole wall, for instance) it can provoke anger and hostility.
To make the most out of every moment spent in your home office, its walls need to have a positive effect on your mood in order to boost your productivity and creativity.
3. Comfort and Ergonomics
In his book, Scared Sitless, Larry Swanson explains how “the sedentary nature of modern office work is, quite literally, killing us.” People who sit at a desk all day might end up hurting themselves just as much as those who prefer to work sitting on the couch, slouching to reach the keyboard on their laptops and using their knees as armrests.
Furthermore, you can get much more work done when you don’t have to constantly readjust your posture to avoid discomfort.
A desk with the proper height and a suitable chair to go with it are some of the basic items in any home office. You should be able to type with your hands hovering over your keyboard, while looking slightly downward at your computer screen.
Your chair should allow your feet to rest flat on the ground—no dangling!
Adjust the armrest height to avoid any further strain on the shoulders, elbows, or wrists.
Invest in a comfortable chair that provides proper lumbar support—your back will be forever grateful.
Everyone has a different type of body, and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to ergonomic support, so choose what works best for you.
Finally, remember to stretch your legs every so often. Stand up and take a short walk up and down the hall; it’ll help you to avoid overwhelm, and maybe even pull you out of writer’s block every once in a while.
4. Keep the Blood Pumping!
Whether at home or at the gym, make sure exercise is part of your daily life to get the blood pumping. Regular exercise reduces the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and other conditions such as diabetes. Not to mention, exercise usually provides an excellent outlet for accumulated stress!
“The more you move, the better your body works”
– Larry Swanson
Many people have busy schedules—especially those working a full-time job and building a business from home—and it’s sometimes difficult to squeeze in an hour of exercise into their routines.
A stationary bike may be a solution to avoid the thirty-minute commute to the gym and back, while running a few blocks around your neighborhood can save you time and money altogether.
Do a few sit ups while your kids are riding the swings; speed things up when taking the dog out for a walk; run up and down the stairs a few times (works better when holding a laundry basket for increased resistance)…but always keep moving!
5. Don’t Sacrifice Sleep!
With so many things to do, some people may feel inclined to sacrifice sleep in order to put in as much work as possible before hitting the hay. However, these people don’t even realize they’re actually hurting themselves—and decreasing their productivity—when they put work ahead of a good night’s sleep.
In his book Eat, Move, Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes, Tom Rath, researcher and renowned speaker, explains that every hour of sleep that is sacrificed reduces a person’s overall wellbeing, as well as his productivity and the ability to think clearly.
While some things definitely can’t wait, everyone should learn how to recognize and admit when their mind and body are yearning for some well-earned rest.
6. Eat Right
Just as some people sacrifice sleep, other may also feel inclined to replace a healthy home-cooked meal for a quick bite at their favorite fast-food restaurant, which just so happens to be on the way back home from work.
In Eat, Move, Sleep, Rath mentions a study from Harvard—which tracked more than 100,000 people for twenty years—that discovered how the types of foods consumed can influence a person’s health much more than the total caloric intake. In other words, quality of food matters more than quantity.
Also, as the book’s subtitle suggests, there might be little changes we can do that will greatly impact our overall health and well-being. This means we won’t have to replace every single thing we eat with fresh veg, but rather learn how to balance that doughnut or slice of pizza we occasionally eat with an equal (or greater) amount of healthier choices.
Working from 9 to 5 and then coming home to build a business might leave very little time to count calories and read the label on everything we eat; however, a strict fast-food diet is definitely not an option! Sometimes the best thing you can do is make an appointment with a nutritionist or health coach to figure out what’s best for you, depending on your habits and lifestyle.
7. Stay Organized
To be able to work at home efficiently, you need to be organized…plain and simple.
This doesn’t mean you need to change how you store files or important emails, but you need to be able to find documents without having to turn your office (or hard drive) upside down.
Figure out a system which will allow you to find what you need in a matter of minutes (seconds if possible). The faster you access important documents and information, the faster you’ll get your work done!
Emily Parks, owner of Organize for Success and renowned productivity consultant, stresses the importance of regularly reviewing files and software on your computer to eliminate anything that might be causing “electronic clutter”.
In this day and age, when hard drive manufacturers seem to keep making them bigger and bigger, this might seem like a difficult task; however, you may soon come to realize that most people don’t need a bigger hard drive, they just need less data.
8. Invest in a Quality PC (or Mac!)
People who get stingy end up spending twice as much in the long run.
While every person working from home has different needs, they all require a “solid,” reliable computer to get their work done. Graphic designers and animators may require a better graphics processing unit, while bootstrapped online marketers and home-based business owners could make do with the “bare technical necessities” if necessary.
David Allen, in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity says:
“You increase your productivity and creativity exponentially when you think about the right things at the right time and have the tools to capture your value-added thinking.”
A smaller screen can help you become more organized and force you to use your space more efficiently; however, a larger screen, or even multiple screens, can also improve your productivity.
It’s a matter of finding out what works best for you.
9. Have a Backup Plan
What happens if your Internet goes down? Can you find another computer to work on if yours happens to suffer an unfortunate accident? Is there a copy of your email contact list in case your hard drive suddenly breaks?
According to author and futurist Alvin Toffler:
“Our technological powers increase, but the side effects and potential hazards also escalate.”
As technology moves forward, people tend to depend on it way too much.
You don’t have to anticipate every single possible setback, but having a backup plan ready for anything that might actually bring your work to a complete halt is just common sense.
10. Spend Time with the Family
The Human race is constantly trying to find balance; and in pretty much everything in life, balance is the hardest thing to achieve.
Family and business should never be in conflict.
The key is to establish a routine in order to avoid sacrificing the already scarce quality time with the family while still being able to get some work done before calling it a night.
Including some family time as part of a daily routine is essential to avoid alienating those we care about the most.
Whether it’s at the dinner table, a few minutes before locking yourself in your home office, or right before putting the kids to bed, we should make time to spend with our families as part of our daily schedules.
11. Set Goals, Limits, and Boundaries
Set milestones and reward yourself for achieving your goals. Regardless of how small a reward may be, you’ll find it’s easier to stay motivated when there is something waiting for you at the end of the road.
Rewards can be anything from a bite-sized Snickers or that cat video on YouTube that you enjoy so much, to a delicious Popsicle on a hot, sweaty day, or taking a short break to catch up on Facebook.
Limits are so important! Obviously, eating too many Snickers will hurt anybody’s waistline just as spending too much time on Facebook will hurt their productivity.
There should also be a limit to the amount of daily work. Working too hard will only lead to overwhelm. Only you can decide how much work is too much, and they need to be honest with themselves to avoid “slacking off” or burning the candle on both ends.
Not everyone is a workaholic and, of course, some days may be busier than others; but once someone has determined that the work day is done, he should stop constantly checking his phone for any new emails or trying to get a head start on tomorrow’s work.
12. Always Make a To-Do List and Prioritize
Some people think writing things down on a piece of paper as an aid to remember what needs to be done is a bit old-fashioned, maybe even useless. The truth is that making a to-do list will help anyone prioritize tasks and manage time efficiently.
In his book Eat That Frog!, Brian Tracy explains how taking care of the most important or difficult tasks first thing in the morning will make the rest of your day seem easy in comparison.
Building a business in the morning might be difficult, even more so for those who need to head out for work every single day. However, prioritizing tasks and crossing them off a to-do list also works for anyone building a business in their spare time.
Once you’ve optimized your environment for uninterrupted focus…
You need to know exactly where to focus so that you’re not squandering your time, spinning your wheels, and chasing after the next too-good-to-be-true “bright shiny object.”
You don’t just need goals, you need the right goals and a proven strategy for how to focus on and implement them.
Otherwise you risk never gaining enough momentum to get your business off the ground.
It’s no secret that over 80% of new businesses fail.
And many people struggle for years and years to gain any traction and start earning more than they spend.
Most never do.
But it doesn’t have to be this way for you.
There’s a very simple technique to ensure you hit your goals with laser-like precision, each and every time.
This formula will easily increase the probability of your success by as much as 900% and is responsible for many 6-, 7-, and even 8-figure success stories.
Tim Erway reveals everything right here.
To your success,
Editor, What’s Working Now
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