I’ve been freelancing on and off for over 3 years now, and a large amount of this has been in a home workplace setting. It started off really tough and I found it difficult to strike that balance between “home life” and “work life”. I have since learned a few ways to make WFH more efficient and enjoyable.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • You start writing a proposal but then remember the washing needs to go out, you can’t just leave it sat in the wachine machine…
  • You’re all settled down to relax for the evening but then an email comes through which you can’t ignore, and it will only take a second…
  • You’ve taken a lunchbreak in front of the TV, but now you’re finding it hard to resist the urge to play the next episode…
  • Your stomach starts to rumble and you realise it’s already 7pm, and you have been too caught up in your work to realise…

Well, if they do, then well done, you’re human! But there are ways to create a more balanced and structured work day,

– Physically separate your workspace from your home

If you are lucky enough to have a room in your house that you don’t use much, such as a spare room, this is the ideal place to set up your work space. Close the door to shut yourself off from the rest of the house, and only leave for the same reasons you would leave your office usually (coffee/bathroom/lunch breaks).

When that isn’t an option, and you have to work in the same place you will later be having dinner/watching TV, try to make your space available to “pack away”. Try to visually differentiate it between when it is a working space and when it is a home space.

– Set times for tea/coffee breaks

It is easy to get into the flow of work, and without your coworkers to offer a tea/coffee in the morning, suddenly it’s lunchtime and you haven’t stopped. Avoid burnout by having regular times to stop work, make yourself a brew and take 5.

Also, move your body! There is no one in the office around to see you, so get up and dance around a bit to get the blood flowing and avoid stiffness.

– Work by your own rules

Once of the beautiful things about working from home is that you can more or less create your own schedule (business hours in your timezone permitted). If you’re not so productive early in the mornings, use that time to get some fresh air, do some exercise, do house work or things that make you happy. You can set your working day to start a little later.

If you’re a morning person, get through those emails nice and early so you have more time in the evening to yourself or to be with family.

– Put on some good music

This might not be a solution for everyone, as some people find music distracting. However, it is important to find the right playlist that will boost your concentration. The “Focus” genre on Spotify is my go-to, and as well as tracks in my Music Compilation for Freelancers.

This is not the time to stick on your “jams”. Songs you like to dance to or know all the words to should be avoided, as they will take your mind to places that are nothing to do with the email you’re sending Susan in HR.

– Get your computer working properly!

Now you are reliant on your own home system, it is really important to make sure your computer is running quickly and is setup to complete the tasks you need. I recently upgraded my Mac’s hard drive to a solid state, which has made a world of difference. Consider a specialist for servicing and cleaning, and there are things you can do yourself such as deleting junk files. If you have had your computer for a really long time, it is likely there are thousands of unnecessary built up files on there, so maybe now is the time for a reinstall of your operating system?

Another important thing to note is BACKUPS. Ensure that your work is properly backed up on a hard drive or Cloud solution, as you are no longer reliant on your company’s network system.

– Set Boundaries

Especially when you’re working from home with kids or other family members or flat mates around, it’s crucial to set boundaries and for everyone to respect them. Let everyone know what times you’re planning to work and when you can or can’t be disturbed.

Even if you’re home alone, it is also important to make boundaries in digital spaces. Make it clear when you’re available for a chat conversation or video call—and when you’re not. If you’re using a tool like Slack, set your Slack status to “busy” when you’re deep in a project, just so your coworkers know not to disrupt your flow.

And there you have it, a few tips to help you get the most out of working from home. Above all else, figure out what works best for you, and don’t be too hard on yourself.