How to Stay Productive When You Don’t Have “an Office”
Back in the day, an “office job” meant that you went into the office at 9am and left at 5pm. Your office was where you did your work, took calls, and met with clients. Nowadays, there is no “typical” office job. Many professionals now work out of alternative offices; their homes, coffee shops, or even their cars. And often, these same professionals and entrepreneurs find that it is difficult to stay productive and on-task without their “tangible office.”
Being The Voice of Small Business, we’ve heard about this from our customers. And it’s totally understandable. How can you stay productive when you’re working out of a place where you do so many other non-work activities? Whether you work for a small business or you’re a solo-preneur, these tips can help:
Stick to a Set Schedule
When you worked at an office you were expected to come in at a certain time each day. Consider setting a time for yourself to “go to work” every day; even if that means walking from your bedroom to the living room. Be ready to work at the same time every day, and it will be easier to get into “work mode” and be productive.
The same thing goes for the end of your business day. If you are “at work” all day, you’ll just keep putting things off until later. Make an official end of the day, and you will be sure to get more tasks and projects finished before that time. (This is also a great tip for separating your work and personal life – because no one wants to be working ALL the time.)
Dress the Part
It’s hard to be productive when you’re shuffling around your “office” in bunny slippers. You’ll notice a huge jump in productivity simply by getting out of your comfy clothes and putting on your work clothes. While you don’t have to dress up in a suit and tie every day, make sure you’re at least getting out of your pajamas (especially if you work at the corner coffee shop, that’s just awkward for everyone).
Designate Your Workspace
Even though you don’t have an office, you still need a place to work. Find a place in your home/car/coffee shop where you feel you are the most productive, and then designate that as your workspace. Try to only do work in this area and you’ll get into the routine of being in productive mode whenever you sit down in this area (so you probably don’t want your official workspace to be on the sofa in front of the TV).
Additionally, especially if you are a business owner, you need to keep all of your important documents organized. Make sure you have some kind of filing system in place that you can keep in your workspace. By keeping your files tidy and organized, you can find things more easily, and therefore stay more productive.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
A lot of business tools are designed for professionals working from brick-and-mortar offices. When you try to utilize those tools in an environment outside the stereotypical office, it often results in more effort than it’s worth. You need business tools that were built for someone on the go, such as a toll free 800 number service from FreedomVoice. This service offers great features like an automated attendant that answers all of your calls with a custom greeting and routes callers to you or the right person on your team; call forwarding so you can answer your business line anywhere; and online faxing. If your business tools help you to work on the go, maybe the world can be your office- no matter what the day throws you.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
If you already know what helps you to stay productive – stick with it! Change things that aren’t working and adapt the things that ARE working to other parts of your routine. For instance, if you find that you work better in the morning, try waking up a little earlier and not working as late in the day. If you need a triple espresso latte be productive, move your workspace to the corner coffee shop. There are a lot of different ideas out there on how to stay productive, but the key to getting YOUR work done is to understand what works for YOU.
If All Else Fails…
If you’re still having trouble finding ways to stay productive, here are a few tips to increase productivity, with or without an office:
- Cut out the noise – social media is one of the biggest time wasters for most professionals. Invest in an app that will block social media on your computer, phone, or other device to cut out that “noise” while you’re trying to get work done.
- Cut out even more noise – designate a few different times a day to check your email and only check your mail at those times. Checking your email every few minutes is a huge productivity killer; people can wait.
- Set a timer for harder tasks – tell yourself you’re going to work on one thing and only one thing for a set amount of time. You’ll be surprised how much work can get done in as little as 15 minutes when you’re just working on that one thing. And once you get started, it’s much easier to keep going and get the task completed.
- Eat the frog – Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important project or task. If you get that one thing done as soon as you start work for the day, all the other tasks will be simple!
Whether you’ve owned a business for a while or are a new entrepreneur, you’ve learned you don’t need an office to be professional. And by staying productive you can continue to flourish in your position and grow your business even more.