Being able to work from home sounds like a dream come true: No need to worry about a daily commute; no need to bother with water cooler banter; the ability to work at your own pace, in a familiar, comfortable environment. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, that environment can become a productivity black hole.
Working from home as an entrepreneur is a smart choice–but it can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, you’re not spending extra money on an office space or extra time commuting every day. On the other, if you’re not prepared for what having a home office actually involves, you might find yourself struggling to actually get anything done.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to work from home–and a few tips to staying on top of your workload and away from the myriad of distractions the internet has to offer.
Find a way to stave off loneliness
Everyone’s experienced office doldrums and drama at one point or another: Chatty coworkers who sap your attention just by being in the same room; overbearing management that loathes to let you take a single step without breathing down your neck; toxic customers who make you wonder why you even bother going to the office.
Working from home as an entrepreneur means no longer having to deal with any of it.
At the same time, being your own boss means you also miss out on office culture. You don’t have co-workers to invite out for drinks after a long day of work, or to eat with during your lunch break.
Even for the most introverted people, working from home can get extremely lonely. At the end of the day, we are social creatures—we’re made to be around other people. When we deny ourselves human contact for any reason, it can have a negative effect on our health, both mental and physical.
To counteract this, consider adding a bit of background noise to your workday. Listen to the radio, put your Spotify playlist on shuffle, or watch something on Netflix while you work (just make sure it’s something you can watch without having to give it your full attention).
You might also consider working away from your office every now and then. Take your laptop to a nearby coffee shop, sit down, and treat yourself to a cup while working on a project. Even if you don’t talk to anyone while you’re there, just being out in public can give your energy a huge boost.
Finally, proactively in making plans with friends and family can help stave off the work-from-home blues. Attend networking opportunities to build relationships with other entrepreneurs, and work to strengthen the friendships you already have. Join a book club or get a gym membership.
In short, make it a point to constantly seek opportunities to make new friends and cultivate new connections. Working from home doesn’t have to mean your social life suffers. It does, however, mean you need to take a more active role in maintaining it.
Dress–and act–the part
When your office commute is less than a hundred yards, it can be tempting to roll out of bed and into your office five minutes before your workday starts. Of course, it’s likely almost every entrepreneur is guilty of doing this at least once. Doing it too often, however, can become a bad habit.
It’s well-known that clothing impacts how we perceive ourselves–even if no one else can see us. Walking around wearing nothing but sweatpants and old t-shirts can be comfortable. But in the same way that wearing a uniform or a polished suit can make us feel empowered, slumming around in our pajamas can make us feel sluggish and lazy.
And let’s not forget what should be an important part of any person’s daily routine, whether they work in an office or at home: personal hygiene. In fact, showers have a positive effect on our mental health, especially if taken first thing in the morning.
Your workspace also plays a role in helping boost your—and others’—perception of yourself as a professional. If you regularly do work from the couch or in bed, consider creating a dedicated workspace sequestered off from your living space to help eliminate distractions and encourage focus. You should also regularly clean and organize this space. Our brains often reflect the environment we’re in. If your office is in chaos, so, too, will be your mind.
Maintain both your home office and yourself. Even if you have to get up earlier than you’d like, take the time every day to shower, shave, and get dressed before you start work. You’ll feel better–and you’ll work better as a result.
Set a schedule and stick to it
One of the biggest productivity risks facing the self-employed is a lack of a concrete schedule. WIthout an office full of extra sets of eyes, or a manager sitting close by, it’s far too easy to put important tasks off until later or to spend hours on Reddit or Facebook rather than working.
Even though you’ve likely chosen this life at least in part to get away from the drudgery of a nine to five job, it’s important you still have some structure to your life. What form that structure takes is entirely up to you. It could be something as simple as going to the gym at a set time every day, or something as complicated as a strictly-regimented personal schedule in which you cordon off each individual task into its own block of time.
The important thing is that you have some way of tracking both your hours and the work you need to get done. A kanban board like Trello is perfect for the former. For the latter, there are plenty of free time tracking tools on the web—Grindstone and TrackTime, to name a few. And if you still find yourself having trouble staying focused, you might consider looking into a browser extension that you can set up to keep you off certain websites during your workdays, like Freedom, Anti Social, or SelfControl.
Working from home can either be an incredible experience or a productivity nightmare. It’s all in how you approach your work, and how well you’re able to establish a work/life balance. By focusing on your well-being and keeping track of your tasks and habits, you can ensure you actually get stuff done.
Aman Advani is Co-Founder and CEO of Ministry of Supply, a performance professional clothing company. Ministry of Supply provides a new way to dress for the office, with a system of wear-to-work clothing designed to take you further daily.