Originally written in the pre-Covid era of early 2019, this chronicle shares a bunch of useful tips on how to stay focused working from home.

Working from home is not a new phenomenon.

Many home businesses have paved the way for others over the years. But since the internet became readily available across the globe in the mid 1990s, working from home became so much easier.

Combine the internet with other technological advances—like video calls, and there’s high expectations we’re continually connected and available round the clock.

These societal expectations apply to pretty much everyone, from small business owners to employees, even if you don’t work remotely.

But being available 24/7—for work or for personal stuff—can have serious drawbacks, from affecting your health, your relationships, your business, to anything else in your life, really.

Here are my top five tips to help maintain your sustainable capacity.

How to stay focused working from home

1. Have a dedicated work space

If you were employed in an office-type environment, you’d have your own desk.

I know it’s not always possible, but if you have the space, set up an office in a study/spare room.

Having an office area separate from your living areas allows you to close the door at the end of your work day and start afresh the following morning.

If you’re limited for space, like me, arrange your existing furniture to incorporate an area that will allow you to have a small work space. You may find you need to downsize some furniture, or buy a smaller desk.

Either way, having a dedicated work space can help to keep your focus and keep to business hours.

If possible, make your work space inviting.

Surround yourself with photos of your loved ones, put up inspiring quotes and/or images, decorate with your favourite flowers or ornaments, play music in the background.

Whatever it is that makes your space feel more comfortable, inviting, and conducive to your sustainable capacity, do it.

Need some home work space inspiration? Check out my Business: Home Office Inspo Pinterest board.

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My favourite workspace tip: If your work space is in your lounge/living room, have your desk facing away from the TV.

2. Make yourself a daily to do list and an ideal (weekly) schedule

Keeping on top of your tasks can be difficult without a proper plan.

One of my favourite tools to keep on top of my days is time blocking.

Before you include all the things you need to do in your business, schedule in all your life things. Family time, chores, down time, extracurriculars, all the things you do in your days.

Once that’s done, look at the time you have left and then start scheduling in your business activities.
Include time for business administration tasks such as correspondence, financials, planning, networking – online and in-person, product or service design and development, professional development, marketing, content creation (graphics, blog posts, emails, social media captions, podcasting, et cetera), and anything else that you need to do on a regular basis for your business/job.

Keep these things scheduled at the same time each day/week/fortnight/month.

Working from home does not come without distraction.
The housework needs doing, the TV beckons, or you need to schedule personal appointments during work time. That’s absolutely okay.
Sometimes these things have to happen in the middle of the work day.

Don’t forget to allow time for the unexpected too: sometimes you need to head to the shop to get remaining/all of the ingredients for dinner (going in the middle of the day is often better than going after work when everyone else is finished), or popping on that load of washing, or an unexpected meeting.

On top of your weekly schedule, write a list of things you need to accomplish each day. If you can, write this list before you finish up for the day so you can start your next work day without having to plan.

My favourite planning tip: Use stickers for repetitive appointments or trackers.

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3. Set hours of trade and/or contact

When you’re an employee, as soon as you switch on your computer, clock on, or whatever it is to determine you are ‘in’, you’re available (and expected to be ready) for business.

The same can be said for the end of the work day and clocking off et cetera.

What happens though if you work from home?

Does that mean your clients/customers/patients can contact you round the clock because you are ‘at home’? Absolutely not. You’re entitled to downtime just like everyone else!

Setting yourself hours of trade and/or contact will give your customers/clients clear boundaries.

They may still contact you outside of your established hours, but you don’t (and shouldn’t!) respond instantly.

You have other responsibilities in life— family, home, extracurricular activities, YOURSELF—that take precedence outside of business hours.

Make sure your trading/contact hours are readily available to your customers/clients, and more importantly, that you enforce them.

This principle should also apply to people who work for an employer, be it remotely or in a shared environment.

My favourite scheduling tip: Use one of your brand colours – or any colour – to identify your business hours in your planner.

4. Have lunch (and snack) breaks

When you work from home it’s easy to fall into the trap of making yourself food then eating at your desk.

It might sound silly, but having a scheduled lunch break at home really helps me to stay focused.

Think about it. If you’re an employee, you’d get morning and afternoon tea breaks, as well as a lunch break. Why should it be any different working for yourself?

Take time out for yourself: eat lunch in the sunshine, meet a friend, go for a walk, catch up on your favourite TV show, just something that involves not being at your desk, and actually having downtime (chores do not count).

Whether it’s a half hour break or an hour, having that time to yourself without the hassle of thinking about work will do you the world of good.

Chances are you’ll come back refreshed and ready to tackle the afternoon’s work with gusto.

My favourite break tip: Catching up on whatever it is that I’m watching on Netflix without my husband or our daughter interrupting. 

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5. Do something you love

Let’s face it: if you don’t love what you do, you’re not going to give it the focus and energy it needs. This goes for any job, whether it’s your own business or if you work for someone else. And it applies to pretty much any situation in life, too.

Also, this is not my first rodeo in entrepreneurship:

  • I sold Tupperware on and off for a total of four years, starting when I was just 19 years old (2003-2005, and 2009-2010);
  • I had a vintage wares business (2015-2016);
  • I had a hobby business creating vintage-inspired wedding invitations (2011-2019); and,
  • my first dedicated online business was Mayday VA (2018 – 2021).

Yes, I was running three businesses at once.
Yes, I enjoyed what each of them offered.
But they were still not completely fulfilling me.

They all sparked something in me at some stage, and when that spark started to die, I evaluated, made a decision, and evolved.

That’s exactly what happened when I was at the crossroads in 2021. 

I couldn’t go back to being ‘just’ Mayday VA. I’d evolved heaps from being a Girl Friday-type virtual assistant, and knew that I needed to hone my skills and offerings as a creative assistant. But I also wanted to continue to offer mentoring.

Not only that, since discovering I’m likely autistic, my entrepreneurial journey makes so much more sense. I’m good at and enjoy a lot of different things, so there’s no reason I can’t do that in my business.

So, I did, and I’m so bloody happy with my decision. Being a Capacity Advocate is the best. I get to help people find their sustainable life/work peace through mentoring, or as a creative assistant. Truly, I bloody love it.

Okay, there you have it. My top tips for how to stay focused working from home.

Of course, so many more people are working from home these days as we continue to fumble our way through the pandemic, but I’m sure that someone out there reading or listening to this chronicle is able to glean something new and use it to help them achieve their sustainable life/work peace.

Originally published: early 2019
Updated: April 2022
Last Updated: January 2024

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