We side hustlers know all about sacrifice. We work at full-time jobs during the week and, as everyone else winds down for the evening or weekend, we’re back at it building our side hustles.
While we may be productive when we’re at work, something odd happens when we’re at home working on our side hustle. Our productivity drops and we don’t get as much done as we think we should.
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At home, the absence of a structured workplace makes it easy to get distracted. When I first started working on my side hustle, I was putting in 20 hours of “work” but I wasn’t progressing fast enough. By adding structure to my weekends, I was able to become more productive, to the point that I can enjoy myself by going out and still get lots of work done. Here are three habits I adopted to achieve that.
Plan your day.
When we’re at the office, we tend to be reactive. Meetings happen, people need things done, projects are dropped on our desks. There’s always something to be done so it’s easy to get through the whole day without having a plan.
At home, that doesn’t happen often, meaning we have to find things to do. Without a solid plan, we end up wasting a lot of time just deciding what to do. Instead, by listing out the top three things we want to accomplish, preferably the night before, we know exactly what we should be working on next.
“Create a to-do list and rank it in order of priority,” Ina Herlihy, growth marketer at Zumper, told me in an interview. “I love Wunderlist, and have created several lists with many different deadlines.”
The more detailed the plan, the better. I personally use the Best Self Journal to account for every hour in my day, including scheduled down time.
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Dress for work.
Research from scientists at California State University, Northridge and Columbia University shows that the clothes we wear influence the way we feel and think. In the five studies they conducted, they found that wearing formal clothing enhanced cognitive processing.
Of course, we don’t need research studies to tell us this. We have plenty of evidence that putting on our makeup or wearing a suit makes us feel good. Similarly, by dressing up for work, even though we’re working from home, we’re mentally priming ourselves for work.
Sol Orwell, co-founder of Examine.com, has been working from home for 15 years. In a conversation with me, he said changing his clothes is his No. 1 productivity secret. “It’s common to talk about habits to get into the right mindset. I’ve found the simple act of having a set of clothes you associate with work to be great for making that happen.”
So, while working in pajamas might seem like the best thing about working from home, it’s actually keeping you from being productive. Get out of them, take a shower and dress professionally to be more productive.
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In the office, the boundaries are fairly obvious. Desks are separate from the water cooler and break room. There’s a time and place for eating and socializing. There’s a time to come in and a time to leave. We can’t spend too long relaxing on the couch or surfing social media before we become conscious of the fact that we’re in an office.
Unfortunately, at home we never become conscious of that. It would be ridiculous if I brought a bed into the office and worked on it. Yet, I often worked on my bed at home without thinking twice. That’s why it’s necessary to create boundaries at home. Create a space for work that’s separate from the bedroom and kitchen, and don’t enter those rooms unless it’s urgent or scheduled in.
To keep from getting up and exploring the fridge every 10 minutes, create dedicated eating and snacking times. To avoid social media distractions, schedule a Facebook break between working on tasks.
If we’re limiting playtime, it’s only fair that we limit work time too. We’re all conditioned to working a 9-to-5 schedule, so it make sense to stick to something similar at home too. This is how I’m still able to have fun on weekends and avoid burnout.
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Be strict with these rules.
It’s not enough to just set rules. We need to follow them, without exception, so that they turn into habits. Start by writing down the three most important tasks to be completed each day. Then, in the morning, take a shower and dress professionally before starting work. Stick to the plan, work in a designated workspace and take scheduled breaks to eat and recharge.
Finally, remember that working from home doesn’t necessarily mean staying at home. William Harris, ecommerce growth consultant at Elumynt, told me he prefers to work from a café. “The key is finding a place that works for you,” he said. “Don’t just work from home, or a coffee shop, or a joint workspace — maybe your sweet spot is an Italian restaurant, or a library or something else.”