Home Office Productivity
April 2, 2006 11:36 AM   Subscribe

How can I increase my home office productivity?

I have had my own consulting business operating out of my home office for the last 16 years. Over the last two or three years I find it harder and harder to focus on the tasks I have to do on a regular basis, submit invoices, do bookeeping, pay bills, update the web site, and other extraneous paperwork. I wander around the computer for hours until I find a starting place. I waste time very proficiently. Throw in a needed call to tech support for anything, and I have wasted half a day. Everything eventually gets done and on time but all at the last minute.

I want to change this and have more time in my life. I don't see this as a problem of organization rather one of motivation.

Thanks for your responses.
posted by Xurando to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think that the Getting Things Done crowd would argue the two issues are the same, or at least inextricably linked for many.
posted by kimota at 12:00 PM on April 2, 2006

If you're well-organized already then you know what you need to do and have a fairly well-defined list when you start the day. Pick a few items on it and don't permit yourself any distraction until they're done. Reward youself with a cup of coffee or something when you're done. Kind of a simplistic answer but also obvious - you've got to knuckle down and eliminate the work you have so it stops hanging over you. That half-dazed wandering about procrastinating is never much fun because you know you should be doing other stuff. Knock that shit out so you can enjoy the rest of your day and make the most of having a home office in the first place.

I also work from home sometimes and I find it's great for long tasks that require creativitiy, like writing up a document. It's extraordinarily bad for completing many small tasks. It has to be something absorbing that I can really sink into to hold my attention at home. In the office-office, the motivation for finishing everything early is to leave early :)
posted by scarabic at 12:13 PM on April 2, 2006

Man, you sound just like me, though I've only been solo for six or seven years. (And here I am with a Monday deliverable, mostly done, spending Sunday afternoon surfing AskMe. Bleh.) I think it just grows more difficult to maintain the home office motivation year in and year out.

The biggest single increase in my productivity levels, ever, was when I incinerated my World of Warcraft discs. The second biggest was caused by adding this to my /etc/hosts file: *.metafilter.com

...among a few other entries.

Other than that I haven't found any magic bullets. Focusing on one thing at a time helps. Starting a new project, new client, etc helps. Remembering that working on anything, however trivial, is better than not working at all, helps. (I tend to get caught stuck between several equally urgent tasks, and wind up doing none of them... so when that happens I try to find some other random thing to do, even if it's less urgent, just to get me back in the swing of it.) Scheduling specific work hours and sticking to them gets suggested a lot, but doesn't work at all for me. Rewarding myself for working doesn't work at all for me.

I've been eyeing GTD from a distance, but haven't dipped my toe in yet.
posted by ook at 12:34 PM on April 2, 2006

I wholeheartedly agree with Scarabic. My husband and I both work from home, and we have effectively eliminated any procrastinating tendencies through a small rewards system. You really do feel so much better about knocking about doing unproductive things when you don't have work hanging over your head!
We remind ourselves often that one of the things that we appreciate the most about working from home is the flexibility that we enjoy with our schedules. As such, we try to take advantage of our freedom as much as possible. Nothing makes us happier than going to the gym or taking a walk in the middle of the day when we know most schlubs are hunched over their computers in a cubicle farm. Obviously, I certainly do not want cubicle-farm-working-schlubs to assume that I am belittling their jobs, I am just glad I am not one of them.
posted by msali at 3:10 PM on April 2, 2006

If your concentration is really not there you might want to up your caffeine dose a little bit, or to spread what you're drinking now out over a longer period - smaller doses more often.
posted by teleskiving at 4:03 PM on April 2, 2006

I work from home often--and have been known to come off a six hour internet tangent. God only knows where the time goes. I've found cold turkey isn't the answer for me.

So I 'reward' myself after being productive. Get _____ done then surf Metafilter for a half hour. Many times I am so productive I forget all about the reward and continue to get much done.

This being the third time I've heard of Getting Things Done, I'm off to go purchase.
posted by vaportrail at 4:21 PM on April 2, 2006

Sounds like you might be a bit burned out and need a vacation. Or maybe after 16 years you're finished with that phase of your life/ career and ready to move on.

If neither of those are the case, you might spend a little time studying time management and productivity. I found Alan Lakein's "How to get Control of your Time and Life" very helpful.

Do you make to-do lists, then prioritize them, so you do the most important things first? Do you schedule tasks to take advantage of your circdian rhythms? Both are excellent ideas. For example, I'm at my most creative and enegetic early in the mornings, so I'm often up at the crack of dawn or before. I try to start with the work that demands the most. Then, after I'm toast, I take care of invoices and other, less demanding chores.

Another good idea: Kiss a frog first thing every day. Meaning, do your most unpleasant task first, the one you're dreading most. Once that bad boy is done, the rest will seem easy (OK, easier). Then bring on those rewards like msali and others have suggested. Just be sure you've earned them first! ;-)
posted by wordwhiz at 4:56 PM on April 2, 2006

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