13 ways to liven up your work-at-home routine

Written by Verne on February 27th, 2008

13 ways to liven up your work-at-home routineAfter challenging tradition and working at home for the past 6 months, I’ve gathered a great deal of new perspectives. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want to do with my life. I’ve learned that being your own boss is a dream come true. I’ve also learned that there can be bitter elements to even the sweetest treats. But more importantly, I’ve learned a lot about how to make the best out of this spectacular experience.

When I wrote about the downsides of working at home (which you should read before reading this), I was amazed at the responses from everyone that shared the same sentiments. Clearly, we’ve all had a taste of a good thing going bad when served in bulk. What really hit me was that, while everybody had their own version of their rants, the majority still whole-heartedly enjoyed working at home. Good – there is hope after all!

The key to livening up the work-at-home lifestyle is to minimize the things that can turn the experience sour, and to take advantage of all the new opportunities that the cube life just doesn’t offer. I’ve combined a few things that I’ve learned to do over the last 6 months and the responses that some of you offered to put together a list of 13 ways to liven up your work-at-home routine. I hope you enjoy it!

Don’t be afraid to hit the snooze button a couple more times.1. Choose hours that work for you

Often times people new to working at home, especially those transitioning from an office job, subconsciously fall into the mindset that you must still work 9-5. However, realize that you can make slight adjustments to your work schedule and still complete all the work you need to do. For example, I prefer to work 10-6 instead. Pushing the work day a hour later may not seem like a lot, but it’s sufficient for me to either catch up on more sleep or do one of the next two tips. This puts me in a better mood already to work through the rest of the day.

Note that in some cases, the work schedule you choose will be dependent on the nature of your business and the clients you serve.

2. Jump start your day

In the comments, Tristan recommended getting a good start to your day by doing a morning workout. I’ve started to put this thought into practice by going for an early jog to wake up the senses for the day ahead. I guarantee when the lung-exploding exhaustion has passed, you’ll feel like a million bucks. Showering after the workout is critical to jump starting your day as well (and for good hygiene too).

It's grrrrrrreat!3. Have breakfast

It really is the most important meal of your day as it gives you just the right boost of energy to get you going with your busy day (I sound like a Kellogg’s commercial). It also works well with the morning excercise – which combined together doesn’t have to take any more than 45 minutes.

4. Define work time and play time – and stick to it!

When you live where you work and work where you live, you need to have some limits in place to create that necessary separation between the two lives. Do this by defining specific times to work, and specific times to do anything but work. For example, if you specify your work time to be between 9 and 5, then the minute the clock hits 5, you must force yourself to get away from the computer. If you don’t, you’ll just keep working and forget about the other aspects of life – like living it.

Why yes, I would like to spend $6 on a cup of coffee.5. Take your work on the road

Tired of working at home? Then work somewhere else! Freshen up your mind by working in a public place like a local coffee shop. Interesting people and overpriced caffeinated drinks can do wonders for you. For those in the Toronto area, I recommend the cliched Starbucks for a quiet and relaxed environment, or Tim Horton’s for a more social space.

6. Make your virtual team a real team

There are a million benefits to working virtually with your business partners, but every once and awhile try to change it up a bit and meet up in a physical location to work. I find myself often visiting my old campus to meet up with my partners and working there. It sort of brings me back to the roots of where I started this crazy venture and just breathes some new life into my work.

You looked taller in your display picture...7. Face-to-face meetings for the win

Aside from all the great business reasons to ditch email for face-to-face meetings that FreelanceSwitch recently wrote about, doing so also gives you another good opportunity to step out of your home and get a breath of fresh air. Meeting people physically, whether it be your team or your clients, also gives you the social interaction that your day at home is missing.

8. Teach yourself something new

It’s not very often that people get the opportunity to continue building their palette of skills on a daily basis. But because you are your own boss, you get to set how your time is allocated. So take a hour or two out of your day, break out of your regular work, and learn something new and exciting. Google up some Photoshop tutorials, or learn something you didn’t know about CSS, Flash, or anything else relevant to your line of work. As you grow your competencies, your business will grow as well. Plus, it adds that bit of novelty to your day.

9. Give your work environment a face lift

If your home office has grown stale, do what I did and give it a face lift! Whether it means painting your walls a fresh new color, getting some new furniture, indulging in some new toys, or all of the above, changing your surrounding means you’re less likely to get tired of it. A happier work attitude will surely follow.

A security guard is probably the only thing that would keep my parents from disturbing me.10. Run your home office like a real office

A few of you told me that you could relate to falling prey to the added household responsibilities that come with working at home. Solution? Put your foot down and run your home office like a real office. Close your door and make it clear that while it’s closed, you shouldn’t be disturbed. This requires some self-control on your part as well – don’t catch yourself playing guitar in your office while you should be working.

11. Take your breaks away from the computer

Breaks are really important to avoid a burn out. The problem is, I know a lot of people (myself included) naturally use their computers for liesure as well as work. If you’re taking a break away from work but haven’t even moved from your computer which you do work on, you’re far more likely to cheat your break time and continue working. Do yourself a favor and take your breaks elsewhere – take a walk, watch some television, or bust out some yoga. Yea, that’s right, yoga. It soothes your soul.

12. Arrange for after-work activities

Probably the best way to put a limit on your work time is to arrange for some after-work activities. David regularly plays football or heads over to gym, as does Brian. I used to, in the warmer seasons, play tennis, and I’m looking forward to doing that again once all this cold white stuff we call snow has melted. My friends and I are even planning to rent out an indoor gym to get weekly games of basketball going – something I’m excited to do as I know it’ll get me out of the house and away from work. It doesn’t even have to be an athletic activity – make plans to get a few drinks, spend some time with the girlfriend, or go watch a new movie. Anything that helps you further separate your work and social life is good.

13. Set daily goals

1. Make to-do list.Aside from setting ambitious short-term and long-term goals for yourself (which you should do), it’s important to set daily goals as well. With an infinite amount of things that you have on your to-do list, it’s impossible to get it all done in a single day. But I know you’ll try. And that’s the problem – you’ll never stop working because you’ll never stop having things to get done. Manage your work more wisely by breaking your long list of to-do’s into daily tasks. This will give you a better sense of when you know you’ve done a sufficient amount of work for the day, so that you can switch off and enjoy other aspects of life. This will leave you less mentally and physically exchausted, which will naturally keep your spirits high for the next day.

* * *

I think it goes without saying that nobody truly needs to be convinced that working at home is a unique and rewarding lifestyle to lead. The purpose of this article was to help you get the most out of it and to help make sure you don’t spoil it for yourself. There’s no need to incorporate every one of these tips into your day, but a few now and again will certainly help to pump new life and energy into a sometimes mundane routine.

Embrace the incredible opportunity of being your own boss and always remember the thinking that brought you to this point in the first place – you saw something you weren’t satisfied with (i.e. your desk job) and you changed it. The same principle applies here – if you find something bumming you out, change it or get rid of it. You have all the flexibility in the world, so leave your excuses at the door.

Got some remedies of your own?

It was great to hear all of your personal rants on the downsides of working at home. Now let’s hear the successes you’ve had with implementing remedies of your own!

30 Responses

  • Satish

    That’s a great set of tips, some I wouldn’t have ever thought you had implemented into your daily routine.

    It’s undoubtedly an interesting experience to take the work-at-home entrepreneurial route. With that said, understanding that – though different – there are still certain things from a traditional workplace that you need to embrace in order to be successful.

    You’ve covered most of them off, and I think a lot of it is a matter of personal style in how you actually execute them (i.e. I wouldn’t play a guitar to get away, I would run some Halo 3). I also find inviting people to your own home work area livens up the routine, thereby avoiding expensive coffee and working together for the day between desks, laptops, and Xbox 360 sessions.

  • Andrew

    Great follow up Verne! I use this great little dashboard widget alarm to remind me to take breaks, especially for lunch because it is very easy to find yourself going several hours without a break.

    http://nitram-nunca.com/2007/03/01/released-minutes/

  • Toronto SEO

    Great post Verne! I’m about to give you a traffic boost thru Stumbleupon – Enjoy :)

  • Verne

    @Satish – Oh the Xbox 360 sessions are golden. And productivity on your Woosaa bean bags are through the roof. But in all seriousness, working with a group of people can definitely keep the working spirit up.

    @Andrew – That’s a great tip and tool, thanks for passing it on! It may be something worth trying out considering it’s 1:04 PM now and I haven’t had anything to eat yet. :|

    @Dev – Thanks for the stumble! ;) I always appreciate the extra help and support!

  • Chad Mueller

    Enjoyable!! I really like to work out in the morning, come home shower and then have a good breakfast, if I have time I will have the good ol’ fashioned eggs, bacon and etc… or if you are pressed for time with deadlines, yogurt and granola, protein shake, bagel and cream cheese and a nice glass of OJ.

    Keeping up with design trends is vital to being successful, and I think it comes easier when working from home. If you are at the office you are challenged by your peers and at home, you need to challenge yourself, visit new trend websites, read books, magazines Computer Arts is great. Like you said, learn something new, I learned WordPress about 6 or 7 months ago, and I love it, I have cracked it to work mainly as CMS, but also as a great blogging software.

    It’s great that you are from Toronto, I love seeing fellow Canadians, or Ontarion’s (not sure if that is a word) in media. Keep up the good work.

  • adii

    Working at home? Make it more interesting……

    It’s funny how life works sometimes… Just as I decide to go back to doing my own thing, I stumble on a great post about livening up your work-at-home situation. What’s even better, is that I’ve just discovered a new blog, which …

  • Joel Cheesman

    Great points. As a home-based biz, I find it’s vital to plug into family, friends and clients via instant message and the occasional webcam correspondence. I believe these virtual and immediate relationships helps create a healthy connection to the “outside world.”

  • Verne

    @Chad – Your breakfast makes me jealous. I usually settle with a bowl of Vector. The box design alone makes me feel like a winner. [insert image of me holding arms up fiercely in V shape] I came across your site the other day when you posted that huge collection of brilliant logos – great thing you have going. Glad you found your way here as well, hope to keep seeing you around!

    @Joel – I completely agree! There are 2 programs I have open at all times – Outlook and Live Messenger. They act as my connection to the “outside world”, as you put it, as well. Though it sometimes helps to keep the status on Busy to limit the conversations and to get some work done. Thanks for leaving your 2 cents!

  • Robin

    I survived my first week working at home happy (the freedom etc), but when it reach the third week, i was burnt out (still is sometimes). Several of above solutions are already in my list and it surely eases the pain of working ‘alone’. I found this is very helpful and help my lists of solutions growing.

    Also, my main trick is, i imagine if i get back to office politics and working with those ties powered people every single day. No way dude :-D. That way, my mind settle easier; someday somehow, i will work at home anyway. So to me, working at home is much much better even at burnt out moments. We just need to find inspirations and thanks to the internet that make it possible.

    Cheers & thanks for this post, i’m subscribed!

  • Verne

    You’re absolutely right Robin, for the most part, working at home still rocks! If we can find ways to dig our way out of the few low points then we’ve got ourselves a pretty solid gig. :)

    Glad to have you as a new subscriber!

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  • Kai

    Hey Verne, nice blog!

    I’ve been working at home too for quite some time now. What I found very important is to not only have a neat and inspiring working environment, but also to have lots of natural light and if possible a balcony nearby. Fresh air and also the ability to see that the outside world is “busy during business hours too” keeps reminding me that I’ve got a business to run. And for short coffee or fresh air breaks there is nothing better than having a balcony with a view.. :-)

  • Melissa

    Love your tips. i do a lot of them, but at varying times. I work my best in the morning, so i’m at my desk by 8, big bowl of cereal and glass of water in hand, reading my blogs. after breakfast i jump right into email and knock out my morning’s work.

    During lunch i read more blogs, tutorials, play with my own website, etc. I work out MWF during lunch. i have found that the less i work out, the more sore i am from sitting multiple continuous hours. It’s hard to get up when you’re on a roll!

    I try to stay really well hydrated during the day too by going for water instead of soda (altho that doesn’t always work). and i try to squeeze in a nap a few times a week too.

    the office face lift is a biggie. i just reorganized, moved furniture and basically made things easier to get to. now i love coming into my office.

    oh, and at 4, i turn on Seinfeld. that helps me to remember that the work day is almost over and that i need to get away from the desk for a while.

  • Verne

    @Kai – Couldn’t agree more! My renovated home office space has done wonders for my productivity and the approaching warm weather is sure to make not wearing a suit to work even sweeter! Your balcony sounds like a great place to unwind – what sort of glorious view do you have?

    @Melissa – Glad to see you made the hop over here! Waking up early and having breakfast are two things I haven’t done as many times as I’d like, but I know that they work well for my day’s productivity. I like your workout routine – I’ve adopted the same recently, only I’m doing it in the evenings so it gives me something to look forward to at the end of the day. Gotta love Seinfeld too – and a small dose of Friends and other classic sitcoms won’t hurt here and there either. ;) Thanks for sharing your day!

  • Michael Jenkins

    Another good topic:).

    I’ve worked at home for a while now, and there’s always something new to learn. The most important factors for my personal productivity have been: WAKING UP and not sleeping in all the time, having a good routine, eating (correctly), and taking breaks.

    About a year and a half ago I became engaged to my fiancee, and that’s where working at home really stood out as a blessing. A usual day for me looks like this:

    7am – Wake Up, SHOWER(somepplthinktheydon’thavetoshowereverydaybecausetheyworkathome,ahem), it’s a great way to refresh & start your day, i promise.

    7:30 – Drive Fiancee to work (she can drive herself, but it’s not very far…so why not? :). Get some nice morning air.

    7:45 (On the way back) Possibly stop and pick up a breakfast burrito or have breakfast with a business partner.

    8am-9:30am – Back home, cook breakfast if I haven’t eaten. Check e-mails, websites, blogs (like this). I also use this time to write down any daily tasks I need to do. Setup a workspace, open up projects to be worked on before I leave to workout.

    9:30am-10am – everyday Workout

    10am-1pm – Work on stuff (will snack on something around 12ish to keep that blood sugar up to par, preventing that afternoon fatigue)

    1-1:45pm – Lunch (away from the computer, even if in living room) / Meetings if any / Surprise fiancee with gift and/or flowers at work

    1:45pm-4pm – Work
    4-pm-5pm – Working outside again, might & read at bookstore…take care of other errands.
    5 – 5:30pm – Pick up Fiancee, Back Home
    5:30-6pm – Finish any work needed
    6-7pm – Walk/Jog around campus with fiancee
    7-7:30pm – Cook / Eat Dinner

    8-???: -free- :)

    and that’s what my typical day looks like! I work less, but get more done because I can stay efficient :).

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  • Lawrence Anderson

    As someone just starting out, working from home was initially pretty difficult. It took me a solid month or two to gain the discipline needed to keep my work life and home life separate under one roof. Too bad I didn’t have an article like this in the beginning :-)

    Thanks for the great read,
    Lawrence

  • The Mobile Warrior

    This post is lighting up my soul.
    I will try to create a routine work place based on your 13 tips.
    Perhaps, I should put the plan as the wallpaper.

    Thanks.

  • Olivia

    You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

  • Puleen Patel

    This is a great post. Soon, I will be working from home and I think some of these will be extremely helpful and beneficial for me to start implementing now.

    Thanks!

    PP

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  • Phaoloo

    Definitely love your tips. They are useful for people when there are more and more people work from home now.

  • Andrew

    Nice blog. Well written. Very informative.
    I Will Keep In touch with it.
    Well Done.
    Andrew Cunnington
    yournetbiz

  • Caramoan Philippines

    i also work at home by monetizing websites through adsense and i also run an online travel agency.

  • Teri

    Nice blog. Glad I found it. I too work from home and I love it. A special benefit is having my dogs at my feet during the day. Petting a pup when my head is on overload is a great break I know these guys won’t argue with me or complain about their co-worker or their salary.

  • Rebel Angel

    Terrific article – I have recently decided to leave behind office politics and the 9-5 grind for a lifestyle that makes allowances for traffic, planning a family and just a more goal-orientated worklife (as opposed to a relationship-orientated one as is common in big corporates). This will be the first time I am leaving `coporate’ life behind. I am very excited. And terrified. Thanks for the articles – have definitely made notes.

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