Are You Pretending To Work At Home?

Are You Pretending To Work At Home?

I think we’d all agree that it’s a great luxury to be able to work from home. As much as I enjoyed the social side of being in an office and having a laugh, there’s no place I’d rather be at 9am than tangled in my own bedsheets. Living in your comfort zone can provide the acid test for how committed you are to what you do.

Staying productive is something I talk about a lot because I believe self-discipline to be the single greatest asset to any entrepreneur, or anybody who controls their own working environment. Without it, we could spunk entire afternoons on YouTube or away from the office altogether.

I think we all know that it’s important to stay productive, but not many of us have reached the stage where we feel like we’re in total control of our environment.

So here are four tips for improving your productivity if you work from home:

1. Separate your work space from your living arrangements.

This is pretty much critical to your sanity. For over two years, I worked in a claustrophobic bedroom where I also drank, ate, slept and let the magic happen. The problem with having your office in your bedroom is that as affiliate marketers, we’re chained to a 24/7 industry that never sleeps. There’s always one more email to answer, some stats to refresh or a brainfart to research.

One of my priorities when I moved to Bangkok was to find a three bedroom apartment that had plenty of space. My girlfriend also works from home, so we opted for a 350 sq/m sprawling mass of rooms. We both have a home office, our puppies have their own bedroom and there’s more than enough space to be able to differentiate between “This is where I work”, “This is where I sleep”, and “This is where I shit”.

2. Have a schedule.

Many people consider the 9-5 to be a mental prison. The same hours, on the same days of the week for the rest of their working lives. But what can’t be argued is that routine adds order and momentum to your working day.

Nobody can tell you the best routine. Some people work better in the morning, while others can only think straight at night. Your location in the world also makes a difference.

When I have breakfast, America is going to bed and the UK is already fast asleep. This gives me a perfect opportunity to fire off my emails and work out. I can go for a swim, eat some lunch and really think about what I want to achieve before the morning has already passed me by.

If you’re going to have a schedule, you need to stick to it. So you need to plan ahead and leave time for that familiar experience of life screwing you over, or people having other ideas about how you should spend your time. It’s easy for those working at home to fall in to the trap of becoming everybody else’s bitch. Maybe your housemates want you to run errands because you have “all that time on your hands”. Or your neighbour wants you to watch out for a parcel delivery because it was too convenient to expect you to do them a favour than organize to pick the damn thing up themselves.

These are all familiar stories of how working from home can turn you in to a Samaritan at the beck and call of everybody else. So take back control and get some self-discipline. Even if it’s a flimsy whiteboard with your working hours scrawled in the kitchen for your wife to see.

You can always bust out my favourite tetchy complaint: “I didn’t get where I am today by taking care of other people’s shit.” You might be seen as unreasonable, but you’re in the right. Many of us have worked 16 hour days for months on end to be in the position that we are, so having a schedule that other people respect isn’t too much to ask.

3. Understand the difference between staying busy and getting work done.

Sometimes I have days where I only work for a few hours but what I achieve is significant because it’s a step towards a long term goal. Other days, I work for 12 hours and cross off dozens of tasks only to find that I haven’t actually achieved much because I’ve been “keeping busy” rather than making any measurable progress.

What is “keeping busy”?

– Optimizing campaigns without analyzing the data.

God, I hate myself when I do this. I’ll mark down a task for the day to optimize campaign X, and then I’ll go in and introduce some new ads or tweak my landing pages – but I won’t look at the data and make any logical assessments. If you’re forever split testing and never coming to conclusions that affect your future campaigns, you’re the perfect example of somebody who keeps busy for the sake of being busy rather than achieving goals.

– Managing people.

I’m not a project manager. So whenever I add a task like “communicate with Freelancer X and ensure project is running fine”, I know that I’m being lazy. These are things that you should either be doing automatically or handing to a dedicated project manager. It’s not a step forward for your business if you’re spending the day waiting for emails and feeling satisfied that you’ve got everything under control.

– Research tasks.

I find that if I include any item resembling “Research this…” on my to-do list, I will revert to my lazy high school trait of promoting the easiest task to the one most worthy of my time. I never add research tasks to my to-do list for one reason. They’re not measurable. I can’t hold myself accountable at the end of the day. It’s easy to flick through a couple of forum posts in the space of five hours and then by the end of the day miraculously forget that those hours were actually wasted.

To put it simply, if you’re going to set yourself tasks, you should know exactly what you’re looking to achieve. Otherwise the goalposts will move as fatigue sets in at the end of the day.

4. Cancel out the noise.

Yes literally, check out SimplyNoise. White noise is a brilliant way of canceling out the distractions all around you. I like to listen to music every now and then, but having a TV blaring in the background makes it damn near impossible for me to work productively.

My girlfriend manages to stay focused on her tasks while watching America’s Next Top Model with a laptop balanced on the sofa. She’s obviously a freak. I couldn’t bring myself to remember my CPCs from my CPVs if I had such calamity unfolding before my eyes on-screen. Whether you think it affects you or not, your brain is tuned in to what is going on around you. I find white noise to be the best way of weeding out those distractions and keeping my focus where it needs to be. Scamming the nation needs mind meditation, right?

If you’re falling in to patterns of laziness, maybe it’s time to start adjusting your home environment. You know… divorce the wife, move in to the attic, ask the cat to start feeding himself. Small tweaks. I’m not advocating Josef Fritzl measures, but discipline and clarity can be a good thing for all parties concerned. Show the world that you don’t mess with a man and his berries.

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