There are all kinds of advantages to working from home in your own dog business. Obviously hanging out with the dogs is top of the list. Working in your pajamas, setting your own schedule, running to the kitchen for a tea or coffee hit, and the absence of distracting coworkers and unreasonable supervisors probably make many a dog pro’s list as well.
But there are the downsides, too, most of which stem from a lack of imposed structure and accountability. Left to one’s own devices and surrounded by the distractions of home (dogs, other family members, laundry, dishes in the sink, the TV, the garden…), solid productivity can be challenging.
Here are 7 strategies we use ourselves at dogbiz. We hope they help you rock working from home as a dog pro, especially on your non-client pajama days!
1. Set a start time and get going first thing
For most people, the best, most focused hours are in the morning, so don’t waste those puttering around the house. Tackle a work project right away to get your day off to a great start. Getting something important off your to-do list at the beginning of your workday can lend a lot of energy and momentum to the rest of the day.
I love mornings. Getting to my desk by 6:30am allows for nice chunky breaks during the rest of the day. –Deborsha
If you tend to require a bit more time to wake up and get going, give yourself that time—but set a specific start time for your work day to provide structure.
I like to spend an hour working in my greenhouse before I sit down at my desk. As a non-morning person, that hour motivates me to get up on time, and puts me in a great mood, ready to tackle the day’s schedule. –Veronica
2. Create schedule structure
Speaking of structure, most of us need it. Left to our own devices, it’s too easy to jump from task to task, deciding that perhaps cleaning out the fridge has higher priority than writing that handout about leash reactivity. And for the workaholics among us, a lack of structure can mean a lack of needed downtime.
The cool thing is that your structure can be whatever you want it to be. You get to work whichever hours you wish, and enjoy downtime when you like, too. The trick is just to be deliberate about these choices. How will you spend the hours of the day? And during your work hours, what specifically will you work on?
Breaking up your work hours into category chunks—time for marketing, for example, and time for client or class prep, admin work, etc., helps provide structure and avoid that “lost” feeling of trying to figure out where to put your energy when you land at your desk.
When scheduling a new task, I consider whether it’s a ‘touch it once’ task, or one that will need a few chunks of time to accomplish – for example, a writing project that I may want to revisit after a day or two with fresh eyes. If it’s something that will need multiple sessions, I schedule all of those into my calendar so I know the time will be there. – Tia
I don’t open my email until I’ve accomplished at least one thing on my day’s to-do list first. That way, I start my day with my agenda and not anyone else’s, and keep moving forward on my most important projects. I then check my email at three set times per day. This keeps me from getting distracted from larger projects, while still making sure I get clients and colleagues what they need. – Gina
3. Plan ahead
Starting your day without knowing what you intend to accomplish almost always results in accomplishing less than you could. At the very least, end each workday by deciding what you’ll tackle the next workday. Better yet, plan each week out in advance. And even better than that, plan larger projects and goals by the quarter or even the year. This will make it easier to decide what you should be working on week-to-week and day-by-day.
At the end of each day I take a few moments to jot down my priority tasks for the next day. I find this helpful in a couple of ways. One, I can mentally leave work behind and not lose sleep over my to-do list! And two, I can come in the next morning and just pick up right where I need to. – Tia
When I fail to plan ahead, which I sometimes do when I’m transitioning back into my office after traveling to speak at a conference or seminar, I really notice the difference. Just picking something off a big to-do list always leaves me worried I’m focusing on the wrong thing—and I usually find I am. –Veronica
4. Go to the office
Working from your bedroom or kitchen table can make you feel like you’re at work all the time. If at all possible, set yourself up in a room that’s a dedicated office. As you walk toward the threshold of your office, set an intention of focus. Leave the rest of your home behind—you’re at work now, just as you would be if you drove to an office building somewhere. (Except there are lots of dog pillows in this office.)
If you don’t have the luxury of a dedicated office room, consider something like an office hutch so you can close the doors on your computer at the end of your work time. At the very least, pack your laptop away each day or put a cover over your computer. Putting your computer away will help you mentally “leave” work, and getting it back out each morning will help you “arrive.”
If you find it challenging at times to stay focused at home, leave to work somewhere else. Sometimes a change of venue can help create focus. Take your laptop to a local café or the library, or even a park bench. Before you leave, decide specifically what you’ll work on when you get there, and what you intend to accomplish before returning home.
I frequently tackle large projects outside of my office. Leaving behind email, social media, in-baskets, and the drone of printers, I find I can complete the task quicker and my attention stays more focused on the task at… oh, look, a squirrel! –Deborsha
5. Reduce and manage distractions and interruptions
If other family members are home during your work hours, use your training skills to teach them when not to interrupt. (A visual signal, like a closed door, “At work” door sign, wearing earphones, etc., can help.) Turn off social media and email except when these items are on your schedule. If you have distractions that are less easily controlled, like small children or a new puppy, build your schedule around their rhythms, taking advantage of nap times, for example, to work on projects that require deeper focus.
6. Build in breaks
Research suggests that we’re more productive (and healthier) when we get up and move around about once an hour. Some dogs provide built-in timer service to remind you to get up on a regular basis. Small children are good for this, too. But if there are no kids around and your senior dog tends to snooze for hours at a stretch, set a timer when you sit down at your desk. When it goes off, stretch, drink some water (hydration helps keep energy up), move around, and let your mind rest for a few minutes.
I make Alexa work for her room and board, setting alarms throughout the day to make sure I get up to eat, pet the kitties, and exercise. –Deborsha
The hour after I pick my kids up from school is one of the most productive of my day. That quick 30-minute break in the middle of the afternoon and the mental break it provides revives my flagging energy and leaves me ready to dig into another project. In fact, I’m frequently surprised when my end-of-day alarm goes off. –Gina
7. Take full advantage of being home
Since you’re home, you can use your breaks to get a few things done around the house, too. Use a break to put in a load of laundry that you can transfer to the dryer on your next break. Spend ten minutes dead-heading flowers in the garden while getting a little fresh air, or working on another hobby, or getting a little exercise. Get a bit of advanced dinner prep done. Play with or train the dog—no doubt he’d appreciate a 10-minute game of fetch or enjoy perfecting his new trick or weave pole speed. It’s important to be disciplined when working from home, but you can do that while still enjoying the perks of being there.