3 Tips to Be More Productive Working from Home

3 Tips to be MORE productive working from home via HighleyDesigned.

Most people think working from home is a breeze. No schedule, no rules, no boss to check in on you and no annoying coworkers… But the truth is, as great as it can be to set your own schedule and get your creative juices flowing, working from home can be hard. It requires a ton of self motivation, organization and planning! I’ve been working from home running my freelance marketing business for nearly two years now and I’ve learned a lot about what works for me so I thought I’d pass along some tips this week.

  1. Plan Plan Plan. 
    When you’re managing numerous projects and accounts, planning is essential. Whether you use a detailed spreadsheet or a good old fashioned to-do list, make sure you have a plan for the week. Set realistic expectations of what you can complete each day and plan for unexpected things to pop up. Don’t fill your schedule to the brim so that an impromptu phone call throws you for a loop – give yourself some wiggle room. If you know it’s going to be really nice out one day, plan to finish early so you can enjoy the park!

    I use an Excel spreadsheet to manage all of my tasks and keep track of deadlines. A color system lets me know if things are HOT, WARM or COLD, and I work from red to blue. The goal is to keep all of my tasks in the blue – meaning I have plenty of time to finish them. Occasionally I’ll have a day full of red tasks that need to be done asap, but if I manage my time effectively, that’s not often, saving me time and stress.

  2. Develop a Routine.
    As nice as it is to “wing it” sometimes, working from home is a commitment that requires routine. If you’re not a morning person, that’s fine. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty because you enjoy your sleep. Maybe you do your best work from 4pm-11pm, find what works for you and stick to it! If you work from home so that you can take care of your kids, you’ll probably need to work around nap time or school pick-up etc. When you find what works for you, make it a habit!

    My daughter is 9 months old and requires a lot of attention, so my mornings are typically dedicated to her and keeping our home in one piece. I can count on getting back to emails and responding to any “red hot” tasks when she takes her morning nap. In the afternoon, I do the rest of my work. Not only does a routine help keep me organized, it helps me set boundaries so I can decide what I can commit to or decide if I’m too busy. As a freelancer it’s easy to take on a ton of projects so it’s always important to think ahead so you don’t bite off more than you can chew.

  3. Take Time for YOU.
    It’s easy to get lost in a project when you’re working from home. I know I’ve had those sweatpants and crusty t-shirt kind of days when I can’t seem to pull myself away from the computer until I finish ONE more thing! But the truth is, nothing good comes from overworking yourself (or wearing sweatpants all day.) If this sounds like you, put the laptop down, take a shower and eat a good meal! You can’t produce your best work if you’re not feeling good about yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable while you work from home, but I find getting myself together in the morning, eating breakfast and just taking time to be human is a huge benefit to my work life.

 

What Social Media Sites Should You Be Using to Grow Your Business?

What Social Media Networks Should Your Business Be Using by HD Marketing & Creative

If you’re new to social media but you’re not sure what your business should be doing, here are some tips! Remember, it’s better to be active on one social media platform than to post infrequently on all of them. 

Facebook
No matter what industry you’re in, every business should be on Facebook. If you don’t have time to post every day, make it a habit to post every few days and make it a habit to be consistent. Facebook has become so popular it’s like your calling card. In many ways your business page is second to your Google listing.

Best For:

  • Small businesses
  • Marketing to local customers
  • Announcing and planning events
  • Dealing with customer service issues
  • Running contests and giveaways

Instagram
If you’re in the fashion, beauty, travel or creative industries, Instagram will serve you well. Instagram has a young demographic and Instagram is all about photos. Another key feature is that your newsfeed is based in real-time like Twitter, there’s no dealing with tricky algorithms like Facebook.

Best For:

  • Businesses with high quality photos – product photos, before and after photos, videos, styled shots etc.
  • Fashion brands, bloggers, Etsy sellers, hair and nail industry, photographers, wedding planners, restaurants, event venues
  • Showing off new products, food, before and after photos, art
  • Connecting with other brands, businesses and individuals

Twitter
Keep it short and sweet in 140 characters or less! Twitter is great for anyone in tech or marketing, it’s also great for anyone that represents an organization, runs their own business or has an area of “expertise.” If you have a blog, do any public speaking or want to network with others, Twitter is an awesome place to be.

Best For:

  • Tech companies, marketers, authors, speakers, funny people and any business that provides customer / product support
  • Alerting fans or followers of new content or blog posts, events or glitches
  • Resolving customer service issues
  • Networking with other professionals, live-chatting or answering questions

LinkedIn 
If you’re a business owner, professional, author or speaker LinkedIn is the best place to find opportunities. Whether you want to do business with someone, talk guest blogging or invite someone to appear on your radio show, this is a place to do it. On LinkedIn you can send a direct message without sounding creepy or weird and you don’t have to be shy about “friending” someone.

Best For:

  • Business owners and professional organizations
  • Connecting with people you’d like to do business with, get a recommendation from, share your content with and learn from
  • Getting your name out there and establishing yourself professionally

Pinterest
Ecommerce busniesses this is the social media network for you! With Pinterest you can pin all of your products and in one click potential shoppers are at your storefront. This is also a great platform for anyone in home decor, remodeling, travel and other photo-friendly industries.

Best For:

  • The Ecommerce industry
  • Fashion, beauty, bloggers, artists, fitness experts
  • Showing off products and online content

 

Learn what social media networks your business should be using!

Work From Home Mom, Tip #22: Take Advantage of Nap Time

Work from home tips: Take advantage of naptime by HighleyDesigned, Mommy blogger and social media marketer

Ah… the sound of… quiet. As a mom to a little one this is a rare treat! My six month old can’t speak words yet but she has certainly found her voice.

I’ve learned that instead of stressing when it seems like the morning has been chaotic, sometimes it’s best to simply put work aside and make my baby girl #1 for a while. Maybe that’s an impromptu walk or reading some books – whatever keeps her happy. When work seems overwhelming it’s important to realize how lucky I am to be able to stay at home and have those little moments with Reagan.

Working from home requires serious time management. I don’t plan my day by the hour, I plan it by what Reagan is up to and how long things will keep her busy. The bouncer and the walker are usually good for a half hour so I can get some Facebook posts scheduled. A bottle might last for 10 minutes which is perfect for switching laundry over or vacuuming the living area. Do any moms actually have a set schedule? I am amazed at those who do! Don’t get me wrong, I know Reagan has a routine at this point – she eats twice before we start our day, again after her nap, she usually poops somewhere in the middle etc. and that’s good enough for me.

When nap time finally rolls around, I take full advantage of however long that may be. I try saving all of my tedious work for nap time – any writing, blogging, phone calls or post planning. Things that can be interrupted like designing new graphics or checking email can be done anytime. Nap time is for the important stuff.

I keep a serious to-do list and I try to prioritize things into categories. Things are either urgent / not urgent, or important / not important. The goal is to stay in the urgent and important categories and not to get stuck working on not urgent, not important items. For example, checking email feels urgent but it’s not – it’s important. Something urgent can be done first, like making a phone call or tackling something else that has an approaching deadline.

Some days nap time is cut short and as frustrating as it can be, I’ve learned to appreciate the time I get with my little one, because there will always be time for work.

Quotes we love

The Fantastic 4 Tools for Social Media Marketers

The Fantastic 4 Tools for Social Media Markters by HighleyDesigned

 

1. Hootsuite

If you’re not using it yet, your life is about to change. Hootsuite allows you to schedule all of your posts for almost every platform in one place. You can also view your newsfeeds and Twitter streams from one place so that you don’t have to login and logout of every account you manage just to comment, like or RT. There are a handful of new sites like Hootsuite, but from my experience none of these new sites offer the sophistication and ease of their predecessor. Hootsuite has everything you need to effectively schedule posts and interact as your brand – all in one place. And it’s less than $10 per month.

2. Evernote

Evernote is a free app you can download on your phone and your computer. It syncs automatically so if you think of an awesome idea or make a note while you’re out and about, it will be on your desktop when you get back to your office. I use this ALL the time. It’s also a great place to save reminders, grocery lists… anything really. When you still have “baby brain” it is truly a life saver!

3. Canva

Canva is an amazing design site that lets you create professional looking social media graphics. It’s perfect for making FB cover photos, Twitter cards, question posts and more. You can choose from pre-made templates or design your own. If you use any of their “paid” elements like a stock photo or a custom design – they only cost $1.00 each. I love using Canva for branded posts. I start with a fun background then do some kind of text overlay – usually a question. These are great for engagement!

4. Unfollowers

If you’re not sure why your Twitter following is stagnant, this is an awesome tool. Unfollowers allows you to see exactly who’s following you, who followed you but unfollowed you and more. It also allows you to schedule Tweets and auto DMs. I don’t like super fake sounding auto DMs, or auto DMs that are trying to sell you something, but a friendly “thanks for following me, etc.” is a great way to start a networking conversation. Using Unfollowers you can track what works and what isn’t as effective so that you can grow your network in a smart way. Most plans start at $5-$10 per month!

 

~ Rachel

Work From Home Mom, Tip #21: Get Outside

 

Getting Outside for a Walk

Tip #21 – Make time to get outside

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what you’re working on or to feel bogged down with laundry, dirty dishes, a fussy baby etc. There are days I feel overwhelmed and realize I’ve hardly accomplished anything on my to-do list and I just need a “reset” so I can clear my head and focus. On days like those  (and today was one of them) it’s so helpful to get outside and take a mental break.

Not only is the fresh air good for you, but studies show Vitamin D can also be a mood booster. I know this is true for me, especially this time of year when it’s getting dark by 5 pm. If I don’t have time for a walk I’ll check the mail and play fetch with our 100 lb labradoodle for a few minutes – he loves the attention and I love the way a little time spent outdoors can help me clear my thoughts and refocus on writing or design, whatever it is I’m working on.

If you’re struggling to build a routine or stay motivated working from home, try getting outside on a daily basis and see how much better you feel – and how much more focused you can be. It’s worth it!

-Rachel

10 Tips for Working from Home (with a Baby)

working from home

1. Create a schedule
When I first began working from home I had only a few clients and could get most of my writing done at the beginning of the week leaving me with a few “free” days for running errands etc. That is no longer the case so a schedule has become essential. My schedule doesn’t dictate what time of day I work on things, but it does tell me what needs to be done each day. Mondays – Pinterest, Tuesdays – Blogging, etc.

2. Make a to-do list
I keep a simple Excel sheet with a list of my clients, what needs to be done and when. I date everything when it comes to social media management so that I remember when I last worked on something and when those social media accounts will need to be worked on again. Being able to schedule posts ahead of time is a huge advantage but I try not to go more than two weeks out because a lot can change during that time and I always want posts to be relevant. For additional items like “Buy dog food” or “Pick up dry cleaning” I use the app Evernote. It’s FREE and a great way to remember things. It syncs between my phone and laptop so no matter what I’m working on I have access to my latest notes or reminders.

3. Plan ahead
I like to stay at least one week ahead when it comes to content creation – this way if something comes up it’s not the end of the world. When you work from home it feels like you have all the time in the world to complete tasks but at the end of the day with a fussy baby there are moments I find myself saying “What did I do today??” If you know your little one is acting fussier than usual, plan ahead and get an extra hour of work done when he or she goes to bed, so that if you lose time the next day it’s okay. I also make sure to keep Dr. appointments, meetings and anything else on the same calendar so that I can plan around things and be prepared.

4. Take advantage of nap time
This is a big one. I will make sure to save my most challenging work for nap time. I try to do things like vacuuming, folding laundry and household chores when baby is awake because it doesn’t matter if I’m interrupted a million times, but when it comes to writing, design or content planning – nap time it is!

5. Be willing to be flexible
I recently read the quote “Perfectionism is the enemy of Hustle.” I think this is perfect for remembering to stay flexible. When you have a baby toddling around nothing is ever going to be perfect and this has taken me a while to learn. I am seriously OCD when it comes to my home and keeping things tidy but at the end of the day that doesn’t get things done.

6. Schedule phone calls
When you have a baby the worst thing that can happen is an unexpected phone call during nap time or a door bell ring followed by incessant barking and chaos from your 100lb dog. (Maybe that’s just in our household haha) Regardless, nothing can mess up your day like an unexpected 30 minute conversation when you could have done a bunch of other more important things during that time. I ask all of my clients to email first and if they need to talk on the phone that’s fine but I schedule my calls in advance so 1. I can be prepared and 2. It doesn’t mess up nap time and 3. It doesn’t interfere with my other work.

7. Plan time to check and respond to emails.
Email can be a major time-sucker. Unless it’s urgent I don’t open it right away – this way it remains highlighted so I know I need to come back to it. I try to check and respond in the morning and again later in the day. As much as I want to be available to my clients, email can become a serious interruption to other work. I find I can write a better response when it’s not rushed and I’m not doing other things so setting a time for email checking and responding has proven valuable.

8. Designate a work space
I love that working from home means I can work wherever, but I like some stability so when I sit down I know, “okay, it’s work time.” We have an “office” but I hate it. It’s secluded and baby girl has no room to play. I have commandeered the breakfast bar in the kitchen as my work space instead – there’s ample space for me to spread out papers, drink my coffee and plenty of outlets for chargers. Plus I can put baby Kline in her walker or jumper and let her go to town, all within watching distance. Having a work space is great – even my dog knows when I’m sitting here I’m not to be bothered.

9. Limit distractions
Okay, we all have our lazy work from home days when we catch up on our favorite shows or watch the Today Show for an hour but when it comes down to it I cannot do my best work with the TV on. Even catchy music can get distracting for me so I limit myself to a few classical Pandora stations for some welcome background noise. I highly recommend “Piano Guys” radio to anyone that loves music – it’s all instrumental versions of your favorite songs so it’s fun but not distracting. I’ve also learned to successfully tune out Disney radio but sometimes when Frozen comes on I just have to belt out “Let it go!” for the world to hear. (baby girl thinks I’m a great singer!)

10. Enjoy your little ones while you can!
The best part of working from home is getting to spend time with your little one (s) so do it! They may be your biggest inspiration when it comes to your next creative assignment and when I’m stressed nothing is better than some quiet time nursing my baby girl. Don’t forget why you’re working from home to begin with. “Work” can always wait or you can catch up on something when the kids are in bed.

What are your top tips for working from home with kids? I’d love to hear them!

– Rachel