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      17 Ways to Stay Focused When You’re Working from Home


      When you’re working from home — whether you’re self employed and launching a small business website or a remote worker escaping the office grind — you’ll have to set your own schedule. That means not getting sucked into doing a load of laundry, taking the dog out for a long walk, or falling into a Netflix void.

      When there’s no one looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to get off course.

      “Without the watchful eye of a supervisor or clear expectations on your time, you are often left feeling aimless and easily distracted,” says Lauren LeMunyan, owner and executive coach at The SpitFire Coach. “Laundry, snacking, and reality television catch your eye and suck your energy if you don’t watch it closely.”

      While it’s fine to have a cheat day now and then (we’ll get to that later), it’s not okay to let that build up over time. That’s why having a work schedule — and sticking to it — is crucial.

      “Working at home brings business and personal aspects of life together under one roof,” says Ellen Williams, founder of The Data Chick. “As a result, it is easy to get distracted when trying to complete business tasks until you are able to separate business and personal. It takes time to get serious about work at home if you’ve never done it before. Working at home is an exercise in learning about yourself. It’s a mindset, so I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules for success.”

      Follow these 17 tips to stay focused when you’re working from home.

      1. Have a dedicated workspace.

      Whether you have a sprawling home office or a nook in your kitchen, it’s important to have a dedicated office. Even urban dwellers with limited square footage should carve out a spot that’s just for work.

      “A dedicated workspace is the most important element,” says Peter Vandendriesse, founder and CEO of Guestboard.co. “It’s easy to sit with a laptop on your couch, but your posture and ergonomics won’t be right, and it’s often in close proximity to a TV, which is an obvious distraction. I also prefer to have a double monitor setup (which increases my productivity), so having a desk is an easy choice to make. Much like your bed should be reserved for sleeping, your workspace should be for working.”

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      2. Stay off social media.

      Is there any rabbit hole more tempting than social media? A quick scroll on Instagram can turn into a major time suck, but there are ways to avoid temptation.

      One of my favorite productivity hacks comes with the help of an app called Stay Focusd,” says New York City-based tech entrepreneur Lori Cheek, founder and CEO of Cheekd. “When working from home, Facebook and Twitter can be a major distraction. StayFocusd helps avoid these distractions by restricting the amount of time you can spend on them. The Google Chrome extension lets you set specific time restrictions on certain websites with a 10-minute default option. Once your time has been used up, the sites you have selected to block can’t be accessed for the remainder of the day.”

      3. Dress for success.

      While there’s no need for a three-piece suit or a pencil skirt and heels when you’re not leaving your home, there’s a happy medium for getting dressed in the morning.

      “It’s all a part of having a business mindset and daily ritual,” says Andre Fasciola, president and CEO of Matcha Kari. “We are creatures of habit, and it’s vital to have good habits. Sure, sitting in your pajamas will be comfortable, but can you really be in a professional mindset with PJs on? It’s not really about how you look that’s important; it’s about setting a professional mindset.”

      Wear what’s comfortable for you. But having a morning routine — meaning brushing your teeth and changing out of your pajamas — is crucial, even if you’re just switching to yoga pants.

      4. Set boundaries.

      It’s a common misconception that remote work means you’re hardly working. When a friend invites you for a mid-afternoon movie break or a long lunch, it can be tough to get across that you have to put in your hours, too.

      Most people don’t realize you work from home unless you tell them,” LeMunyan says. “By saying when you’re available rather than waiting for people to tell you when they can meet, you’re in the driver seat of your time. Working from home isn’t a disadvantage, so don’t make excuses for it. You are available when you’re available whether you’re in the office or not. Remember you have to train people how to treat you and your work time.”

      5. Avoid procrastination.

      If you think it’s tempting to procrastinate at the office, it’s even worse at home, where there are more distractions.

      “It’s easy to put things off to later in the day or first thing tomorrow morning because you are not bound by office hours,” Williams says. “However, this causes stress as you can easily push yourself tight against a deadline, and if something unexpected happens — like your internet goes down, you get sick, or a family member gets sick — you could miss the deadline, which may have grave consequences for your business.”

      6. Save household chores for later.

      It’s tempting to run the dishwasher while you work or take a break to vacuum, but doing so can interrupt your flow and focus.

      “Just like everything else, set aside a certain amount of time each day to do this — do not casually mix it into your routine if you are a very tidy person,” Vandendriesse says. “I had trouble with chores taking over my day in the beginning. Now, I do maybe 10 straight minutes of chores in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening.”

      7. Create a schedule.

      Your calendar should work the way you do. That means if you’re a Type A and love to have every minute planned, go ahead and fill up your day, even penciling in break times. If you’re more of a to-do list follower, write up a game plan and cross things off as you go.

      “For example, I like spending the first 15 minutes of my day creating a priority list for the day, then I go through emails to see how that list may be impacted,” LeMunyan says. “I then look at my top priorities and schedule them in where they fit best and allow for 15-minute breaks in between.”

      If you prefer to go with the flow, there’s no need to over-schedule yourself — but have an idea of what you want to accomplish each day to make sure you stay on task. And regardless of your style, make sure the way your day is scheduled is a reflection of your natural energy.

      “Why are you scheduling conference calls at the end of the day when you’re trying to close up projects?” LeMunyan says. “If you feel creative in the morning, block out that time to brainstorm and knock [out] critical tasks. If your work requires hours of focused time, I recommend stacking your meetings before lunchtime then using that critical meal to shift into your project and task time. By consistently blocking out this time, you train others to respect your time and productivity—and they’ll notice and appreciate the results!”

      8. Take a gym break.

      Scheduling a sweat session into your work day is a good idea as long as you plan it right.

      “Your physical health is more at risk than you realize when working from home,” Vandendriesse says. “Even those who sit in an office cubicle still tend to walk a mile or so throughout the day, to their car, out to lunch, and so on. I’ve found that signing up for certain fitness classes makes it much easier to stick to a schedule, as the classes begin at a set time. This is much harder to procrastinate or flake on, as opposed to loosely visiting the gym to go on the treadmill.”

      Plus, taking an exercise break provides a brain boost. Instead of reaching for a cup of coffee, a workout can get those endorphins flowing and deliver a natural burst of energy.

      9. Automate as much as you can.

      Technology makes a great administrative assistant! “Schedule alerts for important tasks and appointments, build email rules to filter out unimportant messages during business hours, use software that finds mistakes in your code or content for you, set up customer automatic billing, pre-schedule emails and social media posts, and use different ringtones for different people so you know when you don’t have to answer your phone,” Williams suggests.

      10. Find your focus zone.

      “After running my startup for over eight years, I’ve tried working from just about everywhere in New York City: a handful of co-working spaces, a members-only club called The Soho House, coffee shops, and even sometimes at a bar,” Cheek says. “The place I’ve found I have the most focus is at home at my kitchen table. As soon as I settle in, I organize my workspace — having a clean workspace helps me focus and feel structured. Next, I settle in with a cup of coffee and try to relax for 15 minutes before diving into the grind. Then, I prioritize my day’s to-do list and map out the rest of my day. I find a great Spotify channel, put on imaginary blinders, and buckle down for hours on end.”

      “I also save so much time in the day working from home because I never have to get ready, commute, and leave for coffee or lunch because they’re always at arm’s reach. There’s always reliable WiFi, and no one is around to distract me.”

      11. Know when to clock out.

      “The most common mistake is thinking that by working at home you have more time to work and better work-life balance,” Williams says. “Work is work, regardless of where you do and how much you love it. It needs to get done. And, you also need a personal life. When you don’t actually have a physical barrier between the two, such as a geographical distance between your office and home, it can be easy to work lots of hours, leaving less downtime for family and friends.”

      It can be tempting to squeeze in something after dinner or on a Sunday afternoon, but when it feels like you’re working all the time, that can quickly lead to burnout. That’s why you should stick to a predetermined set of work hours and maximize your workdays so that you can enjoy your time off and feel refreshed and ready to clock back in on Monday morning.

      “Creating a ritual that separates your work day from your off time can be an important distinction between the two,” Fasciola says. “I like to wash my hands and face as soon as I walk out of my office. Psychologists say this simple act serves as a powerful metaphor of ‘cleaning the slate’ and helps us mentally wipe away doubts and misgivings.”

      12. Make human contact.

      It’s natural to miss the water cooler chatter that’s typical for a regular workplace. Working alone from home can leave you feeling a bit lonely.

      “Make sure you schedule social time during the day,” LeMunyan says. “Reaching out to at least one to three people a day will help you feel connected in an otherwise isolated environment.”

      If you still miss the hustle and bustle of office life, find a coworking space in your area. For a nominal fee, these spaces provide independent contractors, scrappy entrepreneurs, and home-based business owners a communal workspace (and sense of community) that’s hard to replicate at home.

      13. Enjoy breaks.

      Figuring out when to take a break and for how long can be tricky. If you take too many, it can feel like you’re getting off track, but too few can actually be counterproductive, since you may be exhausted mid-way through your day.

      One that everyone should be taking? A lunch break.

      You might think it’s more productive to chow down on your sandwich in front of your computer to plow through more work, but taking a proper lunch break, especially when you work from home, is crucial. It’s not just about fueling up with food — your brain needs a break, too. And studies have shown that when you’re more mindful during meals, you’ll enjoy them more and feel more satisfied.

      Sometimes working at home can be too comfortable,” Williams says. “It’s easy when working on a computer for a couple hours to feel like a couple minutes. This isn’t healthy. Breaks are important in order to stretch and get the blood circulating.”

      It’s best to figure out what works for you and schedule breaks accordingly, but find a balance and let yourself take a moment when you need to.

      Sometimes you have to give in to your distractions,” Williams says. “If you start daydreaming and have to keep bringing yourself back to the task at hand, or your kids want your attention and you keep sending them away, it’s time for a break. Daydream a little — it may spark some creativity — and give your kids some attention. Don’t battle. In almost every case, you can spare a few minutes in exchange for greater focus. Breaks are also beneficial when you get stuck on a problem, such as code that isn’t working right, data that doesn’t seem to make sense or writing content that just isn’t flowing. Get up, hydrate, have a snack, play a quick game, and just think about something else for a few minutes. When you return to your desk you may see something that you didn’t see before.”

      14. Get face time with your colleagues.

      Even those who work from home solo still sometimes have a team, and interacting with them as much as possible is key.

      “It’s important to be as communicative with them as you would be if you worked physically in an office together,” Vandendriesse says. “Give constant check-ins as to what you’re working on and what you’ve achieved. Without seeing you in person, it’s easy for others to form an opinion that you’re not doing much, when in reality you’re probably more organized and productive than you’ve ever been before. Give them transparency into your new, awesome work life.”

      15. Take a vacation.

      Depending on whether you’re running your own small business website or a remote employee for a larger firm, you may or may not have the perks of paid vacation time. But regardless of your company’s size, it’s still important to give yourself a break. Whether it’s a single personal day or a week to jet off for a real vacation, you need to plan for it. Resist the urge to take a spur of the moment day off.

      If you look at it as a cheat day then you are really only cheating yourself,” Williams says. “Use the flexibility of working at home to help avoid the need for a cheat day. If you need time off, plan for it and take it. If you need to do something today, then get up early to get things done or plan to work late. Treat yourself well and with respect. Don’t cheat yourself or your business — simply take the breaks you need to continue to be productive and successful.”

      Giving yourself the time off that you need will make you more productive in the long run.

      16. Get the right tools for the job.

      No matter how organized your day is or how comfy your home office is, nothing can make a bigger difference with productivity than having the right tools to do so. Just like having the right desk and high-speed Wi-Fi makes work go smoothly, so does choosing the right hosting package when you run your own website from home. DreamHost has options for every type of site to make that part of your job as seamless as possible

      17. Have a long-term plan.

      Ticking items off your to-do list is a major component of working from home, but you have to think big picture too. When you work solo and from home, it’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day but always have your overall business plan in mind.

      “You have to know what your end goal is so that you can craft a plan to achieve your goals,” Fasciola says. “I spend a lot of time speaking with new business owners and all too often I hear about these great ideas but no plan to achieve them. Ideas are great, but without actionable steps, you’re just spinning your wheels and not going anywhere. Once you have an actionable plan, break down your yearly, quarterly, weekly and daily goals. Once you break your mission into actionable steps and bit size pieces, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and more motivated. Sufficient motivation + task = productivity.”

      What are some of *your* favorite ways to stay focused while working from home? Follow us on social and let’s discuss!

       





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      10 Ways to Make Your Website Accessible


      Every website owner wants to attract as many visitors as possible. However, few take the steps necessary to ensure their site can be used by everyone. There are millions of users out there who rely on sites being accessible, and if you don’t take the time to understand their needs, everyone will be missing out.

      Fortunately, accessibility isn’t difficult to implement. You just need to understand the underlying issues that can make a site hard or impossible to use by certain people. Once you do, you can take steps to avoid those mistakes and make your site welcoming to all visitors.

      In this article, we’ll look at what website accessibility actually involves and why it’s so important. We’ll also outline the most important accessibility techniques, and show you how to implement them on your site. Let’s get going!

      A Brief Introduction to Web Accessibility

      Ideally, everyone should be able to use any website on the internet. It shouldn’t matter if they have a condition that affects their capabilities or what hardware and software they need to use. This is the main tenet behind the concept of web accessibility.

      The fact is that millions of internet users have special needs and impairments that can make it difficult or even impossible for them to use certain types of websites. By designing your site with these challenges in mind, you can ensure that it’s welcoming to as many users as possible.

      While there are a lot of disabilities and conditions that can affect the way people use websites, let’s take a look at some of the most common categories of impairments:

      • Vision: This includes a partial or total inability to see or to perceive color contrasts.
      • Hearing: Some users have a reduced ability to hear.
      • Motor skills: These are people with difficulty moving parts of their bodies, including making precise movements (such as when using a mouse).
      • Photosensitive seizures: Conditions such as epilepsy can cause seizures that are often triggered by flashing lights.
      • Cognitive disabilities: There are also many conditions that affect cognitive ability, such as dementia and dyslexia.

      To work around these issues, many people use assistive technologies to browse the internet. This includes screen readers that vocalize the text on each page, speech recognition software that converts speech into text, Braille terminals, and even alternative keyboards that accommodate special needs.

      As such, it’s possible for almost anybody to browse the web. What’s more, you can make their experiences significantly better by designing your site with accessibility in mind.

      Why Making Your Website Accessible Should Be a Priority

      As you can imagine, the benefits to the user of making your site accessible are huge. This is an important thing to do simply from a humanistic perspective, as it ensures that you don’t shut out disabled users.

      Of course, improving accessibility on your site provides you with a lot of benefits as well. Crucially, it immediately expands your potential audience. The math should be evident here. If more users are able to use your site, you’ve just grown your potential user base exponentially. This could put you one step ahead of competitors who may not have taken the same steps towards accessibility.

      By thinking in terms of accessibility, you can also benefit all your visitors, not just those who fit the categories we listed earlier. Many of the considerations involved in making your site more accessible will also improve its overall design and usability. Plus, you’ll be making your site more flexible and ‘future-proof’ along the way.

      Finally, it’s important to note that many countries have laws regarding web and software accessibility. As such, you may be legally required to match specific accessibility standards.

      Thankfully, you’re not alone. The Web Accessibility Initiative project has been working since 1997 to help improve accessibility online. Similarly, WordPress has its own Make WordPress Accessible team that focuses specifically on the platform. There are also countless other community-driven projects, such as A11Y, that provide guidance and resources to help you create highly accessible websites.

      10 Ways to Make Your Website Accessible

      Now we’re going to look at a few ways you can make your website more accessible right away.

      First, we should mention that one of the most important things you need to do is choose the right Content Management System (CMS) to run your site on.

      When it comes to accessibility, few CMSes can top WordPress. As such, we’ll be referencing a number of solutions specific to the WordPress platform throughout this guide (although you can find accessibility tools for nearly any CMS).

      1. Make Sure Your Site Is Keyboard-Friendly

      This step is also the most important. Put simply: for a website to be accessible, it must work without the use of a mouse. This is because many assistive technologies rely on keyboard-only navigation. As such, it must be possible to use all of your site’s major features via a keyboard and nothing else. This includes accessing all pages, links, content, and so on.

      The most common way of navigating using a keyboard is with the Tab key. This will jump between areas on a page that can have ‘keyboard focus,’ which includes links, buttons, and forms. Therefore, your goal should be to ensure that all content and navigation can be accessed using Tab.

      This is easy to test — simply use your own site without a mouse. If you find that you can’t access certain elements or that navigating is difficult, you can pinpoint those issues and address them. To help you out with this, WebAIM provides a handy guide for keyboard accessibility design.

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      2. Make Sure All Content Is Easily Accessible

      In addition to making your site keyboard-friendly, you also need to ensure that all content on the page is actually accessible. While this is usually not a problem, it can be an issue when a page contains dynamic content.

      In short, content is dynamic if it can change without the page it’s on reloading. This can become a problem if the site doesn’t inform assistive tools of the change. For example, many screen readers will only ‘read’ the site as it appears when it first loads. As such, you need to make it aware when something shifts or the user will miss the new content.

      One way you can do this is by using ARIA landmarks. These are tags you add to content in order to clearly define it on the page. You can tag dynamic content as a ‘live region,’ which enables screen readers and similar devices to understand the content as it changes.

      ARIA is also useful for making navigation more straightforward as it lets users skip directly to specific content. This way, they won’t have to tab through every menu item just to get to your main content and can easily pass over other link-heavy sections. The same effect can be achieved using skip-to-main links, which are invisible links that let users skip menus. However, ARIA tends to be more flexible and efficient.

      The Make WordPress Accessible handbook contains a section on ARIA landmarks that you may want to check out. It’s also worth noting that all WordPress themes with the accessibility-ready tag will have ARIA landmarks added by default.

      3. Add Alt Text to All Images

      When adding images to WordPress, you’ve probably noticed this field.

      alt text field example

      Here, you can enter the alternative text for an image. This text acts as a replacement for the image if it fails to load.

      example photo with alt text "photo of a green plant"

      However, alt text (sometimes called alt attributes, alt descriptions, or alt tags) is also accessed by screen readers to ‘read’ the picture. You can therefore use this field to describe an image, giving context to users who would otherwise miss it.

      As if that weren’t enough, alt text can also help you improve your site’s SEO. Just make sure to write descriptive summaries of each image, and try to include your keywords whenever it makes sense.

      4. Choose Your Colors Carefully

      We often talk about color blindness as if it’s a, no pun intended, black-and-white issue. However, it’s more of a spectrum since different people perceive colors in unique ways (remember The Dress)? As such, you need to make sure the colors you select on your site contrast well to ensure that everyone can distinguish between various elements on the page.

      The most pressing issue is making sure text stands out against the background. Ideally, you should set a dark color against a light one, making sure that they don’t bleed into each other.

      Let’s say you want to use a blue color scheme. You’d want to avoid creating a palette where the shades are too similar in hue and saturation, like this:

      example of blue color scheme similar in hue and saturation

      This is very difficult to read. Instead, a clearer contrast works much better.

      blue color scheme with clearer contrast

      You’ll also want to avoid clashing colors that could cause eye strain. Check out this headache-inducing album cover if you don’t believe us.

      There are plenty of online tools you can use to find and test color combinations. WebAIM has one, and we also like Contrast Checker because it gives you a score in real-time. The latter tool also enables you to switch to monochrome to get a rough idea of how effective any given combination is.

      5. Use Headers to Structure Your Content Correctly

      Another key task to make your site accessible is structuring your content by using headers carefully. Doing this will make your content much easier to understand and digest and improves flow.

      Additionally, clear headers also help screen readers interpret your pages. This makes it much easier to provide in-page navigation. It’s also simple to do as you only need to ensure you use the correct heading levels in your content.

      For instance, you should only use one H1 per page – usually as the page title. This can be followed by subheadings starting with H2, which can then be nested further with H3, followed by H4. These should always be used in order so you should avoid using an H4 directly after an H2 (and so on).

      6. Design Your Forms for Accessibility

      Forms are a useful addition to most sites but must be designed carefully. What’s most important is to ensure that each field is clearly labeled. You should also aim to place the labels adjacent to the respective fields. While a sighted user can easily match a label to the corresponding field or option, this may not be obvious for someone using a screen reader.

      You should also aim to provide instructions and information in a clear way that the user can easily understand. To create accessible forms in WordPress, you can use a tool like the Caldera Forms builder. This is a plugin specifically focused on accessibility, which will make your job much easier.

      7. Don’t Use Tables for Anything Except Tabular Data

      When it comes to displaying data, tables are handy. They make it much easier for all users, including those using assistive technology, to parse a large amount of data. To get the maximum benefit, however, you’ll want to keep your tables as simple as you can.

      In addition, it’s best to avoid using tables for anything but tabular data. For example, you should never use a table for layouts, lists, or anything else. This can be confusing to screen readers and similar devices.

      If you do need to create more complex tables, you can follow this guide from W3. It shows you how to code a table while maintaining accessibility standards.

      8. Enable Resizable Text That Doesn’t Break Your Site

      Most devices and browsers will enable users to resize text, which can be helpful for those with visual impairments. However, if you don’t build your site to support this feature, resizing text could break your design or make it difficult to interact with your site.

      A good practice is to avoid absolute units, such as specifying text size using pixels. Instead, use relative sizes, which enable the text to scale depending on other content and screen size.

      dreamhost web hosting simplified landing page

      You should also never turn off user scalability as this will make it difficult for users to resize the text at all.

      To make sure your site meets these criteria, test your font sizes thoroughly by increasing the zoom level in your own browser. If you notice that content becomes difficult to read or navigate, you can check out this guide by WebAIM that discusses font sizes.

      9. Avoid Automatic Media and Navigation

      Automatically-playing media files have been a bane of internet users since the days of MySpace. As annoying as it can be to have music or videos start when a page loads, this is an even bigger issue in terms of accessibility.

      For example, figuring out how to turn off the media can be difficult when using a screen reader, while other users could simply be confused or even frightened by the sudden noise. You should therefore avoid including elements that start without the user first prompting them.

      It’s also best to avoid automatic navigation, such as carousels and sliders. This can be incredibly frustrating if the viewer needs more time to absorb all the information before moving on to the next slide or section.

      Related: The Great Pop-Up Debate (and Other Dark UX Problems)

      10. Create Content With Accessibility in Mind

      Finally, we come to the core of your site: its content. While designing your site for accessibility is hugely important, you should bear the same considerations in mind when creating content.

      This means paying attention to relatively minor things, such as always fully writing out acronyms, to more important points, like making sure you give all your links unique, descriptive names and anchor text.

      If you’ve read through this entire tutorial, you’ll already have a clear idea of the potential issues that can cause certain users trouble. Keep in mind that — just as your site should usable by anybody — your content should be approachable and readable no matter who discovers it.

      Websites For All

      Making sure your site is welcoming to as many people as possible should be a top priority. There’s no reason to exclude anybody, especially since it’s relatively easy to avoid doing so. Not only will your users thank you, but you’ll also likely see benefits in the form of increased traffic and conversions.

      By taking the time to understand the possible flaws in your design and content, you can make sure your site is optimized for accessibility today.

      Do you have any questions or insights about making your website more accessible? Follow us on social and let’s start the conversation!





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