To successfully work from home, you need to possess motivation, knowledge, and skills that will set you apart from the rest. The most important of these skills is the ability to be productive. When you work from home, you won’t have a boss on your back; however, you still need to make sure that you get everything done in a way that keeps your clients happy and the money coming in. We asked our experts to share with us their very favorite productivity tips and tricks!
- Set rules with yourself. Each morning I make a list of tasks, and I need to complete certain ones of these before I let myself do any of the fun stuff. It’s like a game, that I may need to clear my emails before I grab a coffee, or get 2-3 hours of work done before I head out for lunch, and so on.
- Eliminate all your distractions. Putting the television on in the background is not going to help you work. Switch it off, and only turn it on again once you’re done for the day.
- Be ready to say no to people. All of your family and friends are going to think you’ve got all this free time, so they will start calling and dropping round at all hours of the day. Be strict, and don’t let your social life overtake the time you need to spend working.
- Turn off the television and turn on the music. T.V. can be a distraction but music can soothe and increase productivity.
- Take healthy breaks. Get up. Don’t forget to eat. Walk around. Start a load of laundry. Don’t just work all day.
- Learn to balance. It is easy to work all the time when you work from home. Learn when to turn the work off and spend time with your family and take care of you.
Dr. Jesse O. Bolinger, CNP, PhD
- If you do not have regular office hours set by an employer or contract, set regular office hours and stick to them.
- Meet with family members/others who live with you to discuss the need for their corporation and set ground rules. Ground rules may be something like “If my office door is shut I am not to be disturbed” or “No loud music during office hours”
- Work your set schedule. If you need to take time off, go back i nth evening or on the weekend to make up that time.
- Make sure you have everything you need around you so you don’t have to waste time looking for it – files, pen and paper, phone, laptop and charger, a spare pen.
- Make a list of jobs you need to complete before you start work — it’ll give you a goal for the day, and something to actually achieve. Otherwise you won’t complete/finish anything.
- Get ready for work — have a shower, get dressed and have breakfast before you sit down to work. Though you’ll have to get up earlier, you’ll feel much more awake than if you get up and start working straight away whilst still in your pajamas.
- Have a physically separate space from your living space. I moved to a new city where I have a separate home office which boosted my focus and productivity and helps me get space from my work in the evenings.
- If you’re feeling unproductive, go for a walk. Sometimes I will schedule 20 minutes into my day just to go for a brisk walk, without my phone or other connectivity, to recharge.
- Wake up early. I learned this tip from Noah Kagan. I’ve always been a night owl and thus a late waker, but starting in early March I started waking up about 5 am and getting to work, without checking email until 8 am. My productivity has skyrocketed because I am able to focus on the most important things when I have the most capacity to focus.
Michael Palazzolo, CFP®
- Set a schedule that works for you and stick with it. It helps to provide some structure to the day. For example, you may set aside an hour each morning to catch up on email at a specific time. Without structure, it is too easy to get side tracked.
- Do something you love. Working from home requires motivation and dedication. If you like what you do, you are more inclined to work hard from home. It may not even seem like work so you will make time to get things done.
- Set up a ritual to end the day so you don’t get burned out. For example, I take all of my client folders that may be out and put them in my office file cabinet. I then close down my lap top and put it in my laptop backpack. I then place the pack in my main closet. This signals closure for the day so I can relax and recharge for the next day.
- Limit your home life distractions: Set up a designated office with the ability to close that office door. While this may sound obvious but when working from home, having this defined work space will limit your exposure to whatever may be occurring within your home.
- Limit your office distractions: Set up policies within your company on how to communicate with remote employees. One of the best perks of being a remote employee is not being surrounded by office chatter and “walk-by” interruptions. However, instant messaging applications still can interrupt your day. Set up guidelines on how this should be used within your company and the best way to approach other employees.
- Proper set up: In conjunction with your home office, establish an awesome workstation. Being comfortable and having technology support you is important. Get a good computer, try dual monitors, get a nice sound system, and get yourself a quality chair.
- Dress for work. When I first started my business I’d have some days in the office, and some days at home. Unless your first job comes when working from home then your normal work routine has involved dressing a certain way and acting a certain way. Dressing in work clothes (shirt, trousers and shoes – even though I was staying inside all day) gave me the ‘working mindset’ I needed to be productive. Dressing for work also gave me the chance to change my clothes and “switch off” when work ended, which was great for separating work from the rest of my life.
- Routine, routine, routine. Even if you’re a night owl working “irregular” hours – until 2am rather than 9 to 5 -that’s still a routine that works for you. Working at home gives you a certain amount of freedom, but without some kind of routine, your work may suffer.
- Use a reward system (on days where you struggle to be productive). We all have days where we’re unproductive, even working in an office environment. The key is to find something that makes those days slightly better than they might be. Giving yourself a small reward when you hit certain milestones is a small psychological trigger that can help you get through the day, and complete your tasks. Rewards can be as simple as a cup of coffee, some food, a walk outside, or depending on the task – an early finish.
- Have a dedicated space for working at home. Working from the couch or your kitchen table opens you up for distractions and it’s not an area that will help you focus and really get in the zone.
- Technology can work against you. When you’re home, you have the freedom to do whatever you want and spend your time without somebody watching over your shoulder; use an app like 1Focus to shut down the apps and websites (ahem, Facebook) that are addicting or distracting so that you can get your stuff done. For your phone, try Forest or at the very least turn off notifications.
- Pay attention to your energy levels during the day.. I know that I am most productive first thing in the morning and super late at night, so I schedule my meetings and workouts for mid-afternoon in order to use my energy wisely.
- Avoid temptation – Separate business from leisure spots.. This might be the most common tip, but most important. Create a separate space (ideally a home office in a separate room) to work from. This helps mentally separate the business part of your home and the leisure, which helps avoid distracting temptations to stop working.
- Make home amenities work for you, not against you – You probably have a better stocked fridge/kitchen at home, but use that as a way to grab a better meal at lunch, not an excuse to visit the kitchen 5 times a day. Same thing with home vs office workout routines, etc.
- No household chores during work hours – it’s a slippery slope otherwise. Laundry, dishes, cleaning up the house, etc. You’ll lose a lot more time than you expect.
- Use previous commuting hours as work time – used to commute 20 min both ways to/from work? Use those hours as work time and you’ve almost got another hour to be productive. Or schedule that 40 min as a break in the middle of the day, just stay disciplined on that time frame.
Note from Leslie:
There are some excellent productivity tips listed above. As someone who is organizationally challenged, and who makes it even more difficult by taking on several jobs and projects at once, I can tell you that productivity comes from good planning. There are some good books to help, including Getting Things Done, which I highly recommend. The trick is to find systems that work best for you. My tips are:
- Have a separate space for work that allows for focus. This can be hard if you’re working at home with children, but the ability to work uninterrupted is crucial to productivity.
- Have everything you need within reach. Don’t keep your filing cabinet in the bedroom if your office is in the kitchen.
- Have a set schedule and routine. Although flexibility is a perk of working at home, routine makes getting down to business much easier.
- Keep track of tasks you need to complete. While I use a lot of digital product, when it comes to my to-do and schedule, I still use a paper planner. I’ve used the Happy Planner which I can design to work the way I do. I also like the Plan Ahead Mom’s Planner. Instead of putting my kids names in the slots though, I put in my projects, such as WAHS, Writing, etc.
- Try to schedule your work during your peak energy hours. I do work that requires the most mental energy in the morning. Other work, such as checking email or social media, I do in the afternoon, when my brain cells are more sluggish.
- Track achievements. I often get to the end of the day and feel like I haven’t gotten anything done. For that reason, I like to keep track of what accomplished. It can be as easy as checking off my to-dos or listing what what I’ve done in a journal.
- Plan ahead. I’m actually not so great at this, but I’m working to get better. At this point, I plan my week on Sunday evenings. My goal is to plan a month and ultimately 3 months out. At the very least, you should plan your work day the night before. It’s much easier to jump into work when you know exactly what you want to achieve that day.
Resources I recommend:
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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