How to Stay Productive While Working from Home
Co-authored by Annie Lin, MBA
Updated: March 26, 2020
Working from home offers a wonderful level of freedom and flexibility, but it also requires lots of focus and discipline. You can easily find yourself distracted by your family, household chores, and the comforts of home. To stay productive while you work at home, it’s important to get organized and use your time efficiently. You’ll also need a comfortable workspace with minimal distractions. Staying focused can be hard, so make sure you take breaks occasionally and fuel your body and brain with healthy foods to help you stay alert!
Method 1 of 3:
Organizing Your Time
Set a consistent work schedule. While many work-from-home jobs let you set your own hours, it’s still a good idea to get into a regular work routine. This will help prevent you from letting the day slip by and then scrambling to catch up at the end of the day or week. It will also help you maintain a healthier work/life balance. Decide what your working hours will be and stick to them.
Don’t feel like you need to stick to a traditional 9 to 5 schedule if that doesn’t work for you. For example, if you feel more energetic later in the day, you might work from 11 AM to 7 PM instead.
If your schedule is flexible enough, you could even break your workday into separate chunks. For instance, you might work from 8 AM to 12 PM, then again from 3 PM to 7 PM. Then you could take advantage of the middle of the day to do household chores or run errands.
Make a prioritized to-do list every day. Before you start working each day, set aside 30 minutes or so to plan out how you want to use your time. List the most complex, urgent, or time-consuming tasks first, followed by tasks that are easier, quicker, or lower priority. Throughout the day, be sure to cross off or mark tasks that you’ve completed.
Keeping a to-do list will help your work seem more manageable and make it easier to keep track of what you’ve done and still need to do.
Keep the items on your list specific, and break down bigger tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces. For example, instead of just writing down “Process digital images,” you might break it up into “Select top 10 images,” “Edit images,” and “Upload images to website.”
Assign specific blocks of time to different tasks. In addition to deciding what you’re going to do during the day, you can manage your time better by setting specific times for getting things done. Try to estimate a realistic amount of time for completing each task, or set a finite time for working on ongoing projects each day.
For example, you might set aside 9 AM-11 AM to research and write a short content marketing piece, then work from 11:00 to 11:30 AM on selecting and editing images for the piece.
As time goes on, you’ll get a better idea of how to allot your time effectively.
Schedule time for “planned interruptions”. When you work from home, interruptions are common—especially if you live with other people. You can help keep your workflow intact by scheduling time to deal with issues that regularly come up throughout the day.
For example, if you have kids, you might schedule a brief break when they get home from school each day to chat with them and have snacks together.
Keep track of your time to help identify productivity issues. When you first start working from home, keep a work diary to track how much time you spend at each task. If you notice that you’re spending too much time on certain activities or that your productivity slows down at particular times of the day, you can use that information to adjust your approach.
For example, if you find that you’re spending too much time on a particular task, you might look for ways to streamline your process or reschedule it to a time of day when you’re more energetic.
You can monitor your time using a paper diary or planner, a digital spreadsheet, or a time-tracking app such as Harvest or Due Time.
Avoid working outside of your set work hours. While it’s important not to let your non-work life interfere with your regular schedule, the opposite also applies. Maintain a strong work/life balance by staying away from work-related activities when you’re off the clock.
If you use work-related communication apps, such as Slack or Skype, log off when you finish working.
Don’t check or reply to business emails after you finish work for the day, and let work-related calls go to voicemail.
Method 2 of 3:
Creating a Good Work Environment
Set aside an area just for work. If possible, designate a room in your home as your workspace. If you can’t set aside a whole room, set up an area within a room, such as a desk in your bedroom or a space at the dining table. Use that area for work only, not for relaxing or doing household tasks.
Don’t work in areas where you typically sleep or rest, like in your bed or the couch. This will make it hard to stay awake while you’re working, and can even make it more difficult to sleep or unwind in those places when you’re not working!
Let anyone who lives in the home with you know that your chosen area is for work only, and ask them not to disturb you there unless it’s necessary.
ANNIE LIN, MBA
Life & Career Coach
Expert Trick: If you don’t have the luxury to convert a whole room into your office, set up a desk or a corner for your computer or office supplies. Tidy up this area so you have a clean surface with as little stuff as possible lying around, which may help you feel more calm and focused at work.
Choose a space that’s comfortable and quiet. It’s hard to work when you’re uncomfortable and distracted. Pick an area in your home that’s well lit, spacious enough for you to spread out, and not too hot or cold. Avoid spots with lots of noise or foot traffic.
Don’t work in rooms where people will be chatting, watching TV, or using noisy machines.
You can also enhance the comfort of your workspace if you need to. For example, you might add a desk lamp, set up a space heater, or install an oscillating fan or white noise maker by your desk.
Tip: If there aren’t any quiet spots in your home, try wearing noise canceling headphones.
Organize and declutter your work area. Having a cluttered space can stress you out and make it harder to find the things you need. Clear out any items that aren’t work-related and arrange anything you need for your work so that you can get at it easily when you need it.
You can make your space feel cozier by putting up some pictures, decorations, or house plants. Just don’t let them take up so much space that they’re distracting you or getting in the way of your work!
Having a well-organized workspace doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to look perfectly tidy. It’s more important that you know where everything is when you need it.
Keep materials you need for your work close by. You can use your time more efficiently if you’re not constantly getting up to look for things you need. Store everything you regularly use during your workday in your workspace, in an easily accessible location. This might include things like:
Chargers for your phone and other electronic devices
Your schedule or calendar
A notepad and pen
Snacks and water
Method 3 of 3:
Staying Focused and Alert
Get dressed before you start working. If you’re working from home, it may be tempting to sit around in your pajamas all day. However, taking the time to get dressed can help you make a clear transition from sleep mode to work mode. If you want, you can even dress up in some nice work clothes to really put you in the right mindset.
In addition to getting dressed, take time to do the other things you’d normally do while preparing for a day of work, like washing your face and brushing your hair and teeth.
Take movement breaks once an hour. Getting up and moving once an hour can help prevent stiff joints, promote better circulation, and re-energize you when you start to get tired or burnt out. Take a few minutes to stretch, walk around the room, or even do a quick jog around the block.
You could even take advantage of your breaks to do quick tasks like carrying out the trash or checking the mail!
Eat healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. Eating well and staying hydrated will give you energy and help you focus. Have a healthy breakfast before you start working, and make sure you take a break for lunch. Keep a bottle of water on hand and sip on it throughout the day. If you get peckish or feel your energy dropping off between meals, have a light, healthy snack.
Since you’ll probably be eating most of your meals at home, keep your pantry and fridge well stocked.
Keep your energy up by eating plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein (such as white meat chicken, fish, or beans), and healthy fats (like those found in vegetable oils, avocados, and nuts and seeds).
Reward yourself with a small treat when you meet a goal. Giving yourself small rewards is a great way to stay motivated and make your work more fun. Any time you complete a task, take a moment to celebrate, even if it’s just by taking a 5-minute break to watch a funny video.
You can celebrate completing larger work goals with bigger rewards, like going out to see a movie or grabbing a drink with friends when you get off work.
Tip: You can also incentivize yourself with productivity apps that “gamify” tasks, such as Habitica, EpicWin, or HabitRPG.
Stay away from social media and time-wasting apps. Getting sucked into Facebook and YouTube can really kill your productivity. Put away your phone unless you’re making calls or using productivity apps, and avoid visiting time-wasting websites on your computer.
If you have a hard time resisting the temptation of social media, try installing browser extensions that limit your access, such as Strict Workflow or StayFocusd.
You can also minimize the temptation to play around on your phone by installing apps such as Offtime or Stay on Task that limit your time using time-wasting apps and browsing the web.
Ask your friends and family to leave you alone while you work. It can be easy for people to fall into the pattern of thinking that you’re “available” any time you’re home during the day. Gently remind your family and friends that you work at home, and request that they don’t distract you by trying to chat during work hours.
If you have issues with people continuing to call or text you during work hours, consider putting your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode. You could even maintain a separate phone line just for work-related calls.
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More References (9)
About This Article
Annie Lin, MBA
Life & Career Coach
This article was co-authored by Annie Lin, MBA. Annie Lin is the founder of New York Life Coaching, a life and career coaching service based in New York City. Annie has over 10,000 hours of client coaching experience and her work has been featured in Elle Magazine, NBC News, New York Magazine, and BBC World News. She offers services in both one-on-one and group settings, focusing on careers, relationships, emotional well-being, and personal growth. She holds an MBA degree from Oxford Brooks University.
Updated: March 26, 2020
Article Rating: 91% – 26 votes
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