Obviously, it’s fantastic to work from home. You can get up a little later, you don’t have to commute into work – which is great for both you and the environment. You can make your own lunch and it’s okay to wander around without any pants on. It also means that you can combine your work with other aspects, like motherhood.
That’s probably why it’s becoming ever more popular and that’s why it may be right for you. That said, the fact that nobody is breathing down your neck can make it hard to stay focused. It’s just too easy to crash on the couch for a bit and take a nap in the middle of the day.
It’s important you take steps to boost your productivity so you ensure you get your work done without having to work late into the night. Below are some tips to help keep you on the right path to productivy when working from home.
1. Have an office or an office like space
We’re constantly being influenced by our surroundings, through such things as priming and other subtle influences. For this reason it’s absolutely vital that you make certain where you sit down to do your work is conducive to you actually getting things done.
To accomplish that, you need to remove all the distractions that might remind you of things unrelated to work. So make certain you can’t see the TV, that your personal phone and texts are turned off, and that the couch is out of sight. This will make it easier for you to stay on target and get done what you’re supposed to.
2. Be organized
Priming also works in terms of junk. The more messy your work environment, the more confused your mind is going to be. They really weren’t kidding when they said ‘a messy space is a messy mind.’ But, in this case, it’s not that the messy mind creates the messy space (though, that too) but more that the messy space creates the messy mind.
So stay on top of your mess! This is a great task to do at the end of the say, when you’ve finished everything else as, at this point, your concentration is at its lowest and cleaning doesn’t actually require that much concentration. This way, when you start out in the morning your desk is as clean as it can be, which will really serve to boost your initial productivity.
3. Don’t get pulled into emails
Emails can take up a lot of time. This goes double if you’re working from home for the obvious reason that you can’t speak to people directly. Don’t make this worse than it need to be. Instead, if an email is bouncing back and forth more than two or three times and your time is getting sucked out into cyberspace, pick up the phone or use video conferencing. It might take a moment of your full concentration, but at least it’s done and you can get on with your day.
Try to avoid mulit-tasking. Instead, it’s best to work as hard as you can to focus on only one task at a time. This is actually much easier at home, where colleagues can’t lean over to interrupt you and talk about their weekend. To aid the process, be sure to have social media sites closed versus pinging you with your friend’s status updates ever minute. I’m not saying that this has to be continuous. You don’t suddenly have to become a monk. Instead, keep social media out of sight for the duration of whatever you’re doing, then check afterwards and get caught up on whatever might need your attention.
5. Standardize your day
Our bodies and our minds like routines. They work far better when we have a routine. For this reason, try to come up with a standard way of doing things. So, be sure to get up at the same time every day. Yes, this does seem to defeat one of the freedoms of working from home, but the result will be that because your mind and body are familiar with a routine, you’ll be sharper and get your work done more efficiently. That more than compensates, don’t you think?
That doesn’t mean that you need to work in the morning, or the afternoon. It just means that you need to figure out when you work best and make certain that is when you work. Have a schedule and stick to it.
6. Have your tech help in place
This is vital. There’s nothing more frustrating than being on a roll then you have your computer, your work tool, flunk out on you. For that reason, take care of having your tech people in place before such things happen. They can utilize remote access systems and thereby directly access to your computer when things go wrong and fix the problem. Your flow will only be momentarily be interrupted instead of completely derailed.
Do make sure that you get use someone trustworthy and reputable! The best way to go is to ask other people who work from home how they’ve set it up and who they use.
7. Work in several spaces
One of the big advantages of working from home is that you don’t actually have to work from home. You can also go down to the local coffee shop, or the park. Sometimes the very act of moving from one work space to another can clear your head and give you the energy to start again with fresh energy.
You can either try to do this in an unstructured way, or – if that doesn’t appeal to you – use what Lifehack refers to as ‘workstation popcorn’. Here you divide you work up into sets of three, which you do in three separate locations. When you finish at one place, you head to the next one. This forces you to take breaks – something that many of us often forget to do, despite it helping us clear our heads and focus our attention.
It also means that we’re getting out of our dark caves and getting far more sunlight, which – let’s be honest about it – many of us can use more of.
Since we need to exercise anyway, why not use it to promote productivity? The great thing about working from home is that instead of having to go early, late or take an hour out from the middle of your work day, you can now intersperse your little exercise routines in between jobs. All you need is some weights or to go for a walk. This will let your mind calm, physically relax, improve your mood your and allow your concentration to reset.
You can even consider doing these exercise routines as little rewards for finishing tasks. For example, if you use the Pomodoro method, where you work really hard at something for 30 minutes using a timer and then take a break, this can be your break. This way you won’t just get your work done, but you’ll end up a bit more fit in the end.
9. Go virtual
Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Instead, consider outsourcing some of your tasks. Outsourcing tasks is getting easier every day. There are dozens of websites that can help you write, manage your appointments and organize your day.
You can either try using actual AI, which is getting better all the time, or use people. For the former consider Amy, which is a fantastic virtual program that will schedule meetings for you, without you needing to learn any new programming language. Instead you just add her to an email and she’ll take it from there. Did I mention that it’s free?
For that personal touch, consider such sites as Upwork and Freelancer. Here you can find thousands of freelancers that you can get to do jobs for you for a pittance, thereby freeing yourself up for more important tasks.
10. Know when to quit
The big danger of working from home is that you always take your work home with you. For a short time this can make you more productive, but ultimately this can be terribly detrimental as you stress yourself out and completely destroy your work-life balance.
Therefore, just like you need to have a hard start to your day, try to have a hard end as well. Make sure that you only breach it, at most, occasionally when you may have important tasks that need to be completed. Also, try to tell your family or friends about you quit time so they can hold you accountable.
Perhaps make a deal with them that they can’t disturb you before that time, but they’re free to come in and remind you that the day is over afterwards. This will make it easier for them to understand the boundaries you have in place because you’re working from home.
In fact, that’s a vital aspect of almost all the productivity tips that have been mentioned above. You need to know where to draw the line. You need to have boundaries. Here I work, there I don’t. This I do, this I won’t. Here I email, there I call. This is when I need to work, this is when I relax.
With previous positions, boundaries were very clear. It was when you walked out the door to head off to work or return home, which therefore helped you to keep life and work separated. If you work from home, however, that line no longer exists. You have to be far more mentally disciplined to bring that balance back into your life. If you can do that, then you’ll find working from home highly enjoyable. If you can’t, then your productivity – and possibly your sanity – will suffer.