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Last updated: July 16, 2020
Working from home sounds like the ultimate dream for many of us. No boss or annoying colleagues around, no stressful commute or ugly corporate uniform. Sounds like you’ve made it right?
If working from home is your dream, you’ve still got to finance it, and that means getting some serious work done. To help you on your path, I have put together my top 11 tips to stay productive when working from home.
How to Stay Productive:
- Work in Intervals
- Maintain a Healthy Routine (Sleep, Eat, Exercise, Repeat)
- Invest in Technology (And Learn How to Use It)
- Don’t Work From Your Bed (Or Beach!)
- Dress to Impress
- Play Well With Others (Keep Your Team’s Routine in Sync)
- Have Kids at Home? Work with Them, Not Against Them
- Find Ways to Switch On (And Stay On)
- Find Ways to Switch Off
- Change Your Environment
- Don’t Hide From Other Humans
11 Tips: How to Stay Productive at Home
I have been working full time from home as a blogger for a few years now, and as much as I love this lifestyle, it does come with very specific challenges.
The following tips keep me healthy and productive, and I’m hopeful they can work for you too.
1. Work in Intervals
I find working in two-hour blocks super helpful to keep me focused, and creating high-quality work.
But if you are working by yourself at home, it’s also easy to lose track of time and continue to push yourself to keep working for hours on end.
Now it might seem counterproductive to take regular breaks when you have a tight deadline. But how many times have you gone back to have a look at the work you have done during that time and asked yourself these two questions:
- I spent hours doing this task, why did I achieve so little?
- Why is the quality of my work so average?
You’re not a superhero with an infinitely long attention span. If you make a commitment to stay focused for a fixed period, you’re less likely to get distracted, and the quality of your work will improve.
Another mental trick for you is if you’re a bit of a procrastinator (like me), breaking up a task into smaller blocks of work can make it way less intimidating to get started.
2. Maintain a Healthy Routine (Sleep, Eat, Exercise, Repeat)
So you’ve mastered working in intervals, and your productivity is going through the roof.
How do you maintain this in the long run?
Healthy habits and maintaining a solid routine will bring you another step closer to being more productive. By keeping your body and mind in peak condition, you will be able to not only work harder but also smarter.
This basically comes down to living a balanced life outside your work hours. Once you start working from home, the lines between work and home can get very blurred.
Before you know it, you’re working 12 hour days instead of 8, snacking constantly instead of eating regular meals, and your only exercise is walking from your desk to the kitchen.
Short term you might not notice any significant differences, but it won’t be too long before your metabolism (and your growing gut) will tap you on the shoulder.
Make time for regular exercise, fuel your body with healthy foods and get plenty of sleep. All the really obvious things that you probably already know, but now have to adapt to your new working from home situation.
3. Invest in Technology (And Learn How to Use It)
Some of the things you may begin to miss about working in an office are having access to a powerful computer with accessories, a powerful network, and a dedicated IT team to manage it all.
Getting your tech setup right is one of the most important things you need to do to work productively from home. Not only are tech failures frustrating to manage on your own, but they can also be very costly, so it is worth making some upfront investments to avoid issues in the future.
If you have the funds to upgrade your data and internet speed, it is definitely worth the investment in this interconnected world. Also consider other peripheral items like online storage, email upgrades, virus software and any other subscriptions that you use regularly into your new working from home tech budget.
In terms of hardware, a powerful computer is, of course, critical, but also think about what other external accessories may need to be upgraded. A wireless mouse and keyboard are pretty standard these days, but you may also consider items like noise-canceling earphones to block out distracting noise.
4. Don’t Work From Your Bed (Or Beach!)
When someone says working from home it’s easy to imagine sitting in bed, with your laptop on your knees, typing away with a stupid contented smile on your face.
Or even better, lying “comfortably” in a hammock, right next to the beach, with palm trees providing shade, and a cocktail at your doorstep.
That sounds fantastic, but now try doing that in real life (for 8 hours!). Your neck and back will be killing you (literally) after about 20 minutes.
It’s super important to create a dedicated work area, or an office space, in your house. This office space needs to have enough light, including natural light to help your circadian rhythms, so that your body can sleep properly at the right time.
You will also need the right ergonomic set up to avoid the distraction of neck and shoulder pain. Invest in a desk and a proper desk chair that you can adjust to suit your height and preferred sitting position.
Also consider investing in an external monitor (if you’re on a laptop) and a monitor arm that allows you to easily adjust the angle and height to a level that is comfortable for your neck and eyes to see without straining.
5. Dress to Impress
If you can be productive no matter how you look and feel, kudos to you.
But for most of us mere humans, getting ready for work is one of those rituals that transforms us from the sleepy hot mess that we were 30 minutes ago, to a fully functional member of society.
But now you’re working from home, you don’t need to get ready, right? There’s no commute, no colleagues, hey, you don’t even need to go outside.
But humor me for a second. Have you ever worked on a weekend? In your t-shirt and hoodie? Maybe it felt ok the first couple of times, but after a while, you can feel your energy draining and focus move to other things (like chilling on the couch with the latest Netflix show).
Getting dressed for work can help your mind get focused on actually doing work. It’s simply a matter of replicating that ritual that you’ve been doing for years.
This trick is not only about helping you get into a work headspace, but it also gives you a little boost of confidence going into your day. You look great, you feel great, and you’re going to create great work.
6. Play Well With Others (Keep Your Team’s Routine in Sync)
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably working solo most of the time. But if you do have other colleagues, freelancers, writers, or virtual assistants that you communicate with regularly, you must sync up your schedules so that you are not constantly interrupting one another.
Having regular meetings scheduled in advance is one easy way to do this. You could also consider sharing a work calendar so that you can view when everyone is available in case you need to quickly contact them ( or be contacted) in an impromptu way.
If you are using a shared calendar, consider not only blocking out meetings, but also times when you will and won’t be contactable. For example, if you are usually very productive in the morning, you may want to be totally undisturbed, but in the afternoon after lunch, you may be open to answering emails and taking phone calls.
Another group of people you need to consider are those that you live with. If you share your home with your family, your partner, or housemates, all of you need to work in sync in the interest of keeping your relationships harmonious.
7. Have Kids at Home? Work with Them, Not Against Them
Having your kids at home while you are working can be both a blessing and a curse.
When you’re in the same space as your kids are, they will want your attention. They will want to show their best toy or their latest trick.
If you have older kids, you can usually catch a few more breaks from this natural behavior. But generally speaking, you are going to have to adjust (lower) your standards when it comes to getting work done.
If your kids are at home for an extended period and it’s not their normal routine, don’t try and force a strict routine on them based around your work schedule. I think most parents out there will agree that for the long-term sanity of your whole family, there will need to be some flexibility on both sides.
This could look like bike rides around the park in the middle of the day, or a Disney movie in the afternoon. However you adapt your schedule just remember to let your kids be kids because they don’t stay that way for very long.
8. Find Ways to Switch On (And Stay On)
Remember those intervals? How are you going to keep yourself focused during those intervals?
What works for me is having little rituals that remind me that I’m about to switch into work mode. I usually make myself a coffee, set up a suitable playlist, and plug in my earphones. And with that, I’m in the zone.
The ritual for you might be totally different, and there might even be some changes depending on the time of day. For example, your afternoon ritual might have to start differently to your morning.
The important thing is to be consistent with the rituals you set up because you are basically trying to create a habit of training your mind and body into Work Mode.
This may be challenging to begin with if you’re not used to a routine. But a good trick I have learned is to observe my behavior and energy levels over one week by using a diary. On reflection, it becomes easier to find those little rituals and patterns you are already using and are working for you, and consciously apply them into a new routine.
9. Find Ways to Switch Off
You can also use rituals to flip from Work Mode to Chill Mode.
Remember when you used to pack up your desk at the end of the day when you leave the office?
You probably didn’t notice it at the time, but that’s a ritual. Same for your commute, usually this is the time when your mind transitions into home mode.
When working from home, you can still create a switch off ritual without having to pretend to be on the train for an hour. Going out for a walk at lunchtime or after you finish your interval is a great way to short-circuit your mind from work.
You need something that takes your full attention. By putting yourself in a different environment all your senses are engaged and you already start thinking about other things.
If you can’t make it outside, you can also schedule other activities to do in your breaks and after work to stop the temptation to keep working. This might be a phone call with one of your friends, an exercise session, or even something as simple as doing chores.
10. Change Your Environment
Who doesn’t love to travel? There’s something about going to a new place that makes you feel fresh and full of energy.
You capture a tiny bit of that when you work just by changing your environment. I don’t mean going on an overseas trip every week. But think about another place you can really go to when you need to start another interval of work.
I usually need to do this in the afternoons, because this is when my motivation levels are super low (and I don’t want lunchtime to end).
So where can you go when you’re working from home fulltime?
Well if you have the luxury, the local cafe is always a favorite for solopreneurs like you and me. A library or, if you have the funds, a co-working space is another great option, particularly if you want to take the opportunity to focus on networking.
Some of these places may also be better at accommodating specific tasks like having meetings. This may be obvious to anyone with kids who are still at home, or if you’re living in a sharehouse.
But again, even if you can’t get out of the house, you can instead try working in another space in your home. Maybe move to the balcony for some fresh air and natural light, or into the spare bedroom if you need to separate yourself from the rest of the house.
11. Don’t Hide From Other Humans
When you’re working home, it can be easy to slip into the habit of staying holed up in your house. But it’s important for your work and your mental health to regularly interact with other humans.
Just going outside and talking to people is a good start, whether it’s your local barista or the people at the supermarket. If you have friends available that you want to interact with, make time to meet with them, either in real life or over a phone or video call.
This may seem like pretty obvious advice. But when you’re used to working in an environment where you are surrounded by people every day, it’s easy to take human interactions for granted, because you have so many opportunities for a quick chat.
Loneliness can sneak up on you when you’re working from home, so you need to make the effort to connect.
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You can make working from home work for you, by setting up some simple systems you can use every day without too much extra effort. These tips are not going to transform you overnight, but try applying one or two of them over the next few months, and see how you feel.
Use your friends and family to support you, but also to keep you accountable to the goals you set out to achieve as a solopreneur working from home.
So you’ve finished this article, and your allocated procrastination time is up. Now go put these tips to work!