As a freelance writer turned community manager, I’ve spent entire weeks working from my couch in my pajamas.
For many it sounds appealing — no commute time to wrestle with, no wardrobe requirements and no one standing over your shoulder requesting updates on your progress.
But I’ve also found that these are the same reasons why staying productive when working from home, sans a designated office, can be such a challenge. There’s not a pressing reason to leave the house or get dressed, and there is no one there keeping you from spending the afternoon eating junk food and watching trashy TV.
5 Ways to Boost Productivity When Working from Home
The work from home lifestyle is certainly not for everyone (especially those that thrive on day to day interactions with coworkers), but if you have a job where working remotely is an option, here are some tips for keeping you productive and happy.
1. Create a Routine
Not having a routine may sound like a good idea, but it can also lead to an utter lack of productivity.
Even though there are days where my workload would allow me to sleep in an extra 2-3 hours, I keep my wake-up time the same — give or take a half an hour. Not only does this ensure that I have my entire day to tackle whatever projects I have, it also keeps my body from getting out of whack.
I also keep the order of my work related tasks in relatively the same order so that I don’t waste time contemplating what I should be doing next. I start with responding to emails, move to phone calls, etc.
I have actually found that keeping a routine with work allows me to be more spontaneous with the rest of my life. Waking up early and staying in the flow throughout the day means that I can take off at 3 if a friend invites me to happy hour, or if I want to take a walk around the park.
2. Allow for Breaks
When I first started working from home, I would avoid breaks at all costs. I thought that this would help me get more work done, when in reality, it caused me to burn out early.
Now I take the breaks that any employer would require in an eight to ten hour work day — coffee breaks, lunch breaks, stretch breaks. I consider all of these to be a necessity because it’s the time spent away from the computer that helps ideas generate organically. And, of course, it’s good for both your body and your mind.
3. Go with the Flow
Do you find that your mind isn’t fully functioning before 10 am? Does your body need a nap between 2 pm and 3 pm? Are you least productive after 6 pm?
One of the largest benefits of working from home (unless you are required to clock in and out at certain times) is the ability to create your own schedule.
Not everyone works best on a 9-5 schedule — some work better on a 10-6 or 4-12 schedule. Figure out the times that your mind is at its peak, and try to follow that. For you that might mean taking a two hour break in the middle of the day. That’s simply the beauty of this lifestyle.
4. Get Out of the House
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you can’t venture out every once in a while. It also doesn’t mean that you can be mentally okay without some regular social interaction.
Set up shop in a coffee house for a few hours, or if you can manage without wi-fi, work from the park.
For me, being around people — even if it’s not anyone I’m physically interacting with — helps me to feel connected to the world again. It also takes away the distractions that I struggle with at home — namely watching TV, talking on the phone, cleaning the kitchen, etc., etc., etc.
When you’re in another setting, there’s simply not much else to do but crank out the work that needs to get done.
5. Disconnect After Work
When you work from home, it can be extremely challenging to create a work/life balance. After all, you don’t have the luxury of leaving everything at an office where you can’t get to it until after the weekend or the following morning.
In the beginning I would read and respond to emails as soon as I received them and answer work-related phone calls long after 6 pm. I was constantly in work mode, never fully engaging in anything else because I was operating from the work state of mind.
In turn this translated to a lack of productivity during working hours because I was already burnt-out from semi-working all weekend.
Set limits for yourself — don’t answer phone calls before or after a certain time. Turn email notifications off and stop brainstorming ideas when you’re no longer on the clock. Let your mind and body relax when the time calls for it and your productivity will increase ten-fold.
What are your ideas for staying productive while working from home?
Photo by Ambro.