I work from home. My friends think I am the luckiest. I have all the time in the world. I don’t need to commute everyday. My work’s easy. I can go out whenever I want. Great life, right?
I wish all of that was true.
Despite the benefits of working from home, it is no less challenging than an office job. In fact, I’d argue that working from home is more difficult because it’s not always easy to alienate your family from your work. Also, since there’s no boss screaming all the time, you could easily fall into the procrastination trap. Haven’t you experienced that? I bet, you have. Being productive while getting things done from home isn’t as easy as it looks. In this article, I explore 16 ways that could help you work smartly if you are one of us. Most of the tips come from my personal experience of working from home for over two years. Hope you find them useful.
1. Routine is a must. Getting into a state of mind that you could work whenever you want and you don’t need a routine is the first step towards procrastination. Whether you are working from home or an office, a routine is a must. Of course, there are days when exceptions need to be made, but for most of the time, you have to follow a fixed schedule. That’s the best way to get things done productively, from home.
2. Know your best times. The good thing about working from home is that you can make your routine. It doesn’t necessarily have to be 9 to 5. It could any fixed time-frame in the 24 hour span. Hence, check what are your best working times, and make your routine accordingly.
3. Plan the day before. Making a tentative work schedule for the next day before you go to sleep is usually a fruitful exercise. The next day, when you begin work, you will have an idea about the things you need to accomplish (unless some urgent tasks need to be attended). For more on this, check what my fellow WorkAwesome contributor Andre has to say on beginning your work day at the end of it.
4. To-do lists. To-do lists give you a clear picture of the tasks ahead. And as you complete them one by one, checking them off the list is kinda satisfying too. Learn how to create effective to-do lists. Also, there are some nice online to-do list tools you could make use of.
5. What distracts you? Some people need pin-drop silence to work. Some work best when they’ve got music on. Some cannot work with people around. Some need people around to work. Hence, a distraction for one could be a good work environment for the other. So, what distracts you? You can handle them only once you know them.
6. Make your friends and family aware. Often you will find that friends and family fail to realize the seriousness of your work just because you are not going to an office. Your friends would stop by when they are free (doesn’t matter you are free or not), your family members would disturb often, and so on. You need to make them aware about your work schedule, and the fact that working from home doesn’t mean you are always free. The onus is on you.
7. Switch off, disconnect. You may need the internet to work, but being connected all the time might not be wise since there are so many tempting distractions (read Twitter and Facebook). If possible, disconnect from the internet when you are doing creative stuff like writing or designing. Also switch off your phones (or put them in silent mode) if that’s an issue.
8. Take breaks. It is very important to take regular breaks and take your eyes off the computer. Working for long hours in the same position isn’t good for your health. You could take small 5 minute breaks after each 20-25 minute stretch, or may be a 15 minute break after a 1 or 1 and a half hour stretch. But do take them frequently.
9. Are you measuring quality or quantity? It is important to monitor if you are actually producing a productive output while working from home. What are you focusing on? the quantity of work done or the quality? Are you able to follow your routine effectively? Is life happier or stressful?
10. Get a work buddy. If self-discipline or procrastination is an issue, may be a work buddy could help you out. Someone who would track your progress and give you feedback. Working from home doesn’t mean you stop collaborating with people. Talk to people online, make friends and ask them for suggestions.
11. Use RescueTime. We’ve previously talked about RescueTime here. RescueTime is web based time tracking software lets you know how you spend your time on your computer everyday. Once you know which sites you are addicted too, you could take steps to visit them less often.
12. Time your tasks. Whether you are writing an article, or browsing through your feeds, use a timer to time the tasks. For more on this, check how to time your tasks. Also, take a look at my previous list of web based time tracking tools for effective time tracking.
13. Set up daily milestones. Setting up daily milestones gives you an idea of the actual work you could get done contrary to what you think you can get done. Also, it lets you track if you are getting things more efficiently after you’ve implemented the productivity-enhancing steps discussed above.
Health, Fun & Life
14. Exercise. This is a no-brainer, but, worth repeating in every productivity related article. Why? Because people just don’t understand how important it is to stay fit and productive. Understand that you don’t need to visit the gym everyday. Half an hour of yoga, or a short run in the morning is enough. But do it consistently, everyday.
15. Spend time with family and friends. If you are being productive in your work, you should be able to take out time for family and friends on weekends. That’s the goal, isn’t it? Work-life balance has to be maintained. Dedicate a day each week for your loved ones. Set aside time. Try to get your work done in 5 or 6 days of the week. Take a day off.
16. Do things that make you happy. All productive work and no play would make you unproductive in the long run. Spending time with yourself is as important as spending time with your loved ones. Play guitar, draw sketches, go for a long drive. Take time out, free up your mind and indulge yourself. Be happy!
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