Tips To Boost Productivity When Working From Home
Being able to work from home seems like a dream come true for many. While working from home definitely has plentiful perks, it’s also incredibly easy to form bad habits which mean your productivity ambles along somewhere just above zero. Being obligated to work in your own home environment can soon become a resented daily chore rather than providing the joyful freedom which appealed to you at the beginning. Sadly, I speak from experience. I work full-time from home myself, and over the past year I’ve made some serious and notable changes which mean I’m once again happy with my productivity levels, and much happier in my day-to-day job.
Today, I want to share my tips for boosting productivity when working from home. Please remember that this advice is all what I find works best for me personally – so feel free to adapt or disregard as appropriate for you.
Productivity Boosting Tips For Your Home Office
Designate a specific ‘work’ area
An office (spare bedroom, semi/full converted garage or annexed building) is ideal, but I’m aware not everyone has that luxury. If circumstances and space mean that you need to work literally within your everyday home environment, try to ensure it’s at least distraction-free so you can concentrate. I prefer working alone in a tidy room, and I can’t write with any background noise such as the radio or TV. If you live with others, make sure they know that during your working hours, that area is your designated ‘work space’; hopefully this will help them understand the boundary and respect your work obligations.
Preparation is essential
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you’ll rock up to your PC/laptop/work desk and instantly know what you need to achieve that day and how to go about it. Especially with the work/life combined environment adding to your muddled mindset. I find it saves me time each morning & reduces stress and confusion to prepare for the day the night before. I also try to prepare what I want to achieve in the next week on a Sunday night.
Set a certain number of tasks you want to complete each day. My magic number is 3. They don’t all need to be the same level of difficulty or time duration. Simply tasks you want or need to complete. Make sure they’re achievable. You’ll come to your desk in the morning knowing exactly what your day looks like and what you’ll be working on. In addition, I find that selecting 3 daily tasks before the day begins gives me some time to mull them over in my mind, leading to a higher standard of work output for those tasks. Win-win.
Ok… I know the majority of you don’t work in the nude. What I mean is, actually get dressed. For work. I made a joke for years about working in PJs –but the truth is, my productivity is much lower on days I stay in my bedclothes than on days when I make the effort to dress in day/office clothes.
It’s because I have a different mental attitude once I’m dressed (which for me, means applying a bit of makeup as well so I feel fully ‘ready’ to take on the world, even if it’s just from behind my keyboard, tackling emails). Staying in PJs used to make me also stay in that sleepy bedtime mindset and suffer psychosomatic lethargy all day. Every task seemed dragged from me, and I worked at a much slower rate.
Bonus tip: Get your clothes ready for the day the night before. This will save you having to worry about what you’ll wear in the morning, when let’s face it it’s difficult enough to get out of bed and make a coffee never mind decide/find what we’re going to wear that day.
Set your working hours
Decide what time you’ll start work each day, and what time you’ll finish work. Then stick to it (I fail spectacularly on the set finish-time on a regular basis, but at leats I’ve gotten started at the same time each day). You’ve probably heard it many times before but consistent routine and discipline really are key to productivity and success. In many things.
Depending on your circumstances your working day might not be 9-5, it might not even need to cover 8 hours a day. You’ll know your workload so select the best times for you and do your best to keep with it. After a while the set start time will feel natural. I find it incredibly helpful to have an early start, when my mind feels freshest; this might not be possible for everyone.
Take weekends off
Another tip I know I should abide by, but which I fail fairly regularly as I have a nasty habit of checking my emails, work social media and ‘catching up’. I’m a lot better than I used to be – days of working 7 days a week, until past 11pm, making myself ill – and now enjoy some personal relaxation as well as family time every weekend.
Weekends ‘off’ are an important part of your work as they help ensure you come to work Monday morning re-energised, creativity replenished and ready for the week ahead.
Go outside every day
It used to be simply the school run which forced me to leave the house, and during half terms I was relieved to simply shuffle over to the office and get started on work straight away. Over the past year I’ve been making the effort to go outside for some fresh air on a daily basis (including the weekends, which is usually part of plans with friends and family in any case), with exercise thrown into the mix over the last 4 months.
I’m not going to get all preachy about the benefits of exercise, goodness knows I rolled my eyes hard at that advice often enough over the years it’s amazing they’re still fixed in my head. I *do* find my daily exercise –walking out through the fresh air- incredibly helpful, calming, de-stressing and sparks my creativity- but I know exercise isn’t for everyone.
Going out of the house every day means you experience natural light which has health benefits for body and mind, and if you can resist the temptation to check your phone it also means there’s a window in each day when you’re away from technology. That in itself lowers your stress levels, enables you to reflect on your work so far and re-sharpen your focus for the rest of the day.
Without the secular office routine of getting to work after breakfast and having a set lunch break, it can be tempting to ‘forget’ eating in favour of Getting Stuff Done. #guilty
Don’t skip meals! You need fuel in order to work, otherwise you risk health issues –or a terrible headache throughout the day at least. Not fun. Plus, without the necessary fuel from a healthy diet you might find yourself only being capable of producing substandard work.
Eat breakfast before you begin, set yourself a lunch break and finish in time for a good dinner in the evening.
As well as keeping fuelled up with regular mealtimes and healthy snacks, it’s important to stay on top of your hydration levels.
I never used to drink enough water, so I bought one of these More Water bottles to help. I fill it twice a day at least (with Brita filtered water as we’re in a hard water area), and it not only reassures me I’m hydrated enough, I’ve experienced several other benefits. Clearer skin, less headaches, less likely to mistake thirst as hunger and fill up with food unnecessarily…
It took me a while to get used to the additional loo breaks but after a couple of weeks at higher hydration levels it’s settled down. You’ll still need to visit the smallest room fairly regularly, but I feel this is healthier than dehydration.
Notice, accept and use the ways you work best
For too long I felt like I should move away from my pen and paper to-do lists, and paper diary, and get ‘techy’. You know the sort of thing: Google Calendar reminders, Trello boards, Keep or Notes apps on the mobile or setting notifications to buzz on a smart wrist band.
It’s just not how I work.
I forget to look at apps. I don’t look at my phone while I’m working, so calendar notifications are useless. I absent-mindedly click or swipe away ‘annoying’ reminders that pop-up on any of my screens without taking any notice of what they say.
My point is, learn and accept how you work best, and that it may well be different to the way other people tell you they work, and what works for them. If papers on a clipboard with a biro, or a day-to-a-page A4 or A5 diary is what does it for you, stick with it. A productive end result is what matters, not having the latest and greatest apps or technology to fit in with peers.
Take sick days
For such a long time I was under the mistaken impression that because I work from home, I wasn’t entitled to, or shouldn’t ever require, sick days. Which is a silly thing to think, all things considered.
We all get ill from time to time; it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s part of being human. When you do get ill it’s important to first acknowledge to yourself that you are ill (telling yourself you’re not, and that you’re ok really, doesn’t work. Sadly), then take steps to recover. The first step being, take a sick day. Or as many as you require.
If you work through illness you risk literally prolonging the agony, delaying getting back to work. Take meds, rest up and allow yourself recovery time without any guilt. It’s difficult, I know!
Get comfortable saying “no”
You do not have to accept every project offered to you. Let me repeat that, it’s important.
You do not have to accept every project offered to you.
Saying “no” can be positive and beneficial, and you should get comfortable saying it without any guilt. Knowing and verbalising your skill, energy and time limitations is the sign of someone who capably achieves any task they do agree to, because every task is carefully considered before accepted.
Thoughtlessly saying yes to any and every project which comes your way, no matter your good intentions, can lead to quickly becoming overloaded, meaning your productivity takes a nose-dive.
Upon being offered a task or project, take your time to consider it. Are you able to fit it in? Can you actually do the task? Is it a “no” or a “not right now, come back to me at x date”?
When you do say “no”, mean it – and challenge anyone who thinks “no” means “convince me otherwise” (hint: it doesn’t. No means no. People who don’t respect this aren’t deserving of your respect).
Add a brief explanation if you wish/if the situation merits is, but remember you don’t owe anyone lengthy justifications as to why you cannot fulfil a certain task or complete a certain project for them.
Actually do the things you’ve said “yes” to
When you’ve said “yes” to a task or project, make sure you actually do it. Sounds simple, but it’s where plenty come unstuck. Good intentions won’t get the job done by themselves.
Fulfil your obligations and stick to your deadlines. If there isn’t a deadline, I find it helpful to ask for/arrange one, so I can schedule it into my workload and prioritise it accordingly.
Consistently fulfilling your obligations, and in good time, helps you keep great relationships with your clients. It builds their trust in you and your reputation as someone who can be relied on. It’s also vital for your own self-esteem, avoiding that crushing feeling of defeat every time you’re forced to admit you can’t complete a previously agreed to task, or the mental overload of knowing you have a million things you have to do, leading to stress inertia.
I realise there’s a lot to remember with the above productivity tips, but it’s really a round-up of everything I’ve learned about how I best work from home over the past several years. They say it takes at least 21 days to form a new habit (which is just over 4 work weeks), so an entire overhaul of your home office work schedule might feel especially difficult in the first month. After that, I promise it gets easier and feels more natural.
Remember, consistent routine and being disciplined -in yourself, not necessarily via regular spankings- will help unlock the full potential of your productivity. In addition, being productive to your fullest extent will ensure you once more experience a satisfying liberation –rather than jaded resentment- when working from home.
Unsponsored, contains affiliate links