How to Stay Productive When You Work from Home
Working from home has many benefits. You do not need to commute or spend additional resources on gas or meals out during your workday. You can have a more flexible schedule and work from pretty much anywhere in the world.
Technological advancements are making it easier to work from home. Even if your workplace does not typically facilitate it, you can also freelance through numerous freelancing websites or set up your own business and become your own boss.
Yet, while working from home sounds great, it’s not as easy as it seems. It’s still work, and you need to remain productive to accomplish your daily tasks and secure income, especially if you work for yourself.
I have been working from home for the past four or five years, both for clients as well as for myself. To be honest, it’s not always been easy. There have been ups and downs, and it’s taken me time to set up routines and practices that help me remain productive.
So, if you’ve found yourself in a situation that requires you to work from home, you may find my work-from-home hacks useful.
12 Work-From-Home Productivity Tips
1. Get Enough Sleep
You probably didn’t expect this, and it took me ages to appreciate the benefits of a good night’s rest. For years, I used to sacrifice sleep to get more done.
However, there is mounting evidence that sleep is crucial for productivity. While it may seem like you can do more if you sleep less, studies show that your productivity, as well as work performance, suffers if you have insomnia or sleep only a few hours a night for an extended period of time.
The lack of sleep negatively affects problem-solving, memory, and creativity, all of which are needed for optimal work performance and productivity.
So, if you’d like to be more productive when you work from home, make sure to not only sleep enough hours, which is six to eight for most people but also improve your sleep quality. You can do that by establishing a sleep routine and having no screen time before bed. Having fewer carbs for dinner and having no alcohol before you go to bed is also beneficial.
Keep in mind that if your sleep hygiene is off, it may take time to regulate it and improve your sleep quality.
2. Have a Morning Routine
I’ve tried different ways of approaching my daily routine, including waking up at 4 AM every morning to get some portion of my work done before the kids wake up. While that did help to get more work done, it wasn’t helping my emotional well-being. I ended up being drained and unmotivated.
So, instead, I went to reorganizing my day to allow some quiet me-time. As a result, I saw a massive improvement in both my productivity and emotional state.
Your brain produces electrical patterns that are also known as brain waves. When you sleep, brain waves are slow, but when you are awake and active, they’re fast.
The time between you waking up to the time you get to work is when your brain waves go from slow to fast. It’s also when your subconscious mind is the most active.
Therefore, having a morning routine is a great way to train your subconscious mind and set the tone for your day. Some beneficial activities to include in your morning routine are making your bed, meditation, journaling, repeating positive affirmations, visualizing your day, and similar.
Make sure to avoid the snooze button. Otherwise, you’re starting your day by telling your brain that it’s OK to procrastinate.
3. Get Ready for Work
Even if you work from home, avoid working in your pajamas. Instead, get ready for work.
You don’t need to get all made up and dressed up. Having something warm and comfortable is all right. Just make sure there is a distinction between what you wear to bed and what you wear to work. This helps your brain differentiate between the state when you’re at rest versus when you are in work mode.
4. Stick to a Schedule
While many think that working from home is the complete opposite of the regular 9-5, most successful entrepreneurs actually stick to a schedule. It may not necessarily be a 9-5 one, as the hours when you are the most productive can vary. So, do figure out what schedule works best for you and stick to it.
Sticking to a schedule means that you only work specific hours every day and take days off. This will ensure that you don’t work seven days a week from the moment you wake up to the time you go to bed but get some downtime as well. Doing so will keep you productive longer and prevent you from burning out.
Sometimes, you may need to adjust your schedule to fit in errands, travel, or emergencies, and that’s fine. The beauty of working from home is that you can easily do that!
5. Move Your Body
Exercise can keep you fit and healthy, and it also can boost your productivity. It can boost energy, improve your mood, reduce stress and anxiety, as well as clear brain fog.
Exercise can also improve brain function in the hippocampus area, improving blood, glucose, and oxygen flow, which in turn feed your brain. It can also increase areas in the brain that are connected with memory and learning.
To move your body, you can practice yoga, do HIIT, dance, jog, and lift. Going to the gym, walking, swimming, and hiking are great, too, of course, when you don’t need to be socially isolating.
6. Plan Your Day, But Don’t Overplan
I have noticed a massive spike in productivity when I write down the tasks that I plan to accomplish for the day. They keep me accountable, and I also get a sense of accomplishment when I get to tick those off as I complete them.
The trick here is not to overplan. If you make a long to-do list that you can’t handle, that can have the opposite effect. So, stick to one to three major important tasks and fit in up to three smaller secondary tasks. The latter can be administrative tasks or errands that you may need to accomplish.
For larger projects or goals, it’s beneficial to break them down into smaller and more attainable steps and set a deadline for them. You’ll be more likely to achieve them and do so faster.
7. Have a Designated Workspace
Work from home doesn’t mean working in bed or in front of the TV. This can be terrible for your productivity. Working from bed can also be detrimental to your sleep.
Instead, have a designated home office area where you work. Set up your laptop, planners, and everything else needed for you to work so that you do not get distracted if you need to find or fetch anything.
It’s also beneficial to declutter your workspace and the rest of your home. Such practice is easier on your mind. Clutter and disorganization in the workspace can cause chaos and disorganization in your mind. If you tend to suffer from stress and anxiety, clutter around you can make things worse.
So, make sure to set aside time every week or so to clean up the home, as well as a few minutes a day to organize and declutter your workplace.
Keep objects that distract you away. So, if you do not need your phone, it may be helpful to put it a different way so that you do not feel compelled to check your social media notifications while you work. It may give you a short dopamine boost, but don’t be fooled. Social media is designed to do so to keep you hooked and online.
8. Set Boundaries with Family or Roommates
If you work from home and your partner, kids, or your roommates are around, you may get easily distracted if you do not set boundaries. So, talk to everyone you need and lay out clear ground rules such as what your work hours are, when you have breaks, whether you can be distracted during them, and if so, how that should be done.
This can be challenging but highly beneficial for your productivity and stress levels in the long run.
9. Put Your Phone Away
Speaking of boundaries, unless you absolutely need your phone for work, I recommend leaving it away from your home office area, especially if you notice that you tend to reach for it and scroll through social media while you work. It can happen if you are not motivated and are looking for a positive mood boost from social media.
Well, that’s exactly what social media is developed to do. It’s designed in a way that continuously provides dopamine boosts to ensure that you stay on it as long as possible and continuously return.
For example, have you noticed that it takes a while for likes to show on Instagram after you publish a new post? That’s actually deliberate as seeing likes after a longer waiting time results in a more significant dopamine boost. And that’s just one way in which social media does that.
While social media platforms can indeed serve as a wonderful way of being a part of a community, they can be very distracting if you are trying to get work done.
So, instead of reaching for your phone each time you need a dopamine boost, try to do something else instead, such as move, walk, or do a few yoga poses, and designate specific times throughout the day when you spend guilt-free time on social media.
10. Take Breaks
Avoid working for hours at a time. It can be draining and demotivating in the long term. Instead, take regular breaks. Having something like a Pomodoro app can be beneficial. It prompts you to take five-minute breaks every 25 minutes and 15-minute breaks every two hours.
During your breaks, move around. As mentioned above, exercise can boost your work performance and productivity. It will also not seem like you are working all the time.
So, you can have a short walk (only around the house if need be), make a cup of coffee or tea, stretch or do some yoga. Even if that’s a few chest-opening yoga poses or chair yoga, that’s still good.
11. Work on a Task for Just 20 Minutes
Even if you manage to remain productive most of the time, there will be days when you may not feel very energetic, a task that you may not want to do, or an intimidating project that you may not know where to start.
When that happens to me, I try this approach – I tell myself that I will only work on the task for 20 minutes. If, after those 20 minutes, I don’t want to work on it anymore, I will still have done 20 minutes. Or I may get into it and be able to accomplish more.
12. Plan Your Meals and Grocery Runs
If you notice that you constantly snack or eat unhealthy when you work from home, this can affect your immunity, health, and overall wellbeing, as well as work performance and productivity. So, it’s vital to maintain a healthy diet even if or when you work from home.
However, it can be challenging to do so if you are swarmed with work. To counter that, plan your meals and shopping in advance. I have a magnet pad on my fridge where I note down groceries I need or run out of. So, I do not need to remember anything or make emergency grocery runs throughout the week when I may be too busy.
I also buy most of my groceries over the weekend and prep meals or chop up ingredients before a new week starts. So, I have a variety of meals and can prepare them very quickly. Shopping and prepping ahead of time also make sure that there is very little or no junk food that I may crave if I’m hungry.
13. End Your Workday
Finally, make sure to clock out when your workday is over. Even though you work from home, that doesn’t mean that you should answer e-mails and complete tasks after your workday is over. There will always be something more you can do, but it doesn’t mean that you should.
Make sure that you also reserve time for rest, hobbies, and socializing with family or friends. This will boost your morale and happiness, which is incredibly important when you work from home.
Working from home can be challenging. It can also take you some time to adjust. However, once you do, you may have a tough time working in an office again.
Do you work from home? How do you like it? What do you find to be the most challenging? How do you cope with it?