How to Stay Productive When You Work at Home
Whether you have your own business, are self-employed, or run a side hustle on evenings and weekends, you’ll know that working from home on your own can leave you feeling somehow both liberated and powerless at the same time. You have the freedom to spend your time however you like, but without the structure of a standard workplace, it can be hard to make sure that you accomplish everything that you want each day.
If you find it difficult to stay productive when you work from home, there are some simple things you can do to ensure that you make the most of every day:
Get dressed and get out of the house
One of the best things about working from home is that there’s no dress code and no one can tell if you haven’t ironed your clothes. To those in standard 9 to 5 jobs, working in your pajamas sounds like great fun, but in reality, it isn’t that conducive to being productive.
Our morning routines are part of the waking up process.
While those of us who work at home get to skip the long commute and bad coffee in the work cafeteria, simply rolling out of bed in our pajamas and sitting down at our desk to work normally isn’t the best way of getting our brains going. We need to work a little harder to get ourselves in the best mindset for a day at our laptops and getting out of the house, even for a short walk around the block, is a really effective way of doing that.
While it might seem obvious that getting up and going for a walk is good for your mental health, fresh air has actually been proven to increase productivity. A study by Harvard University in 2017 showed that breathing better air led to significantly better decision-making performance among their participants, in particular, they showed marked improvements in making strategic decisions and planning than those in a stale office environment.
So get dressed and go for a jog, say hello to the neighbors, or just run out and get yourself a coffee, you’ll reap the benefits once you get back home.
Have a dedicated workspace
Working at the kitchen table or on the sofa might be fine for a little while, but if your morning has to begin with clearing away the leftover dishes and your children’s bags or wiping up spills before you can really even put your laptop down, it’s not going to get you into that working mindset. Find a space that can be your desk whenever you need it; this should be a place that can stay organised and free of distractions so that when you sit down, you are ready to get to work.
Having a space to work that’s separate from the space you live and sleep in will help you get both into and out of the work mindset more easily. If you’re working from your bed, you might find it tempting to put down your laptop and drift off. Equally, at the end of the day, if your workspace is separate, you might not be so easily tempted into logging back onto your computer to check your emails when you should be sleeping!
If you share your home with others, like a partner, children, or roommates, make sure that they also understand that this is your workspace and that when you’re working, you’re not to be disturbed unnecessarily.
Set a schedule and stick to it
One of the most difficult things about working for yourself at home is knowing when to stop. If a client is emailing you at 8 pm, should you respond? How about 10 pm? Most normal companies have business hours – for example, between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday to Saturday. Most of us wouldn’t turn up to a regular job on the weekend and log on for half an hour, but it’s easy to do at home. While it can feel uncomfortable, especially if you work for yourself, it’s really important to set boundaries.
Most of the things we think of after we’ve signed off for the night are not emergencies that need to be attended to immediately. On the rare occasion that you really do need to finish a task that day, of course, you should make sure it’s done. The rest of the time, simply adding it to your to-do list for the following morning is enough. That way, you know that it will be taken care of as soon as possible within your working hours, but you still get to enjoy your evening with family or friends.
Having clear working times will encourage you to work hard within those hours to get tasks finished on time, and will ensure that you can relax outside those hours, and get the downtime that your body and mind need to stay healthy and productive.
Make a to-do list everyday
While not quite the same level of pressure as a boss looking over your shoulder, it’s surprising the boost that ticking off a task on the page can give you. Without a list, it can be easy to forget smaller tasks or to get your priorities wrong and waste time on less important jobs leaving you scrambling to finish that one key project.
When you start work in the morning, review the list you’ve made for the day and add anything else that you can think of. You can also include personal tasks or “life admin” in a separate section if helpful. You can then use this list to help structure your day; maybe you want to get a larger project finished before your lunch break and keep the smaller tasks for the afternoon so you can fit them in around a phone meeting. Having a list of tasks and planning out each day at the start will super boost your productivity and having all your tasks in one place allows you to prioritize them sensibly.
And don’t stop at the day in front of you; have week or more of to-do lists set up in advance and if you come up with tasks that you know will take a little longer or that need to be completed at a point in the future, add them to the relevant days when you think of them.
Maintaining productivity at work can be challenging even in a standard job. At home on your own, without colleagues to help keep you motivated, staying productive is even more difficult, but these four simple tips can help you take advantage of the freedom you have while working at home, rather than letting it overcome you. With the right workspace, the right mindset, and a plan for every single day, you can turn even the laziest morning into a surprisingly productive day.