10 Steps to Be Productive (When You Work from Home)
10 Steps to Be Productive (When You Work from Home)
Maybe you're a coach (like me!). Perhaps you're a photographer. Or maybe you're a freelance editor, a writer, an online teacher, a graphic designer, a web developer, a virtual assistant, a consultant, or any other number of things.
If you operate in this sphere of online work, you likely work from home, and that presents its own unique set of challenges, not the least of which is how to get work done when you work from home.
It can be challenging to stay focused on drafting that email or coming up with good social media copy when you hear the doorbell ring or the dryer buzzer go off. Not to mention the fact that with the freedom to work in our pajamas and not put on makeup, it's tempting to just nap or watch Netflix when we know nobody is watching.
With an unclear line between personal life and business life, what's a girl to do?
1. SET AN ALARM
This might not seem like a popular option, but a big way to be more productive when you work at home is to set an alarm and get up at the same time every day.
Just because you can set your own hours doesn't mean you can just wake up whenever you want to and still call it a day at three o'clock. If you truly want to be more productive with your time, you're going to have to create a more set schedule, and that starts with getting up consistently at the same time.
Setting an alarm is the only way to create a consistent schedule that gives you the time you need to get all of your work done without stressing about how you're going to fit everything in.
2. GET DRESSED
If you work in your pajamas, you're much more likely to lounge around and even take a nap. If not, you'll still be more inclined to work and move more slowly.
So take the initiative to get dressed. You don't have to dress all fancy if you don't want to, but put on some real pants and run a brush through your hair. Be presentable, whatever that means for you.
I've found that I work better when I've taken the time to put on real clothes, and I'm a jeans girl. When I'm going to be recording videos or seeing people later in the day, I do my makeup, too. Some people would need to do that every day, but that's not my jam if I'm staying inside my house all day. Do whatever you need to do to be comfortable and be ready to work.
3. CREATE AN ACTUAL SCHEDULE
Yes, you have the freedom to work when you want, to get up when you want, and all of that. That's one of the big perks of working from home and working for yourself. But that doesn't mean you can't impose some sort of structure on yourself so you can actually get your work done.
Decide what your working hours are. Decide when you're going to do what tasks.
Utilize time blocking so you don't get distracted by emails or doorbells or dryers.
4. DO YOUR DEEP WORK FIRST
Do your deep/creative work first thing. If you start your day scrolling through social media or the news or your Feedly feed, your day will begin with other people's words, opinions, and lives. You'll be filled with their ideas, their thoughts, and your thoughts about their thoughts and their lives.
In order to get your best work done, start with your work first. Contribute before you consume.
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to write a genuine post on social media when you've been looking at everyone else's posts? It's because you second-guess your message, thinking it's been said already or it's not as good as someone else's message.
No. It hasn't been said exactly the way you need to say it, and it hasn't been said by you. And there's room for everyone and their messages. So stop the comparison train before it can even leave the station, and get your messaging done before you scroll to see what others have posted.
The same principle applies to writing blog posts, crafting emails, and recording videos. It's great to see what others are doing and gather ideas for inspiration, but when comparison or inadequacy set in, stop.
Get your thoughts, words, and message down onto (virtual or real) paper before others' start creeping in and contaminating what your beautiful soul can come up with.
5. SET TIMERS
Another way to be more productive is to set timers for specific actions (social media engagement, writing, etc).
It's easy to continually get up to take care of things as you think of them-- starting the dishwasher, getting the mail, switching the laundry, answering that email, making that phone call. But doing those things in the moment only distracts you from what you had been doing.
To stay focused and make the most of your time, block out a specific length of time for your biggest, most important tasks, and set timers. That way, you know you only have one thing to do in that timeframe, and you're focused just on that single task.
If other things come to mind, instead of jumping up to do them, write them down and come back to them after the timer goes off. This way, you stay focused and get your big things done in less time!
6. MAKE YOUR GOALS PUBLIC
If you keep your goals to yourself, you're less likely to stick to them. Instead, post in groups about your goals for the week for greater accountability.
Once you've told other people what you're working toward, you'll be more motivated to finish your work so you can let them know you finished it like you said you would.
It's sort of like getting a gold star in elementary school for turning in your homework or showing up every day for a month, except the gold star is more like comments of encouragement and congratulations!
7. USE A PLANNER
Once you've decided on your goals and made them known to others, use a planner to track your goals and tasks for each week to stay on task.
It's one thing to set goals; it's another to actually attain them (ask all those people who quit the gym every January).
If you break your goals down into weekly goals and then daily goals and stick to your plan by writing down the steps and checking them off in your planner, you'll make more consistent progress! The alternative is to try some things all over the board and hope they stick.
It's far more effective to have an actual plan with a step-by-step process, and having a method to track your progress helps you see what's working, what isn't working, how much progress you've made, and what's next.
8. LIMIT DISTRACTIONS
Distractions can come at you left and right when you work from home. From a neighbor showing up at the door to the mail or FedEx delivery to the laundry being done to having to make lunch, they are many. Not to mention text messages, emails, instant messages, and social media notifications!
Do your best to limit distractions so you can focus and get things done.
Depending on the type of work you do and what you need to be paying attention to, that might include any of the following:
turning off all notifications on your phone
turning off all notifications on your computer
using your phone's "do not disturb" mode
using your computer's "do not disturb" mode
muting your washer and dryer end of cycle notifications
putting a sign on your home or office door
using apps that prevent you from accessing social media during hours you set
wearing noise-cancelling headphones
limiting the notifications that show up on your lock screen
putting your phone on silent
taking certain apps off your phone
9. TAKE BREAKS
It might seem counterintuitive when we're talking about productivity, but you can only focus so long without a break!
If you take small breaks frequently to recharge, you'll actually be able to accomplish more because you will have given yourself the opportunity to recharge and come back to your work refreshed and reenergized.
When you block out time in your day for your tasks, add a little room in between for small breaks to make a cup of tea, walk around the block, get the mail, text a friend, or switch the laundry.
Not only could you get a creative break, but you might be able to kill two birds with one stone and tackle a household chore at the same time!
10. CREATE A DESIGNATED WORK SPACE
It can be challenging to separate home and work life when you work from home. One helpful tip is to create a designated work space at home.
You don't have to have an entire office dedicated to your work (although you can). You might just have a desk. Or a section of the dining room table that goes unused during the day that you can clean up when you're finished.
The goal is to have a specific place you can go to every day to signal to yourself that it's work time. If you try to work from the same spot on the couch that you watch movies from or read from, you're going to be more tempted to watch a movie or read. If you move around from place to place haphazardly, you're more likely to be distracted and restless.
It's best to have a single, dedicated space to return to day after day for your work.
What do you think? What tip did you find most helpful? Do you struggle with being productive when you work from home? I'd love to hear from you in the comments! And if you're ready to kickstart your productivity, let's talk about how you can get there, friend!