How to Be More Productive While Working from Home
Working from home is something we’ve all dreamed about. The perks are alluring: you work your own hours, there are financial benefits from no longer paying for gas or public transit, and you can wear pajamas all day while enjoying the freedom of doing what you want, when you want.
While the benefits of working from home or telecommuting sound incredible, it can be hard to avoid procrastinating with all the different distractions.
Working from home will be completely new to a lot of folks who are practicing social distancing. You’re thrown in at the deep end, thrashing about, and trying to find some stability in your day. How can you stay focused when your cute new cat is rubbing up against you just begging to be cuddled? How can you stay productive when in the back of your mind, a pile of dishes has been growing in your kitchen?
That’s why we wrote this post. Below, we’ll go over some simple ways you can be more productive while working from home.
The importance of a productive home office
Whether you’re fortunate enough to already be telecommuting or you’ve been forced to work from home because of social distancing—working from home can be an incredible experience.
But that doesn’t mean it’s as easy and fun as everyone thinks.
It takes a lot of discipline to be able to work from home. With constant distractions, chores, and simply getting caught up in daily requirements, it can be hard to stay focused and productive.
Working from home will look different for everyone, so the most important part is understanding what works for you may not work for someone else.
But with the help of these tips and tricks, you’ll have a much better grasp on working from home—and how to do it comfortably and productively.
OK, so you might not be the tidiest person in the world, and that’s fine. Perhaps your home office has always been a clutter of books, sketches, notes, and external hard drives scattered across your desk.
To some, that might sound like total chaos and a living nightmare. But for others, that’s how they’re most productive.
Take this famous quote from Albert Einstein, for instance, and you might feel better about working in a cluttered workspace:
If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign? - Albert Einstein
It’s important to find out for yourself what makes you productive. What sort of environment do you work best in?
I need everything to be organized. For me, a cluttered desk is a reflection of a cluttered and anxious mind. I know I’m not productive in that sort of environment.
But how do you work best? Do you need clutter? Is there organization behind your clutter?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. But it’s certainly worth trying different working environments every once to find the best fit for you.
With that in mind, let’s get into some of the different ways you can stay productive while working from home—no matter what type of worker you are.
1. Keep your workspace and personal space separate
Blending your workspace with your personal space is not a good way to stay productive.
Sure, the idea of watching Netflix while working is great if you have some downtime—but it actually decreases your productivity tremendously. And, when these two worlds start to blend into one, it can be difficult to allocate time to one or the other. It’s a vicious cycle.
Worst of all, it’s hard to leave your work at the office after a rough day if you’re working from your bedroom. A study by Porch asked business professionals about their biggest distractions when working from home.
Here are the top five answers:
Having the TV on
Personal tasks around the house
Going out for coffee
Sound familiar? You’ve probably had to deal with one of those things at some point while working from home.
Here’s what you can do though: make a distinct boundary (either physically or mentally) between your workspace and personal enjoyment space. Whether that’s formed around allocating specific time slots in your day to working hours or even keeping any distractions out of arm’s length, either should help.
It may be difficult at first to remove yourself from situations that arise at home, but it’s well worth it. If you have the opportunity, try taking a spare bedroom and turning it into your office rather than working from your couch.
Consider this: Look into purchasing a room divider if your workspace isn’t a separate room from where you should be spending your personal time.
2. Organize clutter and save time
You’ve determined that you’re one of those people who just loves clutter. But have you considered trying to organize it?
Think of it like this: you have a lot of stuff. Books, notes, notebooks, pencils, pens—they’re all over the place. Even your desktop on your computer is cluttered with old screenshots, Word documents and more.
You do know where everything is (most of the time), but it's not a very pleasant working environment for you or for those around you at home.
However, what about those things you can never find? Do you know how much time you’re wasting looking for a document when you could be working on your business?
Here are a few steps to take if you think it’s time to declutter.
Do a paper purge. Find any receipts, notes, papers—whatever you have laying around—and consider even just throwing them in a box.
Find a home for your pens, pencils, and whatever tools you have on your desk.
Do a weekly desktop purge: delete any files that are distracting or you no longer use, and be sure to empty your computer trash bin.
Throw stuff out. If you have old bottles of Mountain Dew or empty chip bags on your desk, just throw them out.
Consider this: Have fun with your clutter and use a shredder to get rid of documents you no longer need.
3. Get dressed for success
In the past we’ve discussed the importance of a morning ritual and how it can increase your daily productivity—but what about when you’re working from home?
It can be tempting to spend your day sitting around in your pajamas, drinking coffee, and eating junk food—but that’s not healthy for your mind or body.
Take some time to wake up early and actually get dressed. Dress as if you were heading to a meeting or if you were working in an office.
It really does put you in a different mindset for your day.
An experiment by the team at A Life of Productivity found the following when looking into what sort of attire meant a higher level of productivity:
Clothes are symbolic and hugely affect how you feel about yourself. Your pajamas might help you feel relaxed and ready to wind down to sleep, whereas some slacks and a button down shirt might help flip your mental gears and get you into “work mode.”
The more time you put in your appearance the more you’re motivated to “get out there.” This is particularly helpful when interacting with more people will make you more productive, like at a networking event or a party.
You can compartmentalize by changing your clothes when you get home. This helps you separate your work and home lives, particularly as more and more businesses adopt casual dress codes.
Of course if you feel more successful in your pajamas, by all means work in your pajamas.
Consider this: Create a morning routine that stops you diving straight into work as soon as you open your eyes each morning.
4. Invest in ergonomic and beautiful furniture
You might get up a few times for a break, but you may find yourself sitting down at your desk for hours on end once you get into a groove.
That’s why it’s important to invest in ergonomic furniture for your office. You can’t afford to have your productivity and health hindered by a poor workspace.
If you can, try and get an ergonomic chair or even a standing desk. Standing for a few hours while working will save your back and will make you more productive.
Don’t think it’s worth it to invest in a good chair? Think again. The team at Ergo Plus found the following:
Ergonomics improves productivity. The best ergonomic solutions will often improve productivity by up to 25%. By designing a workspace to allow for good posture, less exertion, fewer motions, and better heights and reaches, the workstation becomes more efficient.
Ergonomics improves quality. Poor ergonomics leads to frustrated and fatigued workers that don’t do their best work. When the job task is too physically taxing on the worker, they may not perform their job like they were trained. For example, if an employee’s work bench is too high for them, they may not be able to fasten a screw tight enough and this could create a product quality issue.
Consider this: Do a quick search on your favorite online furniture store to find an ergonomic solution that works best for you.
5. Consider working from a co-working space
Note: If you are unable to have contact with others due to social distancing, you can still try using different parts of your home for different tasks.
Some days working from home just doesn’t feel right. It’s good to take a break from your home office and get outside.
Luckily, you have the freedom to work where you want. Consider working from a library, coffee shop, or even rent a co-working space to work from for a day or two a week. Not only will this help you reevaluate your efforts and give your mind a break from life at home, but it’s one way of getting rid of loneliness as an entrepreneur.
If you can, try working from somewhere that has a lot of natural light. A study published in Psychology Today found that beyond the health benefits, exposure to natural light increases workspace productivity tremendously.
Plus, if you do end up working in an official coworking space (something besides a coffee shop or library), there’s a chance you’ll be seated beside someone who’s able to help you out and vice versa.
Consider this: Try to use a specific location to perform certain tasks. For instance, respond to emails or do your data entry in a coffee shop, or use the quietness of your home for deep-focus work.
6. Prepare meals for the week ahead
Usually, if you’re working from home, you’ll have to take time out of your work day to cook for yourself. Or, if you’re lucky, you might have someone working from home with you that can help with cooking.
To avoid spending too much time in the kitchen when you should be working, try doing some advance meal prep on Sunday evening. The idea here is to cook something in large quantities, throw them in airtight containers and eat each meal throughout the week so you don’t waste time cooking during working hours.
Bodybuilders and athletes have been doing this for years. So why shouldn’t entrepreneurs?
Tim Ferriss, an entrepreneur, author, and podcaster outlines what UFC champion, Georges St-Pierre (GSP) did to meet the training and nutritional goals that supported him to become a champion fighter. In 2009, when the GSP experiment began Jennifer Nickel, chef at Bice and one of GSP’s personal chefs, had the entire professional kitchen of Bice to herself in the morning and prepared three meals for Georges: a post-workout meal that could be eaten cold, a dinner meal, and a breakfast meal for the next morning. Meal prep took between two to four hours.
You probably don’t eat as much as GSP does, so it may take you even less than two to four hours. Give it a shot! Also bear in mind that if meal planning or cooking aren’t your forte, there are meal delivery services that allow you to skip the grocery shopping and deliver the exact ingredients to you, and services that deliver pre-made healthy meals that you can simply reheat.
Consider this: Double the ingredients and portion size on your next Sunday meal and have some already-prepared healthy lunches ready to eat.
7. Most important: Know when to stop working
Working long, late hours may seem noble when hearing about entrepreneurs who worked hours on end to achieve their goal. But what you often don’t hear is that they do take time for themselves.
They know when to turn off. They know when to unplug. It’s important to know that it’s OK for you to take a break. It’s OK for you to watch TV for a few hours. It’s OK to do what you want, when you want, when you feel as though you deserve it.
The team at Becoming Minimalist found some compelling reasons why it’s important to unplug:
Powering down helps remove unhealthy feelings of jealousy, envy, and loneliness.
Powering down combats the fear of missing out.
Life, at its best, is happening right in front of you.
Powering down promotes creation over consumption.
Consider this: Binge watch that new favorite Netflix show. Go for a run or a walk. Whatever you’d like! Just make sure it’s after you’ve done your work for the day.
Now that we’ve taken a look at seven ways to work from home comfortably and maintain productivity, it's important that you actually put them into practice. To make adjusting to working from home easier, try implementing at least one tip now and once you’ve mastered that choose your next one. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you try them all out at once, and the result will be falling back into bad habits. Simple, small steps is how you’ll see success in learning how to work from home.