Working from home can be challenging.
If you’re not productive, then it’s useless to try working at home. You’ll just end up wasting your day. So in this post, I’ll show you how to be productive working from home.
1. Plan your Day
Down to the minutes.
This doesn’t mean that you should be working every minute of every day. Just that you should plan when it’s time to take breaks. If that means taking the whole day off, so be it. It’s not bad.
Avoid to-do lists
Which I love, by the way. But when they’re used without getting the tasks into a specific schedule, then it’s like a grocery list. You start with 5 items and you end up buying the whole store.
Instead of using the list as a guide, decide on the time each task should take, add a 10-20% to be sure you’ll be on time and set this task on a specific time slot into your day, based on your estimated duration.
When you start working on the task, aim to finish on time and let this 10-20% only as an “emergency fund”. Otherwise, it’ll take even longer for you to finish the task.
2. Find a Place you can Work
Finding a place where you can really work is great. You usually have these two options. Make sure to try both of them to see what works better for you.
Make a Home Office
Working from your bed or your couch may be comfortable – for a while, anyway – but you won’t be productive for long. At the first chance you get, you’ll lie down and you’ll start seeing random videos on Youtube. At least if you’re anything like me. 🙂 (And I won’t even mention the damage you’ll do on your body on the long run.)
Make a home office as soon as you decide to start working at home. It’d be ideal if you can have a room as your office, but even if you don’t have space, you can still sacrifice some space out of your living room (preferably) or your bedroom (if you don’t have any other choice). It’s better to work outside your bedroom if possible.
Get a desk and an ergonomic chair (yes, they’re a little more expensive, but we’re talking about your health. You know it, right?) and that’s it! You don’t need anything else to make an office at home.
If you want to add more things and you have the budget for them, I’d recommend a bookcase and a whiteboard for brainstorming and planning. Maybe a standing desk, too. There are some that can convert to a regular desk, so you’ll only have to buy one desk.
Don’t Work at Home
Creating a home office is great, but if you see that you can’t work from home easily, get out. Just because it’s called “working at home”, it doesn’t mean you literally have to work at home. Try to change up your workplace.
Go to a library, a cafe, even on the beach if you think you can work better there. If you’re more productive there, it doesn’t matter if you stay there for fewer hours, you’ll still get more work done.
My favourite place to work is a cafe near the sea in my hometown. It’s about 20 minutes from my home. Not that close, but not that far either. And it’s totally worth it because I know that I’ll get a lot of work done there.
3. Work out During the Workday
Working out has a lot of benefits to your health – physical and mental – but now, we’ll talk about how you can get an energy boost of it.
Before you start working, spend a few minutes to exercise a little bit. Not enough to get tired, just enough to get your blood pumping a little. A little cardio and some stretches are great for it.
Also, work out during your day. Sitting on a chair for hours leaves you a little frustrated after a while. Stand up and work out a little bit to make this frustration go away.
4. Set Deadlines
If you set deadlines on your projects, you’ll feel motivated to do your work faster, so that you can do other interesting things or just relax. Because if you don’t put any limits on the tasks you’ll work on, then what should you feel motivated for? More work?
Even if you love your job, you still need to relax sometimes.
Also, setting deadlines will help you finish your tasks faster. The time you need for a task is like gas. It takes up all the space you give it. If you have a month to finish a project, it’ll take you a month to finish it. If you have a week, it’ll take you a week. If you have a day, you can probably finish it in a day.
I admit that it may not be of the same quality. (Even though when we have a lot of time, we tend to leave everything for the last moment, so it’s not much of a difference). But let’s say that you do work a month. Then, it’ll probably be better than if you work on it for a week.
BUT the difference won’t be as much as the time allotted. If you can do an awesome project in a month, then in a week, you can achieve 90% of this awesomeness. In a day, you can make 75% of it.
But what if 75% of an awesome project is good enough? Perfectionism gets in the way of productivity a lot of times. Make sure you don’t stop being productive because of that.
5. Use Tools
Use tools to make your day more productive and to be more focused and more organised during the day. There are a lot of free tools you can find online – pretty much about anything you want. Here are two of my favourite ones:
Trello is a planning tool you can use to organise your day. It’s a free online tool, so you don’t have to spend or download anything. Also, you can share your lists with others – extremely useful if you work with a team.
What I love about Trello is that I can see all my lists at once, so I get an overview of almost everything I have going on a project.
If you’re looking for an alternative, Asana is a tool I’ve heard good things about, though, I haven’t used it yet. Feel free to check it out if you want.
Calmly Writer is another useful tool. It’s free and online, but you can use it offline, too.
Use it if you need to write without distractions. You can go full-screen which is great for focusing on your writing since all you see is your writing in an empty screen.
6. Find your Most Productive Hours
People are at their most productive at different hours in the day. For me, it’s late morning to early evening. I can do night, too, but I know that my body likes to sleep at that time. A friend of mine works better at night. I know some people that prefer working early in the morning. So yes, we’re a little different on this.
Try to change when you work in the day to find out what works better for you. You may think it’s not worth it, but you’ll be wrong. Working during the time you’re T your most productive will dramatically reduce the hours you work in the day and not only will you work less, but you may get better ideas, too.
Start with the most important task, so even if you can’t do anything else this day, you’ll still feel that you haven’t wasted your day.
8. Do the Boring, Mundane Work at the End
Try to do the most difficult and creative tasks at the beginning of your day and leave the boring tasks that don’t need brainpower at the end of it.
You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment for completing the difficult tasks and you’ll have a chance of finishing all of them. If you do it otherwise and your mind starts getting tired, then it’s a little difficult to be in the mood for starting the more difficult work.
9. Avoid Procrastination
Procrastination can really make your schedule a mess. So try to get ahead of it, by making your work really easy.
Have everything organised and ready to go the night before. The next morning, when you start working, it should be so easy to start that it doesn’t matter how difficult the whole project is, you’ll still want to start.
- if you write an article, make the outline the day before.
- if you write a book, stop at an interesting place so you’ll want to pick up from where you left.
- if you have to do research, have all the keywords written down, so that you start without having to think about them.
Whatever you do, make sure the hard work is already done, so you can START. After starting, it’ll be easy to continue. (Newton knew what he was talking about! 😛 )
10. Use Useless Time
There is a lot of wasted time in your day. Travelling on a bus, stuck on traffic, waiting in queue… All these times in the day you’re bored out of mind waiting for something can be used more productively. Try to make the most of this time and use it for simple tasks that don’t need brainpower but take time out of your day.
- making phone calls to family
- reading emails and/or answering emails
- checking social media
11. Stay Hydrated
Not a lot of people do that, unfortunately. They’re all trying to find some super cool and useful tips when the most important is to be in optimal physical state.
- You’ll sleep eventually, no matter how much work you have because you won’t be able to continue at some point. Sleeping will just mean more than finishing your work.
- You will eat at some point because you’ll just be too hungry at some point or you’ll smell your neighbour’s food.
- But what about water?
When do you really drink water? When you feel thirsty or when you have the time for it? Even though, people are getting thirsty pretty easily, they don’t drink as often or as much as they should.
No idea why, probably boredom? Because it’s too tiring to go to the nearest sink…
Anyway, it’s better to stay hydrated, so make sure you have a glass or a bottle of water near you when you work.
12. If you Start it, Finish it
A nice productive tip is to finish what you’ve started.
- You’ve read an email? Answer it, delete it or archive it. Don’t leave it in your inbox.
- You’ve started writing an article? Finish it before starting another.
- You’ve started a course? Either finish it or decide you’ll give it up before starting the next one.
This way, not only you finish a task, but you also save the time that you need to reevaluate it the next time you see it.
What I want you to remember is that being productive is a choice, not a random gene that some people have and others don’t. If you spend the time trying to be productive instead of lazy, the habit will stick with you.
Let me know what you think about my tips and what ways you use to stay productive. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer! Any suggestions are always welcome, so tell me about topics you’d like me to write.
See you next time!