Keeping productive at home is one of the biggest challenges for the at-home worker. Here are a few ways to stay on track.
One of the upsides of having a home office – being able to work remotely whenever you need to – is also one of its pitfalls. Having the freedom and flexibility of a remote position means needing the self-discipline and systems in place to keep yourself organized, on task and productive.
Now is the perfect time to get reorganized for the calendar year and set some productivity steps in place that will make you more effective than ever while you work at home. Here are a few tips for increasing your work efficiency from home.
Keep Your Personal Life Separate from Your Business Life
It may be tempting to mix the two, but keeping a focus on your business during work hours is key to a successful, productive day at home. And the way you spend your days, of course, is the way you spend your life. So instead of worrying about how to focus in the big picture, take each day as an opportunity to practice and hone your focus on work.
“As much as possible, avoid answering personal phone calls or doing your laundry during the workday,” writes Lisa Evans, at Entrepreneur.com. If you have kids or a family, it may be even harder to do, but resist the temptation to comingle while you expect to work.
If it’s easier, set aside breaks and a lunchtime pit stop at specific times in order to minimize personal-life distractions.
Put Real Pants On
One of the running jokes for remote workers is that they don’t have to wear pants during the workday (I make that joke, anyway). Though you can show up in gym shorts and an old tee, facing your home office work as though it’s in a traditional office setting is a great way to mentally prepare for a productive work day.
“Get fully ready for the day and pretend you’re actually going to work,” says Anna Faber-Hammond in an interview with Hubspot.
For me, this means putting real pants on, a nice shirt and feeling in a good state of mind to meet my tasks and goals for the day.
Stay Off Social Media
Today’s remote worker faces an unending stream of distraction in the form of status updates, pictures, memes and everything else that floods your social media profiles every day. But Steven Key recommends giving those up during your work day, at least during your main work hours. “Check before work and maybe then again at lunch. If you wait until the end of the day to follow up, you’ll find you’re more productive,” he writes.
You can also use something like Freedom, a website and social media blocker that helps you keep your focus when it matters most.
If possible, equip your home office with all the connectivity options that you’d have in a traditional office setting, including a nice business phone. There are plenty of home office phone options on the market that give you the convenience and features of a larger office phone system (AT&T’s ML17929 is our current recommendation).
“When I work from home, I feel like I’m not missing any important pieces of the puzzle,” says attorney Mike Pruitt. “I’m able to communicate the same way here as I do in our main corporate office.”
A nice all-in-one printer with fax and copying abilities also goes a long way in keeping in touch while working from home.
Keep Your Health in Check
It’s easy to focus on work performance when talking about productivity, but your physical and mental health and well-being is just as important.
A healthy body and mind is the foundation of clear thinking, which is key to setting goals for work and achieving them. When you have physical and mental challenges, it can slowly begin to erode your productivity and output.
In fact, the National Committee for Quality Assurance found that “depression results in more days of disability than chronic health conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.”
While you’re not working, then, be sure to eat right, get sufficient sleep and take time to unwind and focus on what’s important in your life. Work may be a priority, but it should also be taken as one aspect of a healthy, holistic lifestyle that you enjoy.
“Make sure you eat a good breakfast so you don’t have to stop working when the hunger pangs kick in, and schedule yourself a reasonable lunch break,” writes Julie McCormick at Lifehack.org.
With a good diet, schedule and some activity before and after work, you’ll have a much better opportunity to stay focus and productive during work hours.
Keep Your Family Informed
For many at-home workers, balancing family and work is a continuous challenge. If you have kids in the house, consider making them as aware as possible of your work situation, letting them know what the guidelines and boundaries are for when you’re working.
One work-from-home mom told Working Mother that she “used a red light, yellow light, green light system when my kids were little, which indicated to them if (and how) I could be interrupted. …This system worked great when my daughters were younger!”
If you don’t want to get that complicated, simply tell your kids (and spouse, roommates, etc.) that you’re not to be disturbed between specific hours, or to text you if they need something rather than calling or knocking on your home office door.
Keep Track of Your Time
When you work from home, it’s easy to blur the line between “being on the clock” and being off. It’s easy to fall into the trap of procrastinating by doing home chores instead of work. Some professions and positions require you to actively monitor your time, while others – such as being a freelance writer – don’t really have the same standards.
However, getting in the habit of tracking your time can be a great way to see where most of your day goes. If you find that you’re spending far too much time in your inbox, for example, you’ll be able to adjust your day – and your work processes – in order to minimize “low output” activities and focus on the things that will make the most difference in your efficiency for the day.