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7 Daily Habits To Be More Productive Working At Home

7 Daily Habits To Be More Productive Working At Home

It’s the dream, right? Waking up whenever you want, not having to get dressed and squeeze yourself onto mass transit or sit in traffic for several hours just to sit in a cubicle for another 8 hours or so.

Working at home is the ultimate lifestyle — until you actually do it.

More than 23% of Americans report working from home at least some of the time according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number has increased by nearly 25% since 2005 and continues to grow as the “workplace” takes on a more ambiguous meaning.

But it’s not all late starts and TV in PJs while checking email. Working from home, while an important perk in a culture with increasingly blurred lines on the work-life spectrum, can be a stressful experience if you’re not accustomed to self-motivating and driving productivity in a new setting.

Home is where you rest. It’s where you relax. It’s where you spend time with family. Your mind and body are trained to act a certain way when at home. Throw work into the mix and no matter how productive you are in the office, you can find yourself suddenly unable to focus nearly as well, overcome with distractions you didn’t even realize were there.

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It doesn’t have to be that way, though. By installing new habits specific to how and where you work while home, you can be as productive as you would be in the office — if not more so.

Set A Clearly Defined Start Time On Your Calendar

How long does it take when you get to the office to start working? What does that transition look like? Most of us have trained ourselves to almost instantly shift into work mode when we walk in the door. There is a very stark transition from home to commute to the office and those lines make it easy to shift gears.

It’s a lot harder to shift like this when you never actually leave the house. So, this transition needs to be simulated. To do so, use a calendar. Set a clear start time and know that when that time arrives, you are “at work.”

If this remains difficult, go for a walk or visit a coffee shop just before work starts to simulate that gear change and prepare your mind for the work day.

Build An Office Space That Is Unique Within Your Home

Dedicated space is a must. Whether you work at home once a week or are a freelance consultant home every day except for meetings, you need a space that’s only for work.

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This does two things. Not only does it provide a private space where you can be productive with minimal distractions; it also physically separates you from the space in your home in which you relax. While you may technically only need a warm seat and a laptop to get things done, it’s much harder to be productive when sitting on the couch where you typically unwind at the end of the day.

Maintain A Lunch And Break Schedule

Much like a start time, your body is trained to follow a certain rhythm each day. Work for several hours, go for lunch, work for a couple more hours, take a break.

Maintain this schedule as much as you can. Sure there will be days on which deadlines overlap or calls push back a normal lunch time, and it can feel weird to take a “break” and walk 10 feet to your kitchen, but the familiarity of it will help you stay in that work mindset.

Build In Emergency Breaks To Avoid Distractions

Home is full of distractions: family, pets, TV, books, video games. You name it and there’s something on a shelf across the room from you begging to steal your attention.

Create a system in which you have a response when this happens. A Pomodoro timer is highly recommended as it will force you to stay focused for 25 minutes at a time in short bursts of productivity. Sure, you can get to that next Game of Thrones chapter, but only after you’ve completed one more short work session.

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By creating a habit of focus and measured breaks, you can avoid falling down the rabbit hole of distractions that your own possessions can create.

Use Dark Periods To Stay Focused

One of the great benefits of working from home is that it’s much easier to go dark. In the office, you can turn off your WiFi, but if your boss really needs your attention, they can just walk over and tap on your desk.

At home, unplugging really means privacy, and that privacy can lead to your most productive hours of the week. If you work for yourself, this is even more important. It allows you to focus on large tasks in spurts of 1-2 hours during which nothing can distract you.

Set A Clear Stop Time

We’ve talked about start times and we’ve talked about break times, so of course we need to touch on when to stop.

When I started working from home less than a year after graduating from college, I worked for upwards of 12 hours of day. To be more accurate, I sat in front of a computer for more than 12 hours a day. A large chunk of that time was spent surfing eBay, watching music videos, and playing video games. I was a procrastinator, because I knew I could be.

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Parkinson’s Law says that when given a set period of time to complete a task, we will fill that time. Imagine what happens when the time given is infinite? You never quite finish.

So create deadlines for yourself. It might be different every day, but set a clear cutoff time in your schedule when you plan to be done for the day. Whether this is 5 pm or you opt to take advantage of your newfound productivity and clock out an hour early, mark it on your calendar and build your daily to-do list around it.

Identify Work Triggers And Surround Yourself With Them

Work isn’t something we “just do.” It’s a state of mind we must create and maintain to remain productive. It’s not like you’re a paragon of productivity in the office either. Facebook is just as distracting. Friends are just as likely to drag you out for coffee.

The difference is that there is a certain social pressure to be productive. Everyone can see you, your deadlines are more visible, and an inefficient day means a long night.

The goal of working at home is to be less stressed, not more, but consider bringing home a handful of triggers that will help to put you into work mode and keep you there.

Notebooks from the office, a coffee mug from the company, even a toy with the company’s logo on it — these will all remind you what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It seems small, but with the right nudge, you can more effectively stay in work mode even when the entire world seems to conspire against you.

Featured photo credit: picjumbo.com via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on July 29, 2020

19 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

19 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

Whether you use your Mac for work or just for your personal projects, you’ve likely found yourself wondering how to improve your productivity. There are only so many hours in a day, and so much mental stamina you can muster before you run out.

There are dozens of tricks you can use to improve your own productivity and outlook, but if you’re looking for a more objective, comprehensive fix, the best thing to do is equip your Mac with productivity apps designed to help you do more in less time.

This Lifehack-exclusive list has some of the best productivity apps to help you feel less tired, improve your energy, and ultimately help you get more done every day:

1. Todoist

    Available for all iOS devices, Todoist is a note-taking and organization app that can keep you on top of all your projects—both personal and professional.

    Its best features are all free to use, including browser extensions, task creation, and interactive boards you can use to organize all your notes.

    If you want to pay the optional $29 yearly fee, you can get even more advanced features like backups and automatic reminders. Even with the free version, you’ll stay far more organized.

    Download: Todoist

    2. 1Password

      You may not realize it, but you probably spend a ton of time recalling your passwords, especially if and when you forget one to an app you use on a regular basis.

      1Password is an app for Mac that saves and remembers all your passwords for you in one place, so you can access all your favorite sites with a single click.

      You’ll save time and keep all your accounts secure simultaneously. A personal plan is $2.99 per month.

      Download: 1Password

      3. Bear

        Bear is a unique kind of note-taking app designed to make it easier for Mac users to jot down notes on the go. With it, you can create to-do lists, give yourself reminders, and outline concepts for future brainstorming sessions.

        It comes with many different inline styles so you can customize your notes to your personal preferences, and remember the context in which you wrote them. The core version is free, with a $14.99 per year version available as well.

        Download: Bear

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        4. Hazel

          Hazel by noodlesoft is an automated organization tool designed for Mac that will help you automatically organize your files based on any custom rules you want to create.

          For example, you can set it to move untouched items from one folder into another folder labeled “action items” if they haven’t been addressed within a week. It can save you hours of organization over the course of a few weeks. A single license is a flat $32.

          Download: noodlesoft

          5. Alfred

            Alfred is an all-in-one app designed to save you time with Mac shortcuts and convenient custom actions. You can use it in a variety of ways.

            For example, you can access Alfred’s clipboard memory so you don’t copy and paste the same material over and over, or set up custom workflows to automate some of your most repetitive tasks.

            It’s a paid app, with multiple price points based on the features you desire.

            Download: Alfred

            6. TextExpander

              TextExpander does exactly what the name suggests; it allows you to type a short snippet of text, and expand that text automatically.

              For example, you can create a custom expansion that allows you to conjure a full paragraph you type repeatedly by simply typing a unique abbreviation. Once you get used to your custom combinations, you’ll spare your fingers from typing thousands of words.

              An individual account is $3.33 per month.

              Download: TextExpander

              7. Backblaze

                If you’ve ever experienced a crash, or theft of your Mac, you know how much time a system restore can cost you. You’ll spend hours replacing the files you lost, and lose thousands of files that are irreplaceable.

                Backblaze is an automated, inexpensive way to back up your entire Mac for just $5 a month.

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                Download: Backblaze

                8. Keyboard Maestro

                  Keyboard Maestro is an older app that still has the power to make your life easier. With it, you can automate any number of tasks based on a certain trigger (such as a hotkey combination, or an event like connecting to a wireless network). A single license only costs $36.

                  Download: Keyboard Maestro

                  9. Snagit

                    There are many applications for a good screen-capture app, whether you’re trying to illustrate a tech problem you have or just want to make an interesting meme. Snagit makes it easy, with built-in editing for both still images and video. A single license covers two machines, and costs $49.95.

                    Download: TechSmith/Snagit

                    10. Bartender

                      Bartender is the cleverly-named app that helps you clean up and organize all your menu bar icons. You can also access them quickly with keyboard shortcuts.

                      If you’re like most Mac users, those icons get cluttered quickly and stop you from working efficiently. It’s free to try for 4 weeks, after which you’ll need a $15 license.

                      Download: Bartender

                      11. Otter

                      Otter is the Mac app for the note taker who hates typing. It’s an intelligent voice-recognition system and note-taking app that will help you transcribe your conversations, keep notes during meetings, and even take contextual notes to yourself in your own time.

                      Best of all, it’s free to get started!

                      Download: Otter

                      12. Flux

                        Do you often find yourself feeling tired throughout the day, or feeling unable to get to sleep after a day of staring at your computer? That could be because of the unnatural blue light that radiates from your Mac.

                        Flux naturally adapts your display to emit light that matches the time of day, so you can sleep better and feel less tired. It’s also free!

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                        Download: Flux

                        13. PDFpen

                        If you deal with PDFs on a regular basis, you probably find yourself wishing for some kind of tool that can let you mark up those PDFs however you want. Without a dedicated app like PDFpen, this can be difficult.

                        PDFpen lets you edit PDFs in almost any conceivable way, giving you more power and saving you time. A single license is $74.95.

                        Download: Smile Software/PDFpen

                        14. OmniFocus

                          OmniFocus is all about task management. It has a clean interface that allows you to tag your tasks, schedule events, and even automate certain features.

                          It’s one of the most comprehensive solutions on the market, so there’s a bit of a learning curve to get the most out of it.

                          A standard license is $39.99, while the pro version is $79.99.

                          Download: OmniFocus

                          15. Franz

                            It’s tiring to switch between dozens of different chat programs like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and WhatsApp, whenever you want to have a conversation with a different contact.

                            Franz’s solution is simple; offer access to all these apps in one convenient package. And best of all, it’s completely open source.

                            Download: Franz

                            16. MindNode

                              If you’re the brainstorming type, you need an app like MindNode to help you efficiently organize your thoughts. There are dozens of tools you can use to connect ideas in a mind map, or simply jot down notes for future reference.

                              The core app is free, with in-app purchases available.

                              Download: MindNode

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                              17. Focus

                                The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can be awfully distracting. And if you’re like the majority of us, you’ve interrupted work on a project because of some attention-grabbing site or bad online habit. That’s where Focus comes in.

                                This app allows you to block the worst offenders with custom time limits and other constraints, so you can focus on the task at hand. A single license is $19.99.

                                Download: Focus

                                18. CleanMyMac

                                  Chances are, your Mac isn’t working as fast as it could, thanks to gigabytes of clutter and unnecessary files on your system. CleanMyMac helps you scan your Mac, monitor its health, and ultimately clean it up—so you can handle all your tasks that extra bit faster. A single license is $39.95.

                                  Download: CleanMyMac

                                  19. Grammarly

                                    A spelling error or grammatical mistake can cost you big time. It could be the source of a worse grade on a big paper, or compromise your credibility in the workplace. Thankfully, Grammarly can help you.

                                    This Mac-integrated writing assistant monitors all your writing and makes live corrections, so you’re alerted to your potential mistakes before they become permanent.

                                    A free version exists, but the premium version will cost you between $11 and $30 a month, depending on how you pay.

                                    Download: Grammarly

                                    The Bottom Line

                                    These productivity apps should help you squeeze more productive hours out of every day, but they aren’t the only tools you’ll have to help you find success.

                                    Make the time to learn about and experiment with all the life hacks that can make you more productive. By improving your devices as well as your outlook and focus, you’ll be able to get far more done in a day, and feel better doing it.

                                    More to Boost Productivity

                                    Featured photo credit: Patrick Ward via unsplash.com

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