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Published on March 18, 2020

How to Be Productive When You Work from Home

How to Be Productive When You Work from Home

If your job doesn’t allow you to work remotely, it may soon. With that privilege comes a responsibility: you have to be productive when you work from home.

Remote work is coming to companies across the country. A study by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics[1] showed a sharp upward trend in the number of Americans working from home. Between 2005 and 2017, remote work grew by 159%.

The comfortable, quiet environment of your home can make remote work challenging. Staying productive while you’re working from home is a matter of spotting and stopping distractions before they hurt your output.

Productivity Barriers at Home

Even if you have a home office, all sorts of distractions can make it hard to stay productive when you work from home. Common ones include:

Digital Devices

Your phone buzzes: surely, you think, you only need a minute to check out that Facebook notification. Without even realizing it, you get sucked into social media for the next half an hour.

When you work from home, it’s all too easy to fall down a digital rabbit hole. Your computer can access any gaming, social media, or entertainment site you so choose. On your television are daytime shows you can’t typically watch while you’re at work. These can all be tantalizing distractions when you’re working from home.

Children and Pets

Do you have pets? Does your husband or wife work different hours than you do? Are your kids still too young for school, or are they on break?

Unless you live by yourself, you have to learn how to be productive while working when others are at home. Even if you ask them to avoid bothering you, they’re still going to move about the house in ways that may distract you.

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Lack of Accountability

When you’re working remotely, there’s nobody looking over your shoulder to make sure that you get your work done. Staying productive while working from home is a matter of sticking to the task at hand.

One way or another, you have to hold yourself accountable. Different productivity hacks[2] work for different people. Some people dress for work even when they’re working from home. Others use the Pomodoro technique, and still others drown everything else out with music.

Household Chores

If you’re a “Type A” person, you know how distracting a sink full of dishes can be. Even a dirty carpet can be difficult to walk across without hauling out the vacuum cleaner.

If you struggle to be productive when working from a dirty home, set aside time before or after your working hours for chores. Getting a few chores done before the workday begins can make the mess feel less overwhelming. Doing them immediately after you shut your computer for the day can be a great chance to de-stress.

Whatever the Work, Productivity Is Key

When you have a boss to report to, staying productive at home is tough enough. But how are you supposed to be productive when you work at home in other ways? What if you’re a homemaker, or simply someone with an at-home hobby?

Even if you don’t work a traditional job, you have to learn how to be productive when you work from home.

Stay-at-home parents, for example, have more on their plate than you might think. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey [3] shows that the average stay-at-home mother spends 30 hours per week on housework and another 18 on childcare.

Staying productive when doing any sort of work from home lets you take more time for yourself with leisure time or simply educating yourself.

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How to Create a Focus-Friendly Home Workspace

Creating a home workspace where you can focus isn’t hard, but it does take some amount of self-control.

1. Leave Non-Necessary Tech at the Door

If you work from home, you likely do so from your computer. Aside from the tools you need to do your job, it’s important to minimize the amount of tech in your workspace.

Don’t just put your phone on silent or turn it off; put it out of the room altogether. Do the same with your television. And don’t even think of leaving a gaming console in your workspace.

2. Get Comfortable — But Not Too Comfortable

Your work environment has a lot to do with how productive you are when you work from home. Create a space for yourself where you feel relaxed but energized. Whether you have a dedicated home office or not, try to do the following things.

Use Bright But Not Harsh Lighting

Shutting yourself in a cave won’t help you be productive when you work from home. A dim workspace can cause sluggishness and eye strain, especially if you need to read physical documents.

To maximize your productivity, make sure your environment is bright. Choose a space with lots of natural light. Augment it with warm light from an overhead light or desk lamp.

Beware, though, that too much light can also cause eye strain. If you start to experience headaches, blurry vision, eye irritation, or pain in your neck, try drawing the blinds or moving your lamp a little further away.

Choose Firm and Supportive Furniture

Yes, it feels good to sprawl out on the couch or lay in bed, but if your goal is to be productive when you work from home, it’s important to sit at a desk or table.

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The furniture in your home workspace should be firm and supportive. Your chair should encourage you to sit up straight. Your desk should have plenty of space for your computer and other necessary tools. Keep only one chair in the room to discourage visitors.

Close the Door

A closed door signals that the person in the room does not want to be disturbed. It also dampens noise and prevents you from seeing distractions, such as the television or dirty dishes in the sink.

Creating a bubble for yourself is key. If your office doesn’t have a door you can shut, can you don noise-cancelling headphones and hang a curtain? As best you can, keep visual and auditory distractions out.

Maximize Connectivity

Assuming you work from home via your computer, you need access to two things: electricity and internet.

Place your desk near a power outlet. If you need access to more plugs than are available, get a power strip.

Think, too, about the strength of your Wi-Fi connection: even if you pay for high-speed internet, you won’t get those speeds if the wireless connection is weak. Either move your router closer, or move your desk closer to your router.

Keep It Clean

A messy workspace can feel chaotic. Minimizing messes boosts productivity when working from home, not just because it means less time spent picking up, but because it promotes focus.

Take a moment before you begin work to pick up your office. Once a week, do a deep clean: dust, wipe down your workspace, sweep the floor, and take out the trash.

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Think About Air Quality

When you work from the same space all day, you’ll start to notice that the air quality affects your productivity. Dry, dusty air can irritate your respiratory tract. Overly humid air can promote mold and bacterial growth.

If the weather allows, open a window. If not, get an air purifier. Be sure to change the filters regularly. Depending on the climate where you live, you might find you need a dehumidifier in the summer and a humidifier in the winter.

3. Set Expectations for Others at Home

Many people who aren’t used to working from home don’t understand just how much of an issue everyday interruptions can be.

Explain to your children and spouse that you need to be just as productive when you work from home as you do at the office. Tell them where you’ll be working and what your core, no-distractions-allowed hours are.

If you have young kids, either get a babysitter or keep them occupied with things like coloring books. If pets won’t stop bothering you, put them in a room with their food, water, and litter. Consider hanging a “do not disturb” sign on your door if others at home repeatedly drop in.

4. Keep a Stress Relief Source Nearby

One advantage of working from home is that you have access to all the stress-relief tools you would after a long day at the office. Take advantage of them.

A cup of chamomile tea can do wonders if you’re feeling restless. Easing anxiety is one of the key benefits of CBD oil.[4] Placing an exercise mat by your desk can encourage you to fight stress with a set of pushups.

One stress reliever to avoid? Alcohol. Although it’s true that a beer can help you relax momentarily, alcohol can actually induce anxiety [5] due to rebound effects.

Final Thoughts

Staying productive while you work from home is hard. As with anything else, practice makes perfect: remind your boss of that, and he or she might let you do it more often.

More Tips on Working From Home

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

Reference

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John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

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Last Updated on September 22, 2020

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

You have probably heard the success stories about people who wake up early. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, and Olympic medalist Caroline Burckle all talk about the positive impact of waking up early on their lives.

Even though many assign a portion of their success to waking up early, many find it difficult to make the switch. While most people know what needs to happen to change their life, they find then difficult to implement consistently. To understand how to wake up early, you need to tap into the wisdom of those already doing it.

Here are the 6 things early risers do:

1. Stop Procrastinating

The first thing you need to do when you want to learn how to wake up early is to go to sleep earlier. Stop procrastinating. You will find it much easier to wake up when you are getting the proper amount of sleep. Set a bedtime that allows you to get 8-hours of sleep and hold yourself accountable.

The problem most of you will have at first is how tired you will feel. If you are someone who goes to sleep after midnight, waking up by 6 a.m. will not be easy. The reason you need to push through that initial difficulty is that you are going to be very tired at the end of the day. Realistically, you probably would fall asleep at your desk or doze off on your lunch break. Either way, waking up early no matter how you feel will motivate you to go sleep at the proper time that night.

Think of it as someone who procrastinated until the night before their project was due. Having done this myself, you do what you need to do to complete the project, whether that means working all night or cutting some corners because you don’t have time to triple-check your work.

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After you turn in your project, you feel both exhaustion and jubilation. After you make it through the workday and crash at home, you promise yourself you’ll never wait until the last minute again. This same feeling will happen when you force yourself to wake up early no matter what time you went to sleep. You are going to promise yourself you will go to bed at the right time.

Most people don’t go to bed when they should because they know they will ultimately make it up in the morning.

2. Pace Yourself

If you want to start waking up a couple of hours earlier each day, you may not be able to make that change all at once. It stands to reason the more drastic the shift, the more difficult it will be.

So, instead of trying to adjust your sleep pattern by several hours, start in 15-minute or 30-minute intervals.[1] If you wake up 30 minutes earlier each week, you will be a morning person by the end of the month. This may feel like you are drawing out your goal but in reality, you are accomplishing it much quicker than most. Most people who are naturally night owls find it difficult to completely change their sleep habits overnight.

Think of it as someone who is trying to quit drinking coffee. Outside of the fact you may enjoy the taste of coffee, your body is used to operating with a certain amount of caffeine and sugar. Some will be able to quit overnight and their body will adjust accordingly. And if you are one of those people, then do what works for you.

However, if you were to take an incremental approach, then you may first start drinking your coffee black. Then, you could switch to decaf before slowly lowering the amount of coffee you drink each day. As you can see, this approach will help minimize the feeling of withdrawal while getting the results you want.

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3. Watch Your Lighting

Light reduces your body’s production of the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone. In practical terms, your body naturally wants to be awake when the sun is up and go to sleep when the sun is down. This is called your circadian rhythm.

In the technology-driven world we currently live in, you likely look at a screen or two before bed. Studies show television and phone screens trick your body into thinking the sun is up. As a result, your body starts producing less melatonin. To help you fall asleep, you should stop looking at screens at least an hour before bed.

This can also mean that if you want to wake up before the sun, looking at your screen when you wake up can help you to stay awake.

Peter Balyta, the President of Education Technology for Texas Instruments says he wakes up at 5:20 a.m. and scans his emails before starting his day. This is also true for M.I.T. president L. Rafael Rief. He wakes up around 5 or 5:30 a.m. and checks his phone for anything urgent.[2]

4. Make It Worth Your Time

Have you ever woken up early but went back to sleep because you didn’t have a reason to stay up? To put it another way, have you ever fallen asleep because you didn’t have anything better to do?

If you want to be excited about going to sleep and waking up early, then you need to give yourself a reason to be excited. You can accomplish this by listing the three things you want to accomplish the next morning. Notice I said “want” and not “need” to accomplish. You don’t want to be dragging yourself into the next morning kicking and screaming.

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Your list should not only include what you want to accomplish but also why you want to accomplish it. If you want to take it a step further, list the consequences of not waking up early.

People who have figured out how to wake up early are shown to be more successful, persistent, and proactive in their life. They tend to be happier and handle stress better. It is also shown that people who wake up early procrastinate less.[3] If you find any of these benefits something you want to add in your life, then waking up early is shown to help.

5. Avoid Binging

There is a difference between sleeping and getting a good night’s sleep. Sure, you can drink alcohol and fall asleep, but you will not be getting quality rest. You will wake up feeling as though you slept for only a couple hours.

It is best to stop drinking at least 4 hours before bedtime. Binge drinking is known to impact your sleep-inducing melatonin hormone levels for up to a week. The same holds true with eating a large meal right before bed. It is not that your body can’t process food and sleep at the same time. The main concern has more to do with the possibility of indigestion or heartburn than anything else.

If you find yourself dealing with either of these symptoms, then you may want to stop eating at least two hours before bed.

6. Get the Blood Flowing

Those who have mastered the technique of how to wake up early tend to start each morning with movement.

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Your first movement is to get out of bed. To help you get out of bed, have your alarm far enough away that you need to get up and turn it off. Before you allow yourself to contemplate going back to sleep, take a moment, and do 10 push-ups or 10 jumping jacks. Think of each exercise as you taking one step further from being able to go back to sleep.

Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments wakes up at 4 a.m. each morning. She starts each day by exercising. Her exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and cycling.

You decide for yourself how you want to get your blood flowing. Whether you want to go on a walk, workout at the gym, or do something at home, make sure you are scheduling time to exercise.

Final Thoughts

The key to understanding how to wake up early is to recognize that it is heavily driven by the actions you take the night before. You will wake up early if you go to bed at a good time and get the proper amount of sleep.

By taking the time to prepare yourself both mentally and physically each night, you can ensure you are positioned for success the next morning. Once you have taken the proper actions the night before, make sure you use that momentum to start your day, on time.

The goal is to make the actions you want to take as easy as possible. The key to changing your life is to discover a way to have the wind at your back, going in the direction you want.

More Tips on How to Wake up Early

Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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