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10 Hacks to Improve Your Home Office Productivity

10 Hacks to Improve Your Home Office Productivity

    If you work from home, the central part of your work life is the home office. For some, that means the kitchen table, but most of us assign a specific room to be the base of operations and (try to) do our work from there each day.

    Given that we must take into consideration strategy before tactics, it stands to reason that we should make it a room we enjoy being in, and furthermore, a room that gets us in a productive mood, and by considering these things provide a strategic framework to the hacks we can apply in the office.

    What puts you in a productive mood?

    That’s a central question to defining your workspace. Perhaps being reminded of your goals – the reason you do this work each day – is enough to get you going, so find a way to remind yourself of those goals at the start of, and throughout, each day. Perhaps bare minimalism puts you in the right mindset, so chuck all the pens and pads on your desk in a cupboard and take the browser shortcuts off your desktop (or out of the Dock). WriteRoom, anyone?

    If you can’t identify the things that trigger a productive mood for you, then you’ll have a tough time improving your workspace on anything more than a cosmetic level. Spend some time on this, and get it right! Here are some hacks that work for me.

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      1. Get some good tunes going. Get some high-quality speakers attached to your computer and have specific playlists prepared for different kinds of work and concentration levels. It’s been said that listening to music while working and studying gives you a boost in productivity, creativity and memory retention. I know this works for me!

      If you need to chew away at some menial work, like changing the font tags in a 500-page website where the previous designer was kind enough not to use a CSS stylesheet, play something upbeat. If you need to brainstorm and be creative, use relaxing music. Your preferences for different kinds of work will be different to mine, and you may even find that music distracts more than it helps.

      And remember to pay for music, unless the creator is giving it away (in which case just grab it all while you can)!

      2. Keep a distraction around, but out of the way. It’s important to have distractions around. When you take a break, doing something just for fun can help you wipe your mental RAM and begin afresh when you return to work. But remember: keep them out of reach and out of sight while you work, because you may end up spending more time distracted and playing than actually working. If you find you spend a lot of time in the office but not much time working, it may be because your distractions are out in the open where you’re tempted to easily. Hide them, or develop some serious self-discipline.

      It may be a game of Minesweeper or Counter-Strike on your computer or a guitar in the corner – whatever you find enjoyable, and can be enjoyed in a relatively short amount of time. Though if you make your money as a gamer or a musician, you might want to find some other examples!

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      3. Never be without a way to quickly catch an idea. Many times, I’ve had a sudden idea and by the time I could get Google Docs or TextEdit open, the idea was completely gone (until I upgraded my RAM!). Always make sure that if you have an idea, you can get it down immediately. Not within twenty seconds. Straight away. The home office is where you’re most likely to get in the head-space of your work and produce new ideas, so not having an immediately accessible idea receptacle is utter foolishness.

      Same principle applies if you’re on the phone and need to take a note – there’s a reason every PDA has a phone notes template!

        4. Use your workspace to hack your brain into focusing. What’s the first thing you do when you sit down to write? Open Skype and your feed reader? Go browsing or using StumbleUpon? Then you need to hack your brain into focusing.

        I’d normally recommend doing email at the start of the day, but you’re the kind of person who should do email at the end of day and only ever at the end of the day.

        Aside from setting boundaries and a firm daily routine, you can apply hacks to force yourself into focusing. For instance, if you’re a Mac user, you can remove Word from the Dock and replace it with WriteRoom; in order to quickly get into a writing program, you’ll have to open the one program that forces you to do nothing but write.

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        5. Get a plant. Plants are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they convert the nasty gases you create throughout the day (yeah, I’m looking at you) into the much more pleasant oxygen variety. Personally, I don’t keep one in the office because there are plants right outside my office window, which I’m looking at all day (it’s right behind my monitor), so if your office is next to a garden or a few trees keeping the blinds open is a cheap and effective alternative.

        6. Lighting and color. Yeah, that stuff your graphic designer friends like to rabbit on about all day. I’ve read that the color of walls in a room can influence your mood and some even cause more stress and arguments in a relationship (yellow being one). I spent two months living in a room with orange freakin’ walls once and wanted to shoot my head off. Stressful.

        If your office walls have been painted with an aggravating color, re-paint it. If yours does nothing for you either way, find a color that puts you in a relaxed, productive mood and paint it. One room ain’t that expensive. If you rent, ask first!

        A good home office allows plenty of natural light in, without glaring up your computer screen (you’re going to be looking at it all day; no sense in having to spend the day squinting). Consider how you can arrange your office to get the most natural light on your workspace without getting it directly on your screen.

        7. Declutter. Even if you are anti-minimalist, you should declutter. You can still keep plenty of stuff around – we’re defining clutter here as distracting material, including mess. Nothing is worse for your mental state than living and operating in a mess. Expect lethargy and crankiness and a particular level of apathy towards your state of affairs.

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        Anything you don’t use on a daily basis should be put away, and anything you don’t use should be thrown straight in the bin.

        That said, if you’re not averse to minimalism, then you should take decluttering to the extreme and keep only the bare essentials around your workspace.

        8. Get the hell out of there! You can improve your home office by leaving it once in a while! Go to Starbucks or some other ridiculously over-priced but low-quality establishment (McDonalds comes to mind). Do some work there. You’ll either benefit from getting out of the house for the first time this week, or you’ll find the whiny gossiping and crappy Top 40 music so infuriating you’ll come to love and adore the office that much more.

        I don’t give advice I don’t take myself, but point 8 is probably something I should work on doing more often.

        9. Get ergonomic input peripherals. This is seriously one of the best things I’ve done in my home office, and sometimes I don’t realize how fantastic ergonomic peripherals are until I’m without them. Regular readers will probably have noticed the amount of stuff I’ve broken lately and subsequently written about here (such as my recent article on detecting hard drive failure before it occurs), and yes, I’ve done it again. My precious Natural Ergonomic 4000 was attacked by coffee and died quite an unnatural death. So, during this time of loss, I can quite honestly say that the best thing I’ve ever done for my office was drop absurd amounts of cash I didn’t really have on a keyboard and mouse that does not destroy my wrists.

        10. Do whatever the hell makes you happy. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules; they’re just hacks for productivity that worked for me. If they don’t work for you, that’s fine – experiment until you find what works for you. The important thing is that you’re happy, relaxed and motivated in your workspace, and that you never stop trying to make it better, because it’ll never really be a 100% optimal place to work. If you need to tell all the rules to get bent, good for you.

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        Joel Falconer

        Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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        Last Updated on December 10, 2019

        How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

        How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

        It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

        So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to stay motivated and get what you want:

        1. Find Your Good Reasons

        Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

        You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

        If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

        Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

        Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

        • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
        • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
        • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
        • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

        2. Make It Fun

        When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

        Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

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        Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

        They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

        Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

        A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

        • How can I enjoy this task?
        • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
        • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

        As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

        Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

        However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

        3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

        When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

        You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

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        That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

        If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

        Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

        My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

        4. Recognize Your Progress

        Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

        We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

        Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

        Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

        For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

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        You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

        Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

        For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

        5. Reward Yourself

        This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

        Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

        Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

        For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

        For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

        For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

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        Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

        The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

        Mix and Match

        Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

        Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right way. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

        Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

        Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

        More to Boost Your Motivation

        Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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