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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.

        Mastering the Art of Prioritization The Importance of Scheduling Downtime How to Make Decisions Under Pressure 11 Free Mind Mapping Applications & Web Services How to Use Parkinson’s Law to Your Advantage

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        Last Updated on June 20, 2019

        50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time

        50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time

        Most people want a few more dollars in their wallets. But between an employer and family, the time most of us can devote to a second job is severely limited. Running a small side business can provide a few more options: you don’t have to show up at a set time and you can use skills you already have. Not all will be perfect for everyone, of course, and I’m sure that you’ll have a few ideas of your own after reading this list. If you’d like to share any other business ideas, please add them in the comments.

        1. Selling collectibles — From antique books to teddy bears, there are plenty of opportunities to buy and sell collectibles. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the collectible of your choice but if you choose something that you’ve been collecting for a while, you’ve got a head start.
        2. Locating apartments — It can take time to sort through apartment listings, but you can make some money by finding the perfect apartment for a renter.
        3. Baby proofing — New parents often prefer to bring in an expert to make sure their home is safe for a new baby.
        4. Calligraphic writing — If you’ve got elegant handwriting, you can pick up gigs writing or addressing wedding invitations, holiday cards and more.
        5. Selling coupons — Search on eBay for coupons right now and you’ll see thousands of listings for coupons. It’s just a matter of clipping and listing what you find in your Sunday newspaper.
        6. Pet training — A surprising number of people don’t know where to start in training a pet. Even teaching Rover simple commands like ‘Sit’ and ‘Stay’ can bring in a few dollars.
        7. Running errands — A wide variety of people want to outsource their errands, from those folks who aren’t able to leave their homes easily to those who have a busy schedule.
        8. Researching family trees — Amateur genealogists often call in experts, especially to handle research that has to be done in person in a far off place. If you’re willing to go to a local church and copy a few records, you can handle many family tree research requests.
        9. Supplying firewood — The prerequisite for selling firewood is having a source of wood; if you’ve got some land where you can cut down a few trees, you’ve got a head start.
        10. Hauling — As more people trade in their SUVs for compact cars, hauling is becoming more important: people have to rent a truck or hire a hauler for even small loads.
        11. Image consulting — Image consultants provide a wide variety of services, ranging from offering advice on appearance to teaching etiquette.
        12. Menu planning — For many people, the trip up in eating home-cooked or healthy meals is knowing what to prepare. Meal planners set a schedule to solve certain dietary problems.
        13. Microfarming — Cultivating food and flowers on small plots of land allows you to sell produce easily.
        14. Offering notary public services — Notary publics can witness and authenticate documents: a service needed for all sorts of official documents.
        15. Teaching music — If you’re skilled with a musical instrument, you can earn money by offering lessons.
        16. Mystery shopping — Mystery shoppers check the conditions and service at a store and report back to the store’s higher-ups.
        17. Offering research services — Just by reading up on a topic and compiling a report on it can earn you money.
        18. Personal shopping — Personal shoppers typically select gifts, apparel and other products for clients, helping them save time.
        19. Pet breeding — Purebred pets can be quite value, especially if you can verify their pedigree.
        20. Removing snow — During the winter months, shoveling walks can still be a reliable way to earn money. You might be asked to take care of the driveway too.
        21. Utility auditing — As people become environmentally-concious, they want to know just how efficient their homes are. With some simple testing, you can tell them.
        22. Offering web hosting services — Providing server space can be lucrative, particularly if you can provide tech support to your clients.
        23. Cutting lawns — An old standby, cutting lawns and other landscaping services can provide a second income in the summer.
        24. Auctioning items on eBay — Want to get rid of all your old stuff? Stick it up on eBay and auction it off.
        25. Babysitting — Child care of all kinds, from babysitting to nannying, can offer constant opportunities.
        26. Freelance writing — If you’ve got the skills to write clearly, you can sell your pen for everything from blogs to advertising copy.
        27. Selling blog and website themes — Do a little designing on the side? Customers that don’t want to pay full price for a website will often pay for a template or theme.
        28. Offering computer help — Particularly with people new to computers, you can earn money by providing in-home computer help.
        29. Designing websites — It may require a little skilled effort, but designing websites remains a reliable source of income.
        30. Selling stock photography — For shutterbugs, an easy way to put a photography collection to work is to post it to a stock photography site.
        31. Freelance designing — Check with local businesses: you can provide brochures, business cards and other design work and get paid a good fee.
        32. Tutoring — Math and languages reamin the easiest subjects to find tutoring gigs for, but there is demand for other fields as well.
        33. Housesitting / petsitting — Stopping in to check on a house or pet can earn you some money, and maybe even a place to stay.
        34. Building niche websites — If you can put together a site on a very specific topic, you can put targeted ads on it and make money quickly.
        35. Translating — The variety of translating work available is huge: written word, on the spot and more is easy to find even on a part-time basis.
        36. Creating custom crafts — No matter what kind of crafts you make, there’s likely a market for it. Etsy remains one of the easiest places to sell crafts.
        37. Setting up a wi-fi hotspot — With a little bit of equipment, you can set up a wi-fi hotspot and charge your neighbors for the access they’ve been ‘borrowing.’
        38. Selling an e-book — You can write an e-book about almost anything and put it up for sale online.
        39. Affiliate marketing — If you’re willing to market other companies’ products, you can earn a cut of the sales.
        40. Renting out your spare room — From looking for a long-term roommate to listing your guest room on couch surfing sites, that spare room can make you money.
        41. Offering handy man services — Handling small household tasks can provide you with plenty of work, although you’ll probably be expected to have your own tools.
        42. Teaching an online class — Share your expertise through a website, an online seminar or variety of other methods.
        43. Building furniture — For those with the skill to create handmade furniture, selling their creations is often just a matter of advertising.
        44. Providing personal chef services — Personal chefs prepare meals ahead of time for customers, leaving their customers with a full freezer and no mess.
        45. Event planning — From planning corporate events to bar mitzvahs, an event planning business can require plenty of work and offer plenty of pay.
        46. Installing home safety products — Particularly as Baby Boomers age, people able to install handrails and other home safety products are in demand.
        47. Altering / tailoring — If your sewing skills are up to par, altering garments is coming back as people try to stretch more wear out of their clothing.
        48. Offering in-home beauty services — Hair cuts, makeup and other beauty services that can be performed at home have a growing demand.
        49. Business coaching — Helping others to establish and develop their businesses can provide many opportunities to earn money.
        50. Writing resumes — Writing resumes can provide a reliable income, especially if you can put a polish on a client’s credentials.

        There are plenty of offers that claim to provide you with the opportunity to make thousands of dollars a week. Unfortunately, none of these businesses will provide that sort of income, but they aren’t scams either. They were chosen because they all require a minimum investment to get started — some require nothing more than a flyer advertising your business. Even better, if you do enjoy any of these businesses, there is a potential with most of them to continue to expand — perhaps even to the point of going full time.

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        Featured photo credit: Omar Prestwich via unsplash.com

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