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Last Updated on February 17, 2021

How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

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How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

From tutors to translators, virtual assistants to copywriters, more and more jobs are calling for remote workers and becoming home-based. While that may be a dream for some, switching from a structured office environment to the comfort of your own home can be challenging in surprising ways. Learning how to work from home is important if you want to be efficient and effective at your job, so we’ll start you off with some great working from home tips. 

At home there are many distractions, less accountability, and less communication than when you’re working in the office. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still be productive. There are lots of ways to keep yourself working productively from any location.

Whether you work from home every day, a couple of times per week, or even if you’re just working from home while you recover from an illness, these tips can help you to get the most out of your remote work hours.

1. Keep Regular Work Hours

When learning how to work from home full time or part time, one of the most important and basic things you can do is to create a regular schedule for yourself. It’s tempting to give yourself total flexibility as to when you get started, take breaks, and call it a day.

However, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t keep your schedule consistent. Setting yourself regular hours keeps you accountable to yourself and to your boss. It makes you more likely to get all your work done, and it makes it easier for people to get in touch with you[1].

Here are the important factors to consider when you’re setting an at-home work schedule:

  • When your boss needs you to be available
  • Communication with your coworkers and customers
  • Time of day when you are most productive

This doesn’t mean that you need to work 9-5 every day. You should work when you’re most productive. However, it’s a good idea to find out when your boss really needs you to be at work. For example, it will be important to know when any conference calls are planned so you can fit that into your day.

For example, many employees work on checking emails each morning, or they need to be available by phone in the afternoons. Other than that, choose times when you’re likely to get the most work done. Communicate those hours of availability to anyone that might need to get in touch with you, and you’ll be on your way to productive, consistent work days.

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2. Separate Work Time and Personal Time

Just as it’s important to work when you say you will, it’s important to give yourself time for home life when you need it. Don’t extend the work day too far beyond what you planned, at the risk of burning yourself out.

One of the most important working from home tips is to keep your work life and personal life compartmentalized as it helps you stay productive while you’re at work, and it reduces stress when you aren’t. In the same way that you set your work hours, schedule, communicate, and plan when you will not be available to work.

For example, if you like to take evenings to spend time with family, make sure you communicate that you won’t be checking emails after a certain time. And then hold yourself to that commitment!

In order to better balance your time, consider using a planner to organize your everyday schedule. The Full Life Planner is a nice tool to help you to so. Grab your planner and start to plan your time so you will not lose track of life.

3. Plan Your Workflow

When you want to learn how to work from home efficiently, one surefire way to keep productivity up is to get smart about planning your work day. Before you even start working, make sure you know what your priorities are for the day, how long you think it will take you to get everything done, and what you will work on if you have extra time.

You might find it helpful to take a few minutes before you go to bed to plan for the next day. You may find that you sleep better without the stress of planning in the back of your mind.

In your planning, consider the following:

  • Do the highest priority tasks first
  • Plan your day around your own natural cycles—do the hardest work when you have the most energy throughout the day
  • Plan rewards and breaks throughout the day

This way, you can always stay focused and will not get distracted easily. If you find yourself getting distracted easily, check out this free guide End Distraction And Find Your Focus. You will learn how to get rid of distractions while working from home in the guide. Grab your free guide here.

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You can learn more about how to make sure you’re actually working when working from home in this video:

4. Break up the Day

If you followed the last step, then you’ll have already planned breaks for yourself throughout the day. Make sure you get up from your desk during those breaks—get some fresh air, grab a healthy snack, and talk with another human being if at all possible. All of these activities will help you reset, get your blood flowing, and make sure you’re ready to tackle the next chunk of tasks.

One 2011 study found that workers who took two short breaks stayed consistently productive when given a particular task to complete, but when it came to the group who took no breaks, “performance declined significantly over the course of the task”[2].

This has everything to do with the way our brain registers what it should pay attention to and underscores the importance of taking breaks.

A second study found that the most productive workers were those that worked for around 50 minutes and then took a 15-20 minute break[3]. If you’re not accustomed to taking breaks, this may be a good pattern to start with.

If you have trouble sticking to a time limit for your breaks, set an alarm to remind you to get back to work. The Pomodoro method is great for this as it sets regular work hours and breaks. You can learn about the Pomodoro method here.

5. Dress Like You’re at Work

Even if you won’t be interacting with another person all day, it’s important to dress for success. This includes showering and brushing your teeth! Sweatpants and a T-shirt might be more comfortable, but you may also feel sluggish, sleepy, or unmotivated.

It’s also a good opportunity to give a new outfit a test drive—risk free!

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If you have a hard time motivating yourself to get ready in the morning, try laying out your outfit the night before, or planning an outing during the day so that you have to get dressed.

6. Create an At-Home Office

When you’re starting to learn how to work from home, it might be tempting to work from your couch, easy-chair, or even from your bed, but this could take a huge toll on your productivity. One of the best working from home tips I can give you is to try to always work from a consistent room, desk, or chair to tell your brain that it’s time for work, not relaxation.

When you do this, your brain will associate your bed with sleep, your couch with relaxation, and your desk with work, helping shift your energy levels accordingly[4].

You are likely to feel more alert, more confident, and more organized if you work from a home office. Set yourself up with a comfy, supportive chair, a spacious desk, good Wi-Fi, and consistent workplace tools.

Make sure to personalize your space. After all, you will be spending a lot of time there!

You can learn how to set up your home office space with this article: 20 Easy Home Office Organization Ideas to Boost Your Productivity

7. Don’t Allow Roomies

Being efficient while working from home is all about boundaries. This also means setting boundaries for kids, pets, family members, or roommates. Try to encourage them to leave you alone while you are working so you can stay focused.

Try to keep the boundaries friendly and playful, but make sure you stick to them. One fun idea is to make a sign for the door of your office that indicates whether you’re working or not. You can even have your children help you make the sign so they feel they’re not being left out.

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8. Be Your Own Janitor

Unlike in the office, you don’t have a janitor to clean up after you, which means you have to do it yourself. Keeping your home office clean helps you stay focused, get organized, and be productive. Even if you’re someone who isn’t bothered by a messy desk, keeping some semblance of order helps ensure that nothing important falls through the cracks (or gets lost in a stack of paper).

However, this goes beyond just keeping your home office clean. Having a messy home could inspire you to procrastinate on work tasks in favor of cleaning, which is bad news for your productivity[5].

Setting yourself a weekly cleaning schedule can help you keep on top of cleaning your home, so you won’t be tempted to clean during work hours.

9. Tune in to Inspiration

A great advantage of working from home is that you can’t distract your coworkers. Go ahead and play those pumped-up jams loud and proud if that’s what gets you moving. Or try a more soothing soundtrack with nature sounds, instrumental music, or even by leaving the windows open to let the sounds from outside come in.

If you’re doing repetitive tasks, an audiobook or podcast may even be what you need to keep moving. However, some people work better in silence. If you’re one of those people, resist the urge to put on music or have the TV on in the background.

10. Stay in the Loop

One of the best things about working in an office is the potential for collaboration and socialization. You don’t have to lose this just because you are working from home. When you are learning how to work from home, try to check in with your coworkers at least a couple of times per week, whether by email, phone, video call, social media, or even in person.

Make sure you keep up on a personal level, as well as a professional level. You can do this without taking a lot of time—just share the things that are most important, and encourage your coworkers to do the same.

The Bottom Line

Shifting your work environment to your home is challenging, but with a few simple changes to your routine and space, you’ll find you can still have a productive work day. Find what works for you and your family by trying out some of the working from home tips above.

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More on How to Work From Home

Featured photo credit: Corinne Kutz via unsplash.com

Reference

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Andrea Lotz

Andrea is a passionate writer who shares everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home

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The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home

Suppose you finally took the plunge: resigned your corporate job, decided to follow the passion of your life and (by lack of a new office space, of course), you started to work from home. Welcome to the club! Been there for a few years now and, guess what, it turned out that working from home is not as simple as I thought it would be.

It certainly has a tons of advantages, but those advantages won’t come in a sugary, care free, or all pinky and happy-go-lucky package. On the contrary. When you work from home, maintaining a constant productivity flow may be a real challenge. And there are many reasons for that.

For instance, you may still unconsciously assimilate your home with your relaxation space, hence a little nap on the couch, in the middle of the day, with still a ton of unfinished tasks, may seem like a viable option. Well, not! Or, because you’re working from home now, you think you can endlessly postpone some of your projects for ever, since nobody is on your back anymore. You’re your own boss and decided to be a gentle one. Fatal mistake. Or…

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OK, let’s stop with the reasons right here and move on to the practical part. So, what can you do to squeeze each and every inch of usefulness and productivity from your new working space and schedule (namely, your home)? What follows is a short list of what I found to be fundamentally necessary when you walk on this path.

1. Set Up A Specific Workplace

And stay there. That specific workspace may be a specific room (your home office), or a part of a room. Whatever it is, it must be clearly designed as a work area, with as little interference from your home space as possible. The coexistence of your home and work space is just a happy accident. But just because of that, those two spaces don’t necessarily have to blend together.

If you move your work space constantly around various parts of your house, instead of a single “anchor space”, something awkward will happen. Your home won’t feel like home anymore. That’s one of the most popular reasons for quitting working form home: “My home didn’t feel like home anymore”. Of course it didn’t if you mixed all its parts with your work space.

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2. Split Work Into Edible Chunks

Don’t aim too high. Don’t expect to do big chunks of work in a single step. That was one of the most surprising situations I encountered when I first started to work from home. Instead of a steady, constant flow of sustained activity, all I could do were short, compact sessions on various projects. It took a while to understand why.

When you work in a populated workspace, you behave differently. There is a subtle field of energy created by humans when they’re in their own proximity, and that field alone can be enough of an incentive to do much more than you normally do. Well, when you’re at home, alone, this ain’t gonna happen. That’s why you should use whatever productivity technique you’re comfortable with to split your work in small, edible chunks: GTD, pomodoro.

3. Work Outside Home

In coffee shops or other places, like shared offices. It may sound a little bit counterintuitive, to work outside your home when you’re working from home. But only in the beginning. You’ll soon realize that working from home doesn’t mean you have to stay there all the time. It basically means your home is also your office and you’re free to go outside if you want to.

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I know this may not apply to all of the “work from home” situations, but for those related to information processing, when all you need is a laptop an internet connection, that usually works beautifully. It adds a very necessary element of diversity and freshness. It can also be the source of some very interesting social interactions, especially when you have to solve all sort of digital nomad situations.

4. Go Out!

Working from home may be socially alienating. After almost 3 years of doing it, I finally accepted this as a fact. So, apart from balancing your home time with consistent sessions of working outside of your home, you should definitely go out more often. Our normal work routine, the one that is performed in an office, that is, makes for an important slice of our social interaction needs. Once you’re working from home, that slice won’t be there anymore. But your need for social contacts will remain constant.

So, my solution to this was to grow my social interaction significantly over what I was having when I was working in my own office. Going out to movies, running in the park, meeting for drinks or just chat, whatever it takes to get me out of my home/working space. On a one to ten scale, my social life before was around 3 and now is at a steady 7.

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5. Thoroughly Log Each And Every Day

It goes hand in hand with keeping a personal journal, but this time it’s about work, not personal feelings and experiences. Keep a detailed log of each project and be always ready to pick up from where you left one day or one week ago in just a matter of minutes. It’s not only a productivity enhancer, although it will help you be more productive, but it’s more on the accountability area.

When you work from home you’re your own boss. And, for any of you who are (or have been) bosses, this is not an easy position. You gotta keep track of all the information about your team and of every advancement in your projects. That’s what a boss is supposed to do, after all. When you work from home you have to perform this bossy role too, otherwise you will be lost in your own unfinished ideas and endless project stubs faster than you think.

Featured photo credit: Ian Harber via unsplash.com

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