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Last Updated on August 28, 2020

How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Work-at-home jobs are becoming more and more common, but switching from a structured office environment to the comfort of your own home can be challenging. Learning how to work from home is important if you want to be efficient and effective at your job. Read on to get some working from home tips to help you.

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. You won’t believe how much you can get done in a day!

1. Keep Regular Work Hours

When learning how to work from home, 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 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 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 aren’t available for work during that time. And then hold yourself to that commitment!

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

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].

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

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! This will tell your brain that it’s work time, not relaxation time, and that will give you a lot more energy. 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!

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.

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Use a good home office design to learn how to work from home

    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, 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.

    7. Don’t Allow Roomies

    Being efficient while working from home is all about boundaries, as we have previously discussed. 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.

    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.

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    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. Make sure to schedule regular tidying of your home office!

    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. Try a few things to find what works best for you.

    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, Skype, 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.

    If you can master these 10 tips, you will be a work-from-home wizard before you know it. You might even find that the days you work from home are your most productive days!

    Final Thoughts

    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.

    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 September 30, 2020

    Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

    Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

    When it comes to being effective vs efficient, there are a lot of similarities, and because of this, they’re often misused and misinterpreted, both in daily use and application.

    Every business should look for new ways to improve employee effectiveness and efficiency to save time and energy in the long term. Just because a company or employee has one, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is equally present.

    Utilizing both an effective and efficient methodology in nearly any capacity of work and life will yield high levels of productivity, while a lack of it will lead to a lack of positive results.

    Before we discuss the various nuances between the word effective and efficient and how they factor into productivity, let’s break things down with a definition of their terms.

    Effective vs Efficient

    Effective is defined as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” Meanwhile, the word “efficient ” is defined as “capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials).”[1]

    A rather simple way of explaining the differences between the two would be to consider a light bulb. Say that your porch light burned out and you decided that you wanted to replace the incandescent light bulb outside with an LED one. Either light bulb would be effective in accomplishing the goal of providing you with light at night, but the LED one would use less energy and therefore be the more efficient choice.

    Now, if you incorrectly set a timer for the light, and it was turned on throughout the entire day, then you would be wasting energy. While the bulb is still performing the task of creating light in an efficient manner, it’s on during the wrong time of day and therefore not effective.

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    The effective way is focused on accomplishing the goal, while the efficient method is focused on the best way of accomplishing the goal.

    Whether we’re talking about a method, employee, or business, the subject in question can be either effective or efficient, or, in rare instances, they can be both.

    When it comes to effective vs efficient, the goal of achieving maximum productivity is going to be a combination where the subject is effective and as efficient as possible in doing so.

    Effectiveness in Success and Productivity

    Being effective vs efficient is all about doing something that brings about the desired intent or effect[2]. If a pest control company is hired to rid a building’s infestation, and they employ “method A” and successfully completed the job, they’ve been effective at achieving the task.

    The task was performed correctly, to the extent that the pest control company did what they were hired to do. As for how efficient “method A” was in completing the task, that’s another story.

    If the pest control company took longer than expected to complete the job and used more resources than needed, then their efficiency in completing the task wasn’t particularly good. The client may feel that even though the job was completed, the value in the service wasn’t up to par.

    When assessing the effectiveness of any business strategy, it’s wise to ask certain questions before moving forward:

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    • Has a target solution to the problem been identified?
    • What is the ideal response time for achieving the goal?
    • Does the cost balance out with the benefit?

    Looking at these questions, a leader should ask to what extent a method, tool, or resource meets the above criteria and achieve the desired effect. If the subject in question doesn’t hit any of these marks, then productivity will likely suffer.

    Efficiency in Success and Productivity

    Efficiency is going to account for the resources and materials used in relation to the value of achieving the desired effect. Money, people, inventory, and (perhaps most importantly) time, all factor into the equation.

    When it comes to being effective vs efficient, efficiency can be measured in numerous ways[3]. In general, the business that uses fewer materials or that is able to save time is going to be more efficient and have an advantage over the competition. This is assuming that they’re also effective, of course.

    Consider a sales team for example. Let’s say that a company’s sales team is tasked with making 100 calls a week and that the members of that team are hitting their goal each week without any struggle.

    The members on the sales team are effective in hitting their goal. However, the question of efficiency comes into play when management looks at how many of those calls turn into solid connections and closed deals.

    If less than 10 percent of those calls generate a connection, the productivity is relatively low because the efficiency is not adequately balancing out with the effect. Management can either keep the same strategy or take a new approach.

    Perhaps they break up their sales team with certain members handling different parts of the sales process, or they explore a better way of connecting with their customers through a communications company.

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    The goal is ultimately going to be finding the right balance, where they’re being efficient with the resources they have to maximize their sales goals without stretching themselves too thin. Finding this balance is often easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important for any business that is going to thrive.

    Combining Efficiency and Effectiveness to Maximize Productivity

    Being effective vs efficient works best if both are pulled together for the best results.

    If a business is ineffective in accomplishing its overall goal, and the customer doesn’t feel that the service is equated with the cost, then efficiency becomes largely irrelevant. The business may be speedy and use minimal resources, but they struggle to be effective. This may put them at risk of going under.

    It’s for this reason that it’s best to shoot for being effective first, and then work on bringing efficiency into practice.

    Improving productivity starts with taking the initiative to look at how effective a company, employee, or method is through performance reviews. Leaders should make a point to regularly examine performance at all levels on a whole, and take into account the results that are being generated.

    Businesses and employees often succumb to inefficiency because they don’t look for a better way, or they lack the proper tools to be effective in the most efficient manner possible.

    Similar to improving a manager or employee’s level of effectiveness, regularly measuring the resources needed to obtain the desired effect will ensure that efficiency is being accounted for. This involves everything from keeping track of inventory and expenses, to how communication is handled within an organization.

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    By putting in place a baseline value for key metrics and checking them once changes have been made, a company will have a much better idea of the results they’re generating.

    It’s no doubt a step-by-step process. By making concentrated efforts, weakness can be identified and rectified sooner rather than later when the damage is already done.

    Bottom Line

    Understanding the differences between being effective vs efficient is key when it comes to maximizing productivity. It’s simply working smart so that the intended results are achieved in the best way possible. Finding the optimal balance should be the ultimate goal for employees and businesses:

    • Take the steps that result in meeting the solution.
    • Review the process and figure out how to do it better.
    • Repeat the process with what has been learned in a more efficient manner.

    And just like that, effective and efficient productivity is maximized.

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    Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Merriam-Webster: effective and efficient
    [2] Mind Tools: Being Effective at Work
    [3] Inc.: 8 Things Really Efficient People Do

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