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How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

This is a post I’ve waited a little while to write, mostly because I didn’t feel qualified enough.

Sure, I’ve been a “work from home” type for quite some time now, but I didn’t know if just saying “I work from home” truly meant anything.

After all, saying one thing doesn’t make it true. 

stayed at home when most other people went to work.

sat in front of my computer for a certain amount of time each day.

I had some productive days and some un-productive ones.

But I think after almost a year of running a successful writing blog (from home), I’ve developed a keen sense of what helps keep me productive throughout the day — even if I don’t always stick to it! Here’s what I discovered:

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1. Productivity means different things to different people.

If we all lived in Ayn Rand’s world, we might be able to have a universal, objectified definition of what it means to be productive, but alas — we don’t.

We each have things to do every day, week, and month, and sometimes these are consistent. Sometimes they change drastically, and the only constant we can promise ourselves is that productivity and what it means to us must be constantly assessed. 

For example, this week I’m going to need to start promoting my free Kindle ebooks again, and I need to finish up some client work. Next week, however, I’ll need to make sure I finish up edits on my first novel and continue to write around 1,500 words a day on the new one.

Be willing and able to “brain dump” once a week on the things that you’re going to consider “productive wins” for you the following week. Know how you’re defining productivity, and know what you need to do to achieve it.

2. Make randomness go away, while still being random. 

I say often that I would enjoy just about any job, as long as I don’t have to do it day, day out, 24/7. This is true, but what I’m finding is that there are always going to be tasks and administrative things that have to happen each day, every day.

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Therefore, I try to incorporate all of these things into my overall daily productivity plan when I’m working from home: first, I check emails and respond to the pressing ones. Then, I spend 20-30 minutes on my RSS feed reader, scheduling tweets and social media updates for the next day or two. Finally, I make sure I’m writing consistently — usually around 1,500-2,000 words a day.

After that, I seek to add randomness to my day. Instead of working on a client project for 2 hours, writing for 3 hours, and blogging for an hour, I might try to blog all day today, do the client work all day tomorrow, and then write or edit my novels all day the next day. This “random” schedule lets me “come in” to work each morning feeling excited about doing something different that day.

Again, this is what works for me — feel out your own schedule needs and desires, and build your own schedule accordingly. Maybe you hate randomness — in that case, focus on “chunking” your tasks into the same “buckets” every day, and putting the random stuff inside. It gives the feeling of being less random, when in fact you’re still getting the numerous unrelated things done!

3. Know your working habits, and train them. 

Self-discipline is a muscle, and if we’re not constantly making it stronger, it’ll atrophy. Think about where, how, and how long you like to work when you’re not in an office environment: do you have an office at home? Do you love sitting on the porch or the couch, or do you prefer heading to a coffee shop or another place with more human interaction?

Know what your strengths and weaknesses are with each of these, and start to recognize the cues and habit loops you’re triggering each time you enter this place.

For me, in my home office, I like to make coffee, read a little, and then get to work — but I also know that I have a tendency to just keep reading. For that reason, I might opt to go to the local Starbucks instead, to keep me engaged with the work I need to do.

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4. Be comfortable, but not too comfortable. 

I can’t work in bed, and I haven’t from many people who can. My tendency and desire in just about any situation is to fall asleep, so a bed’s out the question if I’m trying to get work done.

However, I’m not much of a TV person, so working on the couch is a nice change of pace from the office and desk chair environment.

Like the previous point, know your limits and tendencies, and work them into your optimal work environment. I’ve found that a good rule of thumb for me is to be comfortable in some ways (clothes, temperature, coffee at hand, etc.) but not in others (sitting up or standing up rather than lying down, not having food near the desk, etc.).

5. Be willing to change. 

This point is huge for me. Since I’m not a fan of “same old, same old,” I don’t mind at all when my situation changes and I need to work from somewhere else, or at least in a different atmosphere than the one I’ve created at home.

That said, I think we need to be ready and able to make a switch when things change. Kid has soccer practice in the evenings now? Just bring your laptop and get the offline tasks done while you’re waiting in the parking lot. In-laws in town, sleeping in the “office” (really a second bedroom…)? Set up a card table in your bedroom or living room so you can still have a somewhat-similar desk environment.

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Part of the draw of a corporate office environment is also one of its biggest drawbacks: when you get to an office like this, you know it’s time for work. There’s no question about it — people are in their cubicles/offices, phones are ringing, people are walking around and going into meetings. You lose all of that at home, and it can be difficult to find your way through it without some systems in place.

These five points are great guidelines, and should get you off to a good start. Remember, be flexible, willing to change, and know your strengths and weaknesses!

What are your thoughts? Do you have trouble working from home, or do you find it easier? Why or why not?

Featured photo credit:  A cat in a home office via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

You may think that you don’t have time for office organization, but if you really knew how much time that disorganization cost you, you’d reconsider.

Rearranging and moving piles occasionally doesn’t count. Neither does clearing off your desk, if you swipe the mess into a bin, or a desk drawer.

A relatively neat and orderly office space clears the way for higher productivity and less wasted time.

Organizing your office doesn’t have to take days, it can be done a little at a time. In fact, maintaining an organized office is much more effective if you treat it like an on-going project, instead of a massive assault.

So, if you’re ready to get started, the following organizing tips will help you transform your office into an efficient workspace.

1. Purge Your Office

De-clutter, empty, shred, get rid of everything that you don’t need or want. Look around. What haven’t you used in a while?

Take one area at a time. If it doesn’t work, send it out for repair or toss it. If you haven’t used it in months and can’t think of when you’ll actually need it, out it goes. This goes for furniture, equipment, supplies, etc.

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Don’t forget about knick-knacks, plants (real or artificial), and decorations – if they’re covered with dust and make your office look shabby, they’re fair game.

2. Gather and Redistribute

Gather up every item that isn’t where it belongs and put it where it does.

3. Establish Work “Zones”

Decide what type of activity happens in each area of your office. You’ll probably have a main workspace (most likely your desk,) a reference area (filing cabinet, shelves, binders,) and a supply area (closet, shelves or drawers.)

Place the appropriate equipment and supplies are located in the proper area as much as possible.

4. Close Proximity

Position the equipment and supplies that you use most within reach. Things that you rarely use can be stored or put away.

5. Get a Good Labeler

Choose a label maker that’s simple to use. Take the time to label shelves, bins, baskets drawers. Not only will it remind you where things go, but it will also help others who may have a need to find, use, or put away anything in your workspace.

6. Revise Your Filing System

As we move fully into the digital age, the need to store paper files has decreased.

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What can your store digitally? Are you duplicating files? You may be able to eliminate some of the files and folders you’ve used in the past. If you’re storing files on your computer, make sure you are doing regular back-ups.

Here’re some storage ideas for creating a smooth filing system:

  • Create a meeting folder – Put all “items to be discussed” in there along with items that need to be handed off, reports that need to be given, etc. It’ll help you be prepared for meetings and save you stress in the even that a meeting is moved up.
  • Create a WOR folder – So much of our messy papers are things that are on hold until someone else responds or acts. Corral them in a WOR (Waiting on Response) folder. Check it every few days for outstanding actions you may need to follow-up on.
  • Storage boxes – Use inexpensive storage boxes to keep archived files and get them out of your current file space.
  • Magazine boxes – Use magazine boxes or binders to store magazines and catalogs you really want to store. Please make sure you really need them for reference or research, otherwise recycle them, or give away.
  • Reading folder – Designate a file for print articles and documents you want to read that aren’t urgent.
  • Archive files – When a project is complete, put all of the materials together and file them away. Keep your “working folders” for projects in progress.
  • File weekly – Don’t let your filing pile up. Put your papers in a “To File” folder and file everything once a week.

Learn more tips on organizing your files here: How to Organize Your Files for Better Productivity

7. Clear off Your Desk

Remove everything, clean it thoroughly and put back only those items that are essential for daily use.

If you have difficulty declutter stuff, this Declutter Formula will help you throw away stuff without regretting later.

8. Organize your Desktop

Now that you’ve streamlined your desktop, it’s a good idea to organize it.

Use desktop organizers or containers to organize the items on your desk. Use trays for papers, containers for smaller items.

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Don’t forget your computer desktop! Make sure the files or images are all in organized folders. I’d recommend you clear your computer desktop everyday before you leave work.

9. Organize Your Drawers

Put items used together in the same drawer space, stamps with envelopes, sticky pads with notepads, etc.

Use drawer organizers for little items – paper clips, tacks, etc. Use a separate drawer for personal items.

10. Separate Inboxes

If you work regularly with other people, create a folder, tray, or inbox for each.

11. Clear Your Piles

Hopefully with your new organized office, you won’t create piles of paper anymore, but you still have to sort through the old ones.

Go through the pile (a little at a time if necessary) and put it in the appropriate place or dump it.

12. Sort Mails

Don’t just stick mail in a pile to be sorted or rifle through and take out the pieces you need right now. Sort it as soon as you get it – To act, To read, To file, To delegate or hand off. .

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13. Assign Discard Dates

You don’t need to keep every piece of paper indefinitely. Mark on files or documents when they can be tossed or shredded.

Some legal or financial documents must be kept for specified length of time. Make sure you know what those requirements are.

14. Filter Your Emails

Some emails are important to read, others are just not that important.

When you use the filter system to label different types of emails, you know their priority and which to reply first.

Take a look at these tips to achieve inbox zero: The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

15. Straighten Your Desk

At the end of the day, do a quick straighten, so you have a clean start the next day.

Bottom Line

Use one tip or try them all. The amount of effort you put into creating and maintaining an efficient work area will pay off in a big way.

Instead of spending time looking for things and shuffling piles, you’ll be able to spend your time…well…working and you’ll enjoy being clutter free!

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Featured photo credit: Alesia Kazantceva via unsplash.com

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