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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 August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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