Ok, let’s set the scene. You’re at home, and the work is piling up. Deadlines are fast approaching, yet you can’t seem to focus… You wonder how is it possible to be productive when working at home given that there are noise and activity all around you, and some of those “distractions” may not be concerned if you get your job done or not.
When you work from home as a business owner or a freelancer, distractions and lack of focus will often be your biggest obstacle. You tell yourself you will drink your coffee and spend just a few short minutes on Facebook or watching one quick video on YouTube only to pick your head up an hour later and glance at the clock in disbelief.
The key to success when it comes to working at home is identifying the tools and techniques you need to literally make yourself productive even though you’re surrounded by distractions like chores, kids, pets, and an Internet connection.
That said, here are a few tips to help you take control of your time and productivity when working from home. Be sure to also check out my earlier article on productivity: 24 Timeless Time Management Tips for Freelancers
7 Tips to Being More Productive When Working at Home
1. Add Brain-Boosting Foods to Your Diet. If you fill yourself up with empty calories then you’ll have to work harder to keep your brain from acting like it’s empty too! As the saying goes you are what you eat, or as one wellness expert put it, “Every bite of food you eat is a choice that either depletes or nourishes your brain.” Foods that are rich in antioxidants, nuts, whole grains, and fish are great for a productive mind. There are also a number of so-called “super foods” that will keep you healthy, productive and focused on your work.
2. Schedule Proper Breaks During the Day. If you were doing the same job in an office building, you would get a one-hour lunch break and two 15 minute breaks. When you work from home, it is easy to forget or skip those breaks and keep chugging along doing work. But, there is a reason why these breaks should an essential part of a workday: you need them! Take a few breaks, relax… and have the space to just breathe.
3. Create a Dedicated Work Area. If your home is like mine, then your desk would quickly become a pile magnet if it wasn’t out of sight. Even if you made an effort to keep your work area organized, before long, your kid’s homework, papers, bills, and all sorts of odds and ends, would find its to your desk. In other words, your “work space” would resemble anything but that.
If you have the available space, then make it a priority to dedicate an area that is solely yours to work in. Ideally, it would be a space that you could lock or cover up in some way during the hours when you are not working. If possible make it a place that you can walk away from for a few minutes, so that when you return it brings you back into work mode.
Even if you don’t have the space for a separate office, then there are various pieces of “office furniture” that can help you create the physical separation you need. See below for a little inspiration.
4. Make Sure You Have All the Tools You Need. If you want to be productive then you need to have the right tools in place. There are many apps and programs out there that can help you stay focused, productive and free of distraction. And, don’t just rely on free options. In some areas you may need to open your wallet and make an investment. Here is a comprehensive list of tools for freelancers and small business owners.
5. Create a Doable To-Do List. This is one of the tips I mentioned in my previous post on time management, but it is so important I’ll bring it up here as well. Setting goals and priorities are a must when you work from home. Without having a supervisor peeping over your shoulder, it’s up to you to put together a daily to-do list and stick with it. But, at the same time, try not to go over-board.
Alex Henderson, VP of Sales at PhoenixNAP an IT firm based in Phoenix, AZ, had this piece of advice:
“I’m super-busy during the day, so in the evening before I go to sleep for the night, I make a list of the things I need to accomplish the next day. Then, I number them in the order of priority. I try to do the hardest tasks first. Anything that can be handed off to someone else, gets crossed off the list and given to that person. Though I don’t always get to finish my list at least I know where I stand.”
With this strategy, by the end of the week, you can see what tasks remain that still need to get finished and plan accordingly for the following week. It is all about keeping yourself not only focused, but accountable.
6. Don’t Compromise on Your Social Life. In other words, make sure you get out of your house and socialize. That sounds so simple, but it’s not. Staying at home all the time isn’t healthy. Even if you prefer the quiet and solitude (which is totally fine), you don’t want to get too extreme about it. So, grab a burger, take a walk, just do something, period. Get out of your pajamas and put on clothes that remind you that you are still a person that needs human contact. Make yourself go somewhere, anywhere where other grown-ups are, or you may find yourself losing touch with the world outside your home.
7. Pay Attention to Your Headspace. The biggest piece of advice in this article is that productivity really begins in your mind. If you take steps to think positively about yourself and your business, if you truly value yourself, and if you learn how to handle criticism, then you’ll be much more productive. Your clients and vendors may not always agree with the decisions you make, projects may not perfectly meet clients’ expectations, or you might be misunderstood. Frustrations may mount, and that’s when you’ll start to lose concentration.
When your self image is in tact, then it will be much easier to set healthy boundaries, achieve growth professionally and personally, and move on from mistakes and setbacks.
In short, while working from home has many advantages, it can also be difficult if you don’t prepare yourself for the challenges. But, with a little effort you can be more productive working at home by getting your mind focused and keeping it there.
*This post was brought to you by PheonixNAP