I’ve been a work-at-home professional for more than 10 years. So, like so many other freelancers, telecommuters and small business owners, I know how difficult it is to stay productive during the day. There are distractions around every corner. And if you’re not careful, you can spend more time “wasting time” than actually working. Fortunately, there are ways to be more productive when working from home.
1. Designate a Workspace
If there’s limited space, you might have to work in your bedroom or at your kitchen table. But if you can, designate a corner, loft or perhaps a spare bedroom as your office. Make sure it’s an area with low traffic so there’ll be few distractions.
2. Create a Realistic Schedule
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should toss a schedule out the window. It’s too easy to get off track without a plan of attack. Before ending your workday, plan a schedule for the next day. Write down everything you need to accomplish and assign time limits for each task.
3. Get Out of Your Pajamas
From personal experience, I tend to be less focused and productive when I’m lounging around the house in my pajamas. If you find it’s hard to stay productive during the day, give your daytime wardrobe an upgrade. Get up in the mornings and get ready for the day as if you’re leaving the house. Obviously, you don’t have to put on a three-piece suit, but at least get out of your pajamas and put on real clothes. This gets your mind into work mode.
4. Take Short Breaks
If you allow yourself short breaks, you’ll feel less tired and you’re less likely to burn out. Give yourself three to five minutes every hour to stretch your legs, check email or step outside for fresh air.
5. Work From a Different Location
Staring at the same four walls every day can drive you crazy, and you may not feel like working. Take a different approach and change up your work location. Go to a bookstore, the library, a coffeehouse or another quiet place.
6. Get a Babysitter
Working with children is challenging. And if you’re unable to stay productive, consider putting your children in daycare a few hours each week to get the majority of your work completed with few interruptions.
7. Work When You're Most Productive
If you have the flexibility to choose your work hours, choose times when you’re most productive. I know work-at-home professionals who prefer getting up early in the mornings and starting their days at 5 a.m., whereas others keep their days open and work from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
8. Distraction-Free Zone
We all respond differently to noise. When designating your workspace, find a spot that’s free of all distractions. For example, if the noise of your neighbor’s children playing in the backyard drives you nuts, choose a work area in the front of your house. Additionally, if the TV or music slows you down, it’s better to work in complete silence.
9. Get an Accountability Partner
Build relationships with other work-at-home professionals and become accountable to each other. You can share your daily schedules with each other, and occasionally check in with each other to make sure you’re staying on track.
10. Set Boundaries
Friends and family can infringe on your time. And, unfortunately, you might have to set boundaries and let these people know you can’t afford any interruptions during your work hours. This includes limiting lunch invitations, casual phone calls, and unannounced visits.
11. Stay Off Social Media
Unless your job requires being on social media, stay off these sites during the day. It’s too easy to get caught in a conversation or sidetracked with cute videos and news updates. If you’re addicted to social media, set daily goals and reward yourself for hitting these goals. For example, only check your social media pages after you’ve completed at least five items on your to-do list, and only spend a couple of minutes on these sites.
12. De-clutter Your Desk
A messy desk is distracting and can reduce productivity. It might be hard to find documents you need. And with so much in your face, you might jump from task to task and never complete anything. Shred any documents you don’t need, and get a folder or shelving system to keep paperwork organized.
13. Don't Forget to Eat
You may forget to eat breakfast and lunch when you’re extremely busy. However, skipping meals causes a drop in blood sugar, which can make you sluggish and less productive. Overeating can also cause afternoon fatigue and sluggishness. Eat a light and healthy lunch, and enjoy healthy snacks in between meals like nuts, fruit or raw veggies.
14. Create a Comfortable Work Environment
If your working environment is comfortable and cozy, it’ll be easier to stay focused and productive. Get a comfortable work desk, keep the temperature at a comfortable degree, and add decorations for a personal touch.
The truth is many people would do anything for the opportunity to work from home. Be thankful for this opportunity and don’t waste it. Unfortunately, if you’re unable to stay productive while working from home, you might have to return to an office. If you periodically reflect on the benefits of working from home, this can motivate you to stay productive.
Working at home is convenient, but it has its challenges. Staying productive is one of the biggest obstacles. However, the above tips can help you succeed and get plenty done during the day.