Of all the things that happened in 2020, one of the things that the year gave to us was the phrase Work From Home, fondly referred to by the acronym WFH. (Although not to be confused with Weep From Home or Worry From Home.) (Both of which may or may not have happened over the course of last year.) But working from home became a reality for many the world over last year, and many are still working from home, either by choice or by government regulation as we’ve headed into a new year.
But working from home is not always easy, no matter how long you’ve been at it for, and even if you’re doing it by choice. So what we really need is some productivity tips to help us make working from home, well, productive!
1. Start with a Schedule
First and foremost, if you want to actually be productive when working at home, you will need to set up a schedule…and then stick to it. Setting up a workable schedule is probably the best way to help you quickly establish your new routine. And the key word in the previous sentence is “workable”. If working from home is actually going to work for you, you need a schedule that also works with you.
As you sit down to create your schedule, start with an overall one for your week. Include when you’ll check in with colleagues and clients, when you’ll take your breaks (more on that later!), as well as documenting the tasks you want to achieve in your week. This will help you know how and when to schedule your activities.
One of the big perks about working from home is the ability to set your own schedule and plan your tasks around the hours when you’re most productive. Do you work better early in the morning? Great! You can get the coffee brewing before the sun is up and get a ton of stuff done! Work better in the evening? Perfect! You can burn the midnight oil, crush your tasks, and then get up a little later, once you’ve had your 8 hours of sleep!
2. Set Up a Designated Office Space (I.e. NOT your bed!)
Your next strategy for successfully working from home is to create a designated workspace. Whether it’s a place at the dining room table, the kitchen counter, or your home office, if you want to maximize productivity, you need to create an environment that will have a positive effect on your productivity levels.
Your home office, wherever that may be, should be relatively quiet, free from distractions, and you should strive to keep your workplace ordered and as clutter-free as possible, as you would at your actual place of work.
But we’ve also got some secrets when it comes to picking an office space that will boost your productivity. Look for a spot that gets as much natural light as possible, as well as picking a spot that is well-ventilated. Both these factors can greatly help in keeping you alert and awake as you work.
And as a bonus tip: have some fun setting up your workspace! You’re going to be spending a lot of time there, so you should make it a place you WANT to go to! Add a little personal flair, grab a plant or two to brighten up the space, but also for all that great oxygen they will pump your way, and you’ll find yourself looking forward to going to “work” each day.
3. Set an Alarm
I get it, you’re at home, without the need to get to the office at a certain time, and so it can be very tempting to turn off your morning alarm. But the tone for a good workday is set first thing in the morning…along with your alarm. In order to boost your productivity, you should aim to stick to a regular wake-up time. This may be a little different to your usual time, depending on how you’ve set up your schedule, but the aim is to keep it regular.
And when you wake up, get up! You will be tempted to work from the comfort of your cozy bed, but this will sabotage your productivity right out of the gate. You subconsciously associate your bed with rest and relaxation, which can cause drowsiness and lethargy whenever you’re trying to work. Not only that, but sitting in your bed can actually cause some serious posture issues, which can lead to back and neck ache. Rather set your morning alarm, get out of bed when it goes off, and you’ll start the day on the right foot.
4. Get Dressed
Now this certainly doesn’t have to be fully-fledged office attire, but changing out of those comfy pjs is a must! However, there are no rules saying that what you change into can’t be super comfy! Work From Home outfits have taken on a life force all their own, and this is actually great news for your productivity! If you’re excited to get up and get dressed in your super comfy, yet super stylish WFH look, you’re already off to a great start to the day. Firstly, you’re out of bed (which, let’s be real, is often the hardest part!) and secondly, you’ll be motivated to have a productive day, which is half the battle won!
5. Create To-Do Lists
In order to keep yourself on target, a great work-at-home strategy is to make a daily to-do list. This will help keep you focused for each day, fully aware of all that you need to get through, which will help you put the necessary strategies in place in order to tick all those items off your list. It’s really helpful to physically write your to-do list down, either on paper or on your favorite organizer app, rather than keeping it in your head. This will give you a visual motivator to keep going, as well as making sure you don’t forget something important.
When you’re at the office, you can be solely focused on work, but at home, it’s easy to pick up other tasks or get distracted by the familiar environment, which may cause you to lose a little focus and forget something off your list. So a to-do list is a definite must when you’re working at home!
6. Try Productivity Techniques
If you want to keep your productivity levels high while working at home, now could be a great time to explore and implement some unique time management techniques. The Pomodoro Technique, the Pareto Analysis, or even the Kanban Method are all tried-and-tested methods, but there are so many others to choose from! There are also some really amazing apps you could experiment with to help keep you focused and highly-productive. Now could be the perfect time to find new ways to reinvigorate your drive and motivation and keep you focused and on-task during your “work hours.”
7. Stick To “Office” Rules and Routine
This one can be a little hard to lock down, especially since one of the biggest selling points of working from home is the ability to be flexible. But on the other hand, one of the biggest downsides to working at home is the number of things that can steal our attention. And so some balance is needed. Embrace the flexibility, but also be careful of distractions.
Our phones, television, and social media are often the biggest culprits when it comes to stealing our attention, and that’s why some “office” rules are needed. A simple “if it wasn’t allowed at work, it’s not allowed at the home office” rule is an easy place to start, but can be really effective when it comes to spending too much time on social media, or even Netflix, during your working hours.
8. Clock Off
You might think that clocking off wouldn’t be part of a productivity post, but it certainly is! And that’s because, when you are working from home, there is always the temptation to keep on working, well after your usual “business hours” have come and gone. But if you keep doing that, and don’t give yourself time to debrief, decompress, spend time with your family, or do the other activities you enjoy, you’re eventually going to burn out, become overwhelmed, and you won’t be able to do the work you need to.
Remember, your mind and body need time to recuperate, so make sure you set a designated time that you’ll clock off each day. And then make time for the things, people, and activities you love! (I told you, scheduling is everything!) Go for a walk, take part in a family activity, listen to your favorite podcast, have a hot bath – whatever gives you the time to debrief from the day’s activities and charge up again for tomorrow.
9. Take Breaks and Snack Smart
Taking regular breaks can do wonders for your productivity. It might sound counter-intuitive, but taking regular breaks gives your mind and body time to “refresh” themselves and recharge so that they are once again on form and able to tackle the next task. And this is where proper scheduling comes in. It can be tempting to think that by working “straight through” you’ll get more done, but this really isn’t the case. Taking regular breaks can actually boost your productivity as you’ll have a manageable timeframe within which to complete your tasks. And with a scheduled break as your motivation, you’ll be motivated to complete your assigned tasks.
During your breaks, another often-overlooked productivity tip is snacking smart. And all this means is simply picking food that keeps you fueled up and energized. Remember, your body and your mind are your greatest assets in terms of maintaining high levels of productivity, so you need to give them what makes them function at their optimum. Everyone’s body works a little differently, but we all know what food makes our body feel good, and which ones tend to make us feel bloated or sluggish, so make sure you pick the ones that fuel your body best!
It’s also very important to stay hydrated throughout the day! You need plenty of water to help keep your brain and body functioning well. And one of the simplest ways to do this is to keep a bottle of water at your workspace so you can sip away all day.
10. Be Kind To Yourself
Last but not least, if you want to be productive when working from home, you need to learn to be kind to yourself. Somedays, you’re going to complete all your tasks early, and hit all your goals out of the park. On other days, you could feel like you’re moving through cement and not getting anything done. And that’s okay! Give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the flexibility of working from home. So rather than seeing all the hurdles, or stressing out about where you feel like you’re falling short, focus on all the positives and silver linings that you can enjoy now that you are having to work from home, and give yourself the space to learn.
If today wasn’t a productive day, rather than beating yourself up about it, try a new strategy tomorrow. Whether that’s adjusting your time table, decluttering your workspace, or maybe trying a new productivity technique, allow yourself the time to find what works for you. Once you do that, there’ll be no stopping your WFH mojo!
WFH productivity can be a challenge to navigate, but by putting these tips into place, it can certainly be done! And whether you’re working from home by choice or because, right now, you have to, by making a few small changes, or implementing some key strategies, you’ll be able to get a ton of work done and enjoy the experience. Because working from home can provide you with many perks! Besides working during the hours you’re most energetic, you can wear cozy socks instead of shoes, put on a face mask while you work (unless you have a Zoom meeting planned, then definitely leave that for later!), or you sit outside and catch some rays during a break. And with these tips in your arsenal, you’re all set to maximize your productivity from the comfort of your home.
Related read: Top Podcasts to Keep You Motivated