Work from Home? 7 Tips for Staying Focused & Productive
I started my career by working from home, so I know firsthand how easy it is to get distracted sometimes. There are days where you might be tempted to bring your laptop into bed and never get out of your PJs (not going to lie, I definitely had more than a few of those days). Doing that, though, can make it easier and easier to give into your distractions (and harder and harder to fall asleep at night). So, how do you stay focused and productive when you work from home?
Get in the Groove
When you work from home, it can be tempting to sleep in sometimes or keep working long after quitting time. Try to avoid both those temptations. Instead, set a routine and stick to it as much as possible. That means starting and ending your day at around the same times every day.
Do you know how fast you can do your grocery shopping when you do it at 10AM on a Thursday, instead of after work hours or on the weekend? I do, and it’s wonderful!
If your company cares more about the work you get done than the time you’re sitting in front of your computer, be flexible with your schedule a bit. If you’re still expected to put in 40 hours a week, then you might have to work through lunch or work later to make up for running errands during the day. But, if you plan for that in advance and don’t mind it, then taking advantage of nearly-empty stores can save you a lot of time. You’ll also work better knowing you got all your errands out of the way already.
Create an Office Space
Where do you work when you’re at home? From your couch? The kitchen table? Your bed? (We don’t judge!) Or, at a desk? I highly recommend that last one.
When you create a designated office space in your home, it’s easier to stay focused. You’ll get in the work mindset every time you’re in that office space. You’ll start to learn, “If I’m at my desk, I’m at work.” If you can create an office space with a door, even better, because you can close the door at the end of the work day and not think about work until the next day.
Creating a designated work area will also help the people you live with learn to tell when you’re working. They’ll know, “Oh, they’re at their desk, I won’t bother them.” If you’re working from the couch, your bed, or the kitchen table, your roommates or family members won’t be able to tell if you’re working or just browsing the internet for fun, so they’ll have no problem distracting you.
Write a To-Do List
I’m a huge advocate for to-do lists. Even here at the Workful offices, I wouldn’t be able to focus without my daily to-do list.
Creating a to-do list each morning will help you figure out what must get done. So, you’ll spend more time on things that matter, and less time responding to random emails (or folding your laundry. Although, I do know some people who work from home and use their laundry cycles as a timer for cranking out work).
I suggest dividing your to-do list into a couple sections – things that have to get done today, things that have to get done this week, and things that have to get done eventually. If you finish everything that has to get done today, you can start focusing on something that has to get done this week. When you do that enough, you’ll end up making room for those things that have to get done eventually.
Be honest with me here, how many workdays have you spent in your PJs? Probably more than a couple, right? How did you feel those days? If you’re anything like me, you probably felt a little sleepy and unmotivated. Your body knows that when you’re in your PJs you’re going to be sleeping or lounging around watching TV all day, which can make it pretty hard to get motivated to get some work done.
How do you get around that? You get up, take a shower, and put on real clothes every workday. You don’t have to put on a suit and tie to work from your house, but even putting on jeans and a t-shirt can help you feel more motivated.
You don’t have to work from home when you work from home. If you’re stuck in a rut and feeling a bit unproductive, get outside the house, if you can. Bring your laptop to your local coffeeshop or rent a desk in a local co-working space. Whenever I felt particularly unproductive (even after making a to-do list, showering, and getting dressed), I would take my laptop out on my deck. A change of scenery can work wonders.
Figure Out When You Work Best
Not everyone is productive between the hours on 9AM and 5PM. So, figure out when you’re the most productive and plan your most important tasks around those times.
For example, I’m the most productive in the mornings, so I try to get most of my writing done before lunch. You, however, might be more productive in the late afternoons or even at night. If you plan to do a lot of work when you’re the most productive, you’ll be amazed at just what you can accomplish.