Working from home isn’t as easy as it sounds. Distractions are everywhere –television, your family at home, food in the kitchen, and even your own bed. It’s hard to stay productive, much so to those who are used to the office setup. Still, there are ways on how to stay productive working from home so you can beat these roadblocks.
The struggle of working from home
The main problem with working from home is that the fine line between personal and work life seems to vanish. These two worlds overlap, which can lead to poor productivity, distraction, and elevated stress among workers. And for someone with kids, working from home can be a big struggle.
Also, many people complain about not being able to change their environment to set their minds on ‘work mode’. Sometimes, your living space is also your office and break room. Due to familiarity, we tend to relax too much, often dragging work for hours without getting things done.
For someone who has been working from home for three years, I’ve probably experienced every problem imaginable about this setup. Since I have a flexible schedule, I find it hard to set a specific starting time. There were times I would wake up at 2 am then sleep at 7 pm. On other days, I’d be groggy trying to work at 11 pm. Productivity is also a challenge because distractions are everywhere. And since no managers or supervisors are watching, it’s easy to give in to these productivity busters.
Still, working from home has its perks. You will be comfortable, and skipping travel time is just heavenly. This is also more cost-efficient and beneficial even for employers.
To reap the benefits, you must learn how to adjust. Below, I discussed some of my tried and tested tactics in boosting your productivity while doing the daily grind at home.
Tips For Working From Home Effectively
If you’re working from home and finding it hard to get things done, I personally recommend these tips. These are the things I learned over the past years of working at home:
Set up a workspace
This is very important. The first thing you have to think about is the location of your work. Never work in the living room, unless you don’t have a choice. You can have an office set up in your bedroom so you’d feel like you’re really at work. Get some filers, office chair, desk, and other things that will set the mood.
One mistake that I’ve committed before is working on the couch. Not only is it bad for the posture, but it will also make it difficult for you to focus. Most of the time, the couch is placed in front of the TV. That temptation is very strong, and you’ll find yourself watching football reruns in the middle of a work hour.
How about in the garden? Well, to each his own, but I’ve tried this before, and I end up staring on the plants and being distracted by moving objects here and there. But then again, it depends on what works for you best.
Another important thing about setting up a workspace at home is the noise around. Pick a spot with some privacy and quiet. As much as possible, choose an enclosed room so you can avoid distractions.
Set a schedule and stick to it
I can’t stress enough how important it is to set a schedule for your work at home. Like what I mentioned, this is one thing I struggled a lot in the past. For over three years, I’ve probably rotated my schedule, starting at different hours.
What you need to do is to experiment with what works for you best. The fact is that some are morning people, while others thrive better at night. Personally, my creative juices work better in the very early hours of the morning. After fixing and setting a schedule, I now start working at 2 am sharp. With this schedule, I can work in peace while the kids are still asleep.
I know that it’s easier said than done, but by coming up with a schedule, you can take yourself accountable whenever you slack. Also, it gives you a solid idea of when work starts and ends. What you need to avoid is working intermittently because this will only waste your time and compromise your productivity.
Aside from your work schedule, create a more detailed timetable within it. This way, you will stay organized, and you can get things done faster instead of randomly picking what to work on next.
Make a to-do list
This is in connection with making a schedule for your work. You must come up with a to-do list so you will have a clear picture of what you need to finish on a specific day.
The problem with mental noting tasks is you tend to cram or feel pressured. The fear of forgetting what to do next will pre-occupy your mind, making you inefficient on the current task.
If you need to write it down, do so. You can put up a small whiteboard so you can write your tasks manually. As visual beings, we humans tend to be efficient if we have a visual representation of what we need to achieve or accomplish. Also, a to-do list lets you adjust schedules without mixing things up.
A to-do list creates a sense of order, both physically and mentally. It will also ease stress because you will see yourself crossing out items. This will lead to a sense of fulfillment at the end of the day.
Some people use creative methods for their to-do lists. You can color-code tasks according to the priority level to organize your day.
Log out all your social media account
One of my guilty indulgences while working at home is social media. It’s easy to fall prey on its appeal once you’ve open one app. Also, social media feeds are designed to have a never-ending scroll, so you’ll keep going. And before you know it, you’ve already spent half an hour browsing on things that have nothing to do with your work.
Social media access is highly limited in most office spaces. However, if you work from home, there’s no barrier or limitation – only your self-discipline. You can get sucked into your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for hours, which directly impacts your productivity.
One trick I did to beat this ‘vice’ is to make it hard for myself to access social media. Before I start working, I’ll log out every account on my phone and computer. I also removed it from my browser bookmarks.
Don’t get me wrong, social media breaks are not pure evil. However, you must stick to your schedule at all times. Social media fuels procrastination, and it will also stymie your momentum at work. If you need to check your social media accounts, you should do so on scheduled breaks.
Take a break
Even if you’re working at home, it’s important to include breaks to your schedule. I try to mimic my schedule in my former office, including lunchtime and breaks. This way, I won’t waste my time dragging my break time to another hour.
During your breaks, you can check your social media but always have impulse control. One thing I’m guilty about in the past is extending my break time for 30 minutes just to watch videos online. Aside from wasting time, it also takes my focus out of my work.
Your breaks should be clear and pre-scheduled. As much as possible, avoid working lunches because it doesn’t give you the relief and satisfaction of an actual break. You may end up craving for more break time, which will only result in poor productivity.
During your breaks, you can go outside for a walk or get coffee in a nearby café. These short trips will help freshen up your mind, especially on hectic days.
Stay connected to your co-workers
Another bottleneck when working from home is connectivity. This makes it difficult for the home team and office team to collaborate.
Still, there’s always a workaround for these types of problems. There are many tools online designed for remote collaboration. Also, it will let you communicate with the office team seamlessly.
The following are some of the online tools that will help you communicate with your co-workers:
- Google Hangouts
- Google Drive
- Dress comfortably
There are misconceptions that those who work from home are always on their pajamas. While this is a comfy attire, I suggest dressing for the door. You don’t have to wear your office clothes, just put on something that you’ll wear if you have to open the door. Still, video call meetings call for different attire. You may need to dress up for such instances.
Also, by avoiding the pajamas, you’ll get to transition from the ‘home mode’ to ‘work mode’. But if it helps you to be more productive wearing office clothes, there’s nothing wrong with it.
Once done, turn it off
One thing that makes working from home difficult is you don’t often establish when work starts and where it ends. Before, I will keep on checking emails over dinner, even if my work hours finished hours ago.
This is an unhealthy setup because work starts to intrude on your personal time. So once your work schedule is done, turn it off and clear your mind. Just like in an office setting, you’ll check any emails after work hours the next day. That way, you won’t burn out, and you’ll have enough time to relax and restore your energy for tomorrow’s schedule.
It’s easy to keep going when working at home. Overproductivity can be a problem, too, since you’re likely to burn out.
You should never let your work reign over your life. This is the reason why you have to come up with a schedule. If you have things to get done, write it down for tomorrow’s to-do list.
Don’t beat yourself too much
Lastly, don’t beat yourself up too much. Overthinking about the day’s work can drain you mentally faster than other tasks. Organize everything and take one task at a time. Working from home can be overwhelming, especially if you have kids.
Don’t be afraid to experiment on your schedule to find which works for you best. You can also discuss this with your company so both of you can reach an agreement about your work setup.
If you feel burned out, get out of your seat and take a short stroll around the neighborhood. You can also start a gardening hobby so you will have stress-reliever in between tasks. Another thing that I swear by are short exercises whenever I feel overwhelmed by work. A 10-minute cardio routine will give you a rush of serotonin that will boost your mood.
Talk to the kids
If you’re a work at home mom or dad, it can be challenging to juggle work and personal life. You have to incorporate chores at home in your schedule to ensure that the kids are cared for properly.
For those with young kids, scheduling playtime and bonding time is crucial. This way, you won’t sacrifice your family. And when it’s time for you to work, tell your kids to stay patient. Explain to them that mom or dad has to work to provide their needs.
It will help if you’ll keep your youngsters occupied with home activities like coloring, watching educational content, doing exercises, and so on. Still, you should limit your child’s screen time.
One way on how to be more productive working from home with kids is to work in small bursts. However, this may not work for some who have a time-sensitive nature of work.
Knowing how to stay productive working from home takes some experimentation. With the advent of technology, remote setups have been a trend among employers. While it has a lot of perks, you have to overcome poor productivity due to distractions. A proper routine and mindset will go a long way here.