I’m not going to lie. Working from home is incredible. Instead of sitting in traffic, rushing to an office that’s run by a less-than-desirable boss, and having to accommodate that schedule with my personal life, I now set my own hours all while staying in the friendly confines of my own home.
But, that doesn’t mean that everything is 100% perfect. There’s the endless amount of distractions, having to constantly stay self-motivated, and deal with the people who just don’t understand that even if you work from home - it doesn’t mean that you can drop whatever you’re doing to talk to them. In other words, staying productive and on task can become an issue.
You can fix this issue, however, by using these nine techniques that won’t just keep you on the right track, but will actually increase your productivity.
1. Get Out Of Your Pajamas
Wasn’t the whole idea about working from home to get away from daily annoyances like following a dress code? Besides, doesn’t staying in more comfortable clothes like your pajamas sound more appealing and less of a hassle than putting on actual clothes?
While both ideas are valid points, it’s been found in several different studies that those who actual dress as if they’re going to an office are more productive than those who stay in their pajamas all day. As Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and a fashion psychologist, tells Forbes;
“When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear,’ so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.”
2. Plan Out Your Day
Being productive takes a little bit of preparation. It could be anything from planning out your meals for the week to identifying your Most Important Task (MIT) for Monday morning, to scheduling certain times for returning emails and phone calls. When you map out your day either in the morning or evening you can focus on priorities without getting off track.
To make this process run more smoothly, create to-do-lists that prioritize your most important tasks first.
3. Have an Accountability Partner
I spotted this tip on the American Express OPEN Forum and thought it was genius. According to David B. Wright, founder of the marketing strategy company W3 Group, those who work from home should find an accountability partner. For example, you could call another person who works from home, and ask if they would be interested in being an accountability partner - to call and check-in on each other’s progress.
Desiree M. Frieson, president and CEO of Mahogany Communications suggests that you could also have a fellow freelancer come over and work from your home office together for the day. “Sometimes when it is too quiet, you end up doing other things; having a peer or group of colleagues around you can help you focus.”
4. Don’t Multitask
This piece of advice has been repeated numerous times. And, for good reason. Not only is it one of the simplest ways to increase your productivity, it’s also one of the most effective. Instead of trying to do five things at once, perfect the art of single-tasking. This way you actually complete a task; as opposed to having multiple unfinished projects that continue to pile-up.
5. Have a Dedicated Workspace
Sitting on your living room couch for eight hours may sound like a great idea, but it’s ultimately not going to help your productivity. In fact, blending your personal space and workspace is a terrible idea since it creates distractions and makes it harder for you to actually leave the ‘office.’
For example, relocate your ‘office’ from the couch to a space in an extra room or bedroom during work hours - which can be easily accomplished by investing in the right furniture like an ergonomic chair or a standing desk. If you don’t have a spare room, then purchase a room divider that you keep up during business hours.
6. Remove Distractions
Speaking of distractions, you want to remove as many as possible. While this may sound obvious, there’s probably more distractions in your home than you’re probably aware of. For example, having your thermostat set at a comfortable temperature, ideally about 70 - 72 degrees, removes the distraction of getting too cold or warm throughout the day.
Other ways to remove distractions would be to;
- Use separate browsers. One browser would be for personal use and the other for work. This would stop you from viewing your favorite websites or social media channels while working.
- Put your phone on airplane mode.
- Turn off email or social media notifications.
- Put on a pair of headphones to block out background noise.
- Download concentration apps like RescueTime or SelfControl.
- Keep your office clean and organized so that you can find items when you need them.
7. Schedule Actual Breaks
It’s no secret that frequent breaks are needed if you want to boost productivity. The reason? Breaks give us the opportunity to recharge our batteries and refocus. That means you need to schedule an actual lunch break, workout, or just take your dog for a walk.
Experiments have found that the ideal formula is taking a 17-minute break for every 52 minutes that you work. But, you can modify that formula depending on your own personal preference. For example, you could run a load of laundry and give yourself a break when it’s time to place the laundry into the dryer.
8. Get Everyone in Your Home On Board
Whether it’s your spouse, children, or roommate, you have to get everyone living in your home on the same page when it comes to respecting your career. Have a family meeting or sit down with your roomies to stress the importance of not disturbing you during working hours. That means if you place a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door, they just can’t burst in and start talking to you.
Jacqueline Curtis says on Money Crashers that she knew of a family who implemented a “spotlight system.” The parent would place a green, yellow, or red circle on the door so that the family knew when they could or could not enter their workplace.
One woman told me that she told her family, "While I'm working you are welcome to interrupt me if there is blood, if there is not blood, don't interrupt." Though cheeky, this may be a good rule to consider.
9. Leave the House and Socialize
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that you have to become a hermit. In fact, just the opposite is true. Leaving the house from time-to-time is actually a great way to get those creative juices flowing, which in turn will increase your productivity. A local coffeehouse, for example, is one of the best places to work outside of your home. Besides the caffeine, there’s Wifi, tables, and a stimulating environment.
You should also leave the house whenever you need to decompress. Debra M. Cohen, president of Home Remedies, tells Entrepreneur that she attempts to spend at least an hour each day getting outside of her office home for relaxation. “The change of scenery and social interaction helps me think more creatively and I'm much more productive when I'm back at work.”