Working from home can seem like a dream come true. Who wouldn’t want to be able to stay in your jammies all day and watch soap operas while you eat nachos on the couch?
But working from home is rife with distractions that chip away at your productivity. I’d say it’s much easier for a person who works from home to be sidetracked by chores, personal hobbies, time wasters, and procrastination than someone who spends her days in a traditional work environment.
I’ve noticed this in my clients too—the ones who have day jobs and then come home to work on their side businesses make more progress than those who quit their corporate jobs long ago.
Don’t let laziness slow down your dreams! It’s about working smarter, not harder, and you can totally do this.
Here are 13 ways to supercharge your productivity when you work from home.
Dress the Part
It can be oh-so-tempting to be a slob when you work from home. I used to wear a suit to the office back in my book editing days, and you better believe my wardrobe took a nosedive when I didn’t have to impress an Editor in Chief or Board of Directors anymore.
And not surprisingly, my productivity tanked when I wore yoga pants all day. Not good when I was trying to start my own company. Avoid this fate by dressing the part, even down to your shoes! No matter if you won’t see anyone else during your day, you’ll feel like a capable productive worker. And that will be reflected in your work.
Design an Uplifting Morning Routine
Start your day with a morning routine that pumps you up and sets your intention for the day. I go through my morning stack, do a few guided meditations, and choose a theme for my day. These things take less than 15 minutes to complete, but I notice a shift in my attitude every time I do them.
What could you include in your morning routine to set yourself up for success? I suggest choosing how you want to feel, your 3 main priorities, and some kind of centering activity like meditation, prayer, or listening to inspirational music.
Make time for this! You don’t have to run out of the house to start your commute, so no excuses.
Eat That Frog
No, I don’t mean really! Gross, dude. The phrase “eat that frog” comes from the popular book of the same name by Brian Tracy. It means to choose the nastiest, scariest, most-dreaded task you have on your to-do list and do it first thing in the morning.
Once you’ve gotten your frog out of the way, you’ll have more energy to do all your other more fun tasks. No more having the awful task loom over you all day or make you have to rush to finish it at the last minute.
Use Ambient Noise
This is one of my favorite productivity tricks! Ambient noise creates a hum of activity in the background while you work, something that office workers hear every day but you won’t if you work from home.
Take a Break Every Hour
It’s easy to become glued to your chair when you’re on a roll and want to keep working…while ignoring your lunchtime and potty breaks. You’ll be way more productive if you take breaks every hour to give your brain (and bladder) a rest.
Some people like the Pomodoro Technique (25 minutes of work, 5 minutes rest, repeated all day). On days when I feel myself slacking off, I work for 15 minutes, then take a 15-minute break. That might seem wasteful to spend half of every hour on personal things like reading a magazine or taking a walk, but how many times have you wasted hours on Facebook when you really just needed to give yourself permission to take a proper break?
Adopt a Work Persona
Every morning I like to do a mental dress rehearsal and imagine exactly how I want my day to unfold. I also choose to “act as if” and do my work as if I weren’t tired, or self-doubting, or bored, or scared.
Another way you can act as if is to choose a work persona. Beyonce becomes Sasha Fierce when she’s on stage, so who do you want to become when you work? Choose a completely new personality or even mimic a superhero, celebrity, or mentor.
How would they act during a typical work day? I bet they’re not eating Cheetos and scrolling through crafts they’ll never make on Pinterest.
Plan and Make Your Meals in Advance
Office workers know all about packing a lunch or having cash for a sandwich from the work cafeteria. You need to think about your meals ahead of time too. Your work is important, and you don’t need to waste time cooking a lunch from scratch every day.
Plan your lunches for the week on the weekend and prepare them in advance. I like using reusable containers to hold single-sized portions of meals. It’s a no-brainer for me to grab a pre-made lunch instead of fussing around the kitchen or driving someplace to pick up something.
Work in a New Location
If your creativity is running dry, perhaps you just need a change of scenery. Grab your laptop and go work in the local coffee shop, library, or park.
You’ll take advantage of the ambient noise and be inspired by a new location. I always get the best ideas when I’m walking my dog, Skyla, or when I’m working away from my desk.
Create a Separate Workspace
That said, when you are working from home, make sure you have a separate area that you designate as a “work area” and nothing else. It’s important to have a space that your brain can associate solely with work.
Don’t try to make the kitchen table your work area. Not only will you have to move all your papers at the end of the day, but your brain will be confused because it wants you to eat when you sit there, not work. Also avoid working on a couch in front of the TV. Again, you’ll be sending your brain mixed messages.
Set Boundaries Around Distractions
Just because there’s no grumpy boss watching over your shoulder doesn’t mean you can goof off on social media all day. This also goes for doing chores around the house or busying yourself with the laundry when you should be working.
Instead, set boundaries around your common distractions. Perhaps you won’t look at Facebook until after you eat your frog. Try an app like RescueTime to learn where and when you’re wasting time and then proactively avoid those time-sucks.
Set Your Work Hours
It’s easy to keep regular work hours in a traditional workplace, especially if you need to catch a train home at the end of the day. But just because you work from home doesn’t mean you need to be working every hour of the day!
Set your own work hours and stick to them! What time do you want to begin your work in the morning (and leave time for your morning routine)? What time do you want to stop working so you can spend time with your family, friends, and pets?
Remember to take your weekends off and schedule vacations too. You’ll be a happier worker when you clearly define your time for work and play.
Get an Accountability Partner
It can be lonely working from home, especially if there’s no one checking that you’re actually making progress. In an office, your manager and coworkers will keep you on target, but who can keep you on track at home?
Find a friend to be your accountability partner. She could also work from home or work in a corporate environment. Choose a time to talk by phone (daily, weekly) and share what you’re working on, your deadlines, and how she can support you.
I speak with my accountability partner for 15 minutes every morning, and it’s made me much more productive than when I was only accountable to myself. Many of my clients use me as their accountability partner.
Review Your To-Do List the Night Before
This might just be the best way to supercharge your productivity. Take 10 minutes at the end of your work day to plan your schedule for the next day. Choose your 3 main priorities including your frog, review your Master Action Plan (MAP), and see if there are any obstacles or distractions you need to watch out for.
Then you can enjoy your evening without worrying about tomorrow’s work.
How do you stay productive when you work from home?
This post focuses on Step 4 of the Life Editing Process, Rearrange Everything Into a Perfect Flow. For more about life editing and what it can do for you, click here.
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