For those who have not yet tried working from home, it sounds like a dream scenario. You can stay in your pyjamas all day, relaxing on the couch with your laptop. The problem is, that’s not very productive. Your effectiveness goes down working like this, and if it’s your own business you’re running, it can plateau or decline rapidly with your lack of productivity.
Here are my top nine tips to keep you focused and productive while working from home.
1. Create a Dedicated Workspace
Your workspace doesn’t need to be an entire home office. Personally, mine is a desk in the corner of our living room, and that works fine. All you need is somewhere to keep all the work items together so when you sit down to work, everything is here, and your brain can focus. When you are done working you can put everything away and switch off your work brain. I am partial to moving my laptop to the sunniest chair while writing content, however, I always place it back on my desk when I am done.
2. Keep Your Desktop Clear
It’s impossible to concentrate on one task when your desk is buried under paperwork, books and handbags. Declutter your desk; keep as much as possible off the desktop and inside drawers. At the end of your workday clear off your desk, so you are ready to face it again the next day with a clear mind.
3. Gather All Your Supplies
Before you start working for the day make sure you have water, snacks and anything else you might need so that you can’t use these as excuses to procrastinate and leave your desk every 15 minutes throughout the day.
4. Use the Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro method involves working for a set amount of time before having a short break. This is particularly effective when you have to tackle a big task but the idea of sitting down to it for three or four hours straight horrifies you. I work in 45-minute blocks with five- or ten-minute breaks in between. As a bonus, these breaks are the perfect time to get up from your desk and load the dishwasher or washing machine.
5. Check Emails at Set Times
Emails are the most significant time suck for most people. You can stay in control by setting times each day to check your inbox. I know, this never worked for me either until I discovered the app Boomerang. Boomerang’s inbox pause is an absolute life-changer. I have it set to download emails twice a day, at 11 and 2, now there is no temptation to check my emails at random times as I know I won’t have any there.
6. Keep a Master To-Do List
In the first few months working from home, I had to-do lists galore. They were categorised into ‘marketing’, ‘blogging’, ‘client work’, ‘general business’ etc. etc. and all kept in different notebooks, all over the place. I kept panicking that I was missing tasks, which took up way too much brain space. If you are in the same situation, try creating one really long to-do list with absolutely everything on it. I know it sounds daunting but its strangely relieving.
7. Do Your Highest-Impact Work First
Now that you have your master to-do list, every evening check the list and choose the ONE task you will do the next day. This is the task that will get you the highest return on investment, or make the most impact. Then in the morning tackle this task first. Get the biggest win out of the way; then you can either pick another big task for the rest of the day or knock off a bunch of the niggling little jobs if you need some quick wins.
8. Less Thinking, More Doing
We can do a lot of planning in our businesses, but unless we action those plans, we will get nowhere. So, now that you have your to-do list sorted and your highest impact task chosen, take action. Then take more. The momentum you create will keep you rolling; just don’t stop to overthink things again.
9. Have Work Hours (and keep them)
Many of us working from home set our own work hours. That doesn’t mean we only work when we feel like it. Set a start time for the day and decide if you will work until your big tasks are finished or until a specific time. Then stick to your decision. Keep working during this time and stop working when you had decided to stop. Sure, there’s more to do, but there always will be. If you keep pushing past your point of productivity you are only going to get mediocre results. Take a break and come back refreshed tomorrow.