Working from home is undeniably great! It’s hard to beat working in a relaxed environment with the freedom to choose convenient hours. However, it comes with its own setbacks, and learning how to stay productive is a huge one.
Many remote workers find that it is actually more difficult to concentrate and get through tasks, because working from home doesn’t provide the same structure as working in a traditional office. If you’re finding it hard to focus while working from home, here are a few tips to ensure you stay productive.
NOTE: It’s important to emphasise that everybody’s different. For example, I don’t personally struggle too much with focus, but I know this is a huge issue for some. The most important thing is learning what works for YOU.
Work Where you’re Most Comfortable
There’s an awful lot said online about the importance of a dedicated work space when you work from home. I’m not personally that sold on this being absolutely crucial, because I’ve had perfectly productive days in hotel lobbies, sitting on my sofa, and reclining in bed!
That said, many believe that to get the most out of your work day, you ought to get out of bed and get ready like you normally would if you had to commute to work. If you live in a place with a mild climate, like Virginia or Georgia, you can crack open a window and let the breeze in. If you struggle to stay productive, you could find that brushing your teeth, washing your face and changing out of your pyjamas makes all the difference. You should feel more awake and ready to take on the day!
(This was actually discussed recently over on HomeWorkingClub’s private Facebook group (feel free to click through and request to join). While several people believed strongly in smart clothing, a routine and a fixed work space, others (like me) enjoyed the freedom to work in comfort. Once again, it’s what works for you that matters).
People who work from home often say that one of the biggest struggles they face is the number of household distractions that can get in the way of productivity.
With dishes to wash, laundry to fold and a slew of other responsibilities, it’s easy to get distracted and wind up doing other things when you should be working. This is why it is important to try to eliminate distractions as much as possible during working hours. Turn off your cell phone if you need to, and try to refrain from obsessively checking social media accounts and messages. If you live with other people, try to find a quiet corner of the house to retreat to, pop some headphones in, and get to work!
As with issues of dress and comfort, everyone’s different. I know that plenty of people enjoy having music playing or even have the TV on in the background when working from home. This simply wouldn’t work for me as I find that I can only do the simplest of tasks before I find music too distracting. Learn what distracts YOU and then learn to eliminate THAT to stay productive.
Stick to a Schedule
Working from home can result in a real lack of structure, and this can be a remote worker’s greatest downfall. It truly helps to stick to a schedule during working hours.
Set an alarm before you go to bed each night to make sure you wake up on time the next morning, and try to resist the urge to sleep in. Starting work at the same time every day should help you get into a routine that you feel comfortable with. This can also have a huge impact on keeping healthy boundaries and maintaining work / life balance.
The same goes for taking breaks during the day. Make sure you set aside time to prepare and eat lunch each day, and try not to skip lunch or work through it. (I hold my hand up guiltily at this point and have vowed to work on this!)
“Train” your Friends and Family
As we just discussed, interruptions can make it really hard to stay productive when you work from home.
If you have friends and family nearby, or even just some visiting guests, they can create a real problem when you’re trying to work. In my experience, this is particularly pronounced when the people in question have no personal experience of working from home. It seems that some simply cannot “compute” how you can be at home but also be working.
Whether you’re dealing with a doorbell that keeps ringing, a relative who always phones during the working day, or a guest that doesn’t understand the need to “make themselves scarce,” there comes a time when you just have to be straight and honest. Explain that your home is your office and therefore off-limits at certain points.
Learn Strategies for Time Management and “Down Days”
Without a boss “cracking the whip” or anyone watching what you’re doing, it can prove difficult to stay productive on days where you’re just not feeling in the right mood to get on.
This article on how to get unstuck should help, and will this one on time management exercises. The most important thing is that you have some strategies learned and ready for when those uninspired moments strike – because they will.
How do YOU stay productive when you work from home? Share your tips in the comments section!
Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com – Ben has worked freelance for nearly 20 years. As well as being a freelance writer and blogger, he is also a technical consultant with Microsoft and Apple certifications. He loves supporting new home workers but is prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.