The freedom to work from home is a dream many have. Though, this dream can quickly lose its appeal when you’re dealing with procrastination, distractions and overwhelm. There are a couple of things which will help you to stay focused and productive while still profiting from the freedom of working from home.
Working from home, the pure luxury of making your own schedule and being in control of your time. We all picture ourselves sporting the most glamorous pajamas, deeply sunk into the comfy pillows on our beds, a chai latte on the bedside table, tapping away on the laptop. But after the first couple of happy days as a working-from-home ninja this enchanting image fades and you realize you didn’t take a shower, your lunch was nothing but a bag of Lays sour cream & onion, and your back is hurting from lying in bed all day. Okay, you’ve already washed the dishes, done two loads of laundry and arranged your socks by color but you haven’t actually started working yet. You’ve been scrolling through Instagram and suddenly the day is almost over. And the last time you’ve talked to somebody in person was the pizza delivery guy two nights ago. This is when reality hits you. Working from home is like a minefield. There are traps everywhere but with a good action plan and by forming a couple of new habits you can get in control. Don’t worry!
The most important first. If you find yourself working 24/7 all the time you’re doing it wrong. You can’t be productive for long periods on end. You will get unconcentrated and burn out quickly if you don’t give yourself the time to recharge. The best way to avoid running on low batteries is to create a fixed schedule. A schedule which works for you not against you. You need to separate business time and me-time. Setting office hours is the best thing you can do in this situation. Figure out how many hours you want to work every day. During this time you don’t do your laundry, you don’t call your mom and you don’t get distracted by anything else. You will be surprised how much you can get done when you focus on work only. This strict separation of work and play also allows you to manage your free time better. And you won’t have a bad consciousness when you schedule a bit of time for yourself.
If you’re like me and you’ve trouble to concentrate when household tasks are waiting to get done, do them first thing in the morning and your mind will be free of those distractions.
This brings us straight to the next point. Breaks are necessary. Real breaks in which you step away from your computer. Some people swear by the Pomodoro technique. Focusing on one task for 25 minutes and then taking a short break. 25 minutes are rarely enough for me and I don’t like to get interrupted once I am in the zone. Find your own rhythm.
Try to find out for how long you can stay focused on your task and at what time your concentration drops. This is the time to take a break. This can be a small break for 5 minutes. The time to make yourself a cup of tea. Or it could be a longer break to get outside and fill your lungs with some fresh air. Most important, don’t skip your lunch break.
Shorten your to-do list
Are you making mile-long to-do lists which you never seem to finish? You might be setting yourself up for failure first thing in the morning. Keep your daily to-dos to your top 3 tasks. By limiting your list you avoid overloading your schedule with things which are unrealistic to accomplish. So at the end of the day, you won’t panic and wonder where the heck your time went.
Another thing which helps me a lot is my brain-dump list. Because you need something to note all those ideas and tasks which come up during the day. With a dedicated place to put them you get them out of the way while you’re working. When you plan your next day or your schedule, in general, you can always go back to this list and see what needs to get done. What is important and what isn’t.
Related post: How to finish your to-do list every day
A dedicated workspace
Having a dedicated space to work is so important. Although working from your bed might seem tempting, you can get a lot more done if you have everything you need set up in one space. A dedicated place which puts you in the zone without distractions, all your tools right by your side, good light, etc..
Though, at times, it can also help to trade your workspace for a coffee shop or your balcony to switch up routines. A new perspective can give you new ideas.
It sounds trivial but I find myself being more performative when I take a shower and get dressed in the morning. Putting on some kind of work uniform makes me feel professional and prepared for every eventuality which might come up. While in my pajamas I just think about staying comfortable in my bed and watching movies.
Cut the things that potentially create distractions. Turn off notifications or even turn off your phone. Try working offline as much as you can to avoid getting sucked into Instagram or whatever your worst time-suck might be. Depending on the task you might need more silence or fewer distractions. In general, you should avoid multitasking. I find music very distracting when I write. But I am comfortable to listen to something in the background while I design.
Social media is for most of us the number one form of distraction. As entrepreneurs, though, we still have to deal with it on a daily basis. But you should try to limit the time you spend on your platforms. Setting a specific time and even setting a timer for the time you want to spend is a helpful solution.
You should treat your free time and time to recharge as equally important as the time you work. If you have trouble to switch off in the evening, like me, try creating an end-of-day ritual. A ritual which signals the end of work and beginning of your me-time. This is often more complicated as it sounds. When working from home you can’t leave your office at 5 pm and disconnect. My desk is in a corner of our living room so I can’t close the door and be done for the day. But there are several ways to ring in your evening. This can be simple things like changing out of your work clothes, lighting a candle, or making a cup of tea. Something that tells you you’re done for the day and rewards you for your work at the same time.
As a last note for you; the tips above are a simple guideline. These are things, I discovered, work great for me. Everybody has different triggers. What keeps me productive won’t necessarily work for you too. Find your own rhythm and establish some habits which make it easier for you.
Being productive when working from home involves a huge amount of discipline. Even if you have a great system in place, some days things won’t work out. There are days when I ignore my own advice and eat in front of my computer or I work late. Nobody is perfect.