4 Ways To Remain Productive When Working From Home
The oxymoronic home-office is really a minefield of distractions and temptations, dithering and surfing. Here's a survival strategy.
It may seem like the perfect setup. You can wake up just 10 minutes before work, you don’t need to worry about showering or getting dressed, and of course, you can avoid the rush-hour commute. Working from home provides its own luxuries, but it is very easy to become complacent and negligent of certain tasks. I work from home half of the week, and I find myself struggling to stay on track and not get distracted by the lure of my bed or the TV.
How do you make sure that you stay focused and productive when working from the comfort of your own home, without getting too comfortable?
I had to really buckle down and train myself to work effectively from my apartment, and the following four methods are what helped me remain motivated.
1. Wake up early.
Waking up just in time for work may be tempting, after all who doesn’t like to sleep in for as long as possible? But did you know it takes about two hours for your body to fully wake up and adjust to its best concentration level?
Illustration by fuzzyscience
In the morning when you first hop out of bed, your melatonin levels are still relatively high, which is often the reason for early morning grogginess. Jumping right into work when you haven’t given your mind and body the appropriate amount of time to adjust can inhibit your productivity.
Part of the reason we are often more productive in an office setting is because we have the commute time in between that helps us gradually become more alert. The solution? Try getting into the routine of waking up early. Provide yourself with a reward every time you manage to wake up when your alarm goes off, encouraging and motivating you to get a head start on your day. For me, I like getting my workouts out of the way in the morning instead of the evening. If I’m going to fit my workout in before work, I need to wake up at least two hours earlier.
My coworker wakes up at 5 am each morning so that he can make a nice breakfast, and clean his house. The point is, set some time aside in the morning to do something for you. That way, by the time work comes around, you’ve already been able to set aside some personal time and can focus more carefully on what you need to accomplish for your job.
2. Plan out your day.
I frequently forget what I have to do. I’m usually quite aware that I have a lot to do, but for some reason I never really manage to keep those tasks at the forefront of my mind. As a result, I’ve been forced to keep a very strict schedule in which I plan out every aspect of my day. Now I’m not suggesting you write down what every minute of what your day looks like, but I do recommend at least creating a to-do list of tasks that need to be accomplished.
One of my favorite apps to use is the Pomodoro Timer. This Chrome extension lets you add tasks and schedule them by the approximate amount of time it would take to complete them. Each task is automatically added in 25 minute bursts. Why? Because working in shorter amounts of time, followed by a quick five minute break tends to keep your level of focus up. How? By forcing you to work more intensely without burning out. You’re also less likely to waste time surfing the internet and looking at silly things.
When you schedule your breaks, you also tend to stress out less about taking those breaks. You give yourself more of an opportunity to truly relax in those 5 minutes rather than hitting yourself over the head for wasting time.
Prefer to work for a longer burst of time? That’s fine too! Just take a slightly longer break and go for a walk outside. Remove yourself from your home so it truly feels like you are giving yourself some separation.
3. Don’t work on the couch.
I love working on the couch. I’m able to sprawl out and truly get comfortable, but the problem that often occurs is that one can get a bit too comfortable. Think of it this way; when you get home from an exhausting day, what is the first thing you do? For many, it’s sitting on the couch for a few minutes and relaxing. Because the way we engage with this particular piece of furniture is inherent to not doing work, getting into the mindset of being productive on the couch has its own implications. After all, the couch is most frequently a place we nap, read, watch TV and eat.
Instead, you should set aside some space that is solely for the purpose of work. If you work from home and you don’t have a separate space or office, you should at least have a desk. A huge part of productivity is getting into a focused mindset.
4. Make plans after work.
A major side-effect of working at home is that it can quickly turn you into a lazy recluse. I know this from experience. Try to make plans after work when possible. You don’t need to go out and party every night of the week, but give yourself a reason to get out of the house. Go to the gym, or for a walk. Plan a movie day, or dinner and drinks with friends. Once again, this will allow you to separate work-time from relax-time.
When you work at an office, you leave when the day is over. This allows you to refocus your mind and shift your outlook. Working remotely can blur the lines between what is work and what is home, which has been said to lead to increased stress and a reduced ability to maintain focus. It’s important to separate yourself from your house every so often in order to avoid the downward cycle towards a lack of productivity.
Being alone every day and isolated in your own living quarters can have negative psychological effects. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you should work on the couch in your pajamas every day. It’s important to structure your days and separate yourself from your house if you truly want to be productive.