Are you one of the 3.7 million employees that works at home on a part- or full-time basis? If so, then you know that while there are definitely some perks, there are also some challenges in terms of managing your own productivity.
In this post, we’re going to look at nine ways you can be more productive when working from home.
1. Create a space that you use just for work
For those that work on a laptop, you might be tempted to work all throughout your house. At the dining table or kitchen bar, on the couch, on the bed, on the patio, or in a variety of other locations. For those that work on a desktop, you might be tempted to “save space” by putting your desk in your bedroom, living room, or dining room.
These are all things to avoid if possible.
The reason is simple. To maintain a healthy balance between your professional and personal life, you need boundaries. If every room in the house represents a room you could be working in, then your work will literally haunt you throughout your home.
When possible, having a separate office space, whether it is yours alone or shared with your spouse and other members of your family, will help you create a mental boundary between work activities and home activities. When you go from your office to your living room, you will feel the shift between leaving work and going home, sans the commute.
2. Establish ground rules for work hours
Don’t just assume that the people you live with will “get” that your work hours are work hours. It’s important to establish ground rules so that your family, friends, or roommates know what is acceptable and what is not when you step into your office.
Effectively, you want the people who live with you to treat you as if you have physically left the house for the day to work. They shouldn’t be popping into your office to ask you where the remote is or similar questions, just like they wouldn’t if you had left the house to go to work.
Likewise, they should know that just because you left your office to go to the kitchen or the restroom doesn’t mean that you are “home” since you are still working.
By establishing and sticking to your work time ground rules, even toddlers will understand that mommy or daddy is working right now and leave you be to do so.
3. Follow a routine when starting and ending your work day
When people go to work, they have a routine. They get up at a specific time, get dressed, have breakfast, and commute to work. When they are ending their work day, they have a routine as well. They finish up their emails, shut down their computer, write a few notes for the next day, and commute home.
A similar routine should be applied when at home to further instill the boundaries between your professional and personal activities. You should get up at a specific time, get dressed in a work-specific outfit, have breakfast, and head into your office to work. At the end of your day, you should finish up your emails, shut down your computer, write a few notes for the next day, and leave your office.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get dressed up in a suit or tie while working from home. But if you typically lounge around on the weekends in sweatpants and a t-shirt, it’s important to change it up while working so that you can feel a difference between how you take care of yourself before working versus how you take care of yourself before relaxing.
4. Invest in noise-canceling headphones
For those that live in a noisier household, an investment in noise canceling headphones can be the difference between distraction and focus. If you need to take calls throughout the day, make sure your noise canceling headphones have a built-in microphone so that you can switch from listening to your concentration sounds to a call without having to switch gears.
Noise canceling headphones come in a variety of styles and options: over-the-ear versus earbuds, wired versus bluetooth, etc. You can check out the most popular options in this article on CNET and read reviews on sites like Amazon to figure out the headphones best suited for your specific needs.
5. Find some great sounds for concentration
Noise-canceling headphones alone will not create a perfect environment for focus. While you can simply put them on to reduce noise in the background, having something to listen to that will help you focus is the best way to go.
It’s important to try different sounds for concentration to find out what works best with your personality and the type of work that you do. Some people can focus quite well while listening to their favorite tunes, while others will find music distracting or overly soothing.
If you’re looking for white noise, you can start with free services like Rainy Mood, which allows you to stream the sounds of rain. If that doesn’t work, you can try premium services like Brain.fm that have used science to determine the best sounds for focus, relaxation, and sleep.
They have modes built for intense work periods, power napping, and meditation too! Hence, it’s a great for both professional and personal use.
6. Use RescueTime to analyze your computer activities
Do you ever feel like you just don’t know where your time goes each day? RescueTime can help you find out. This service offers a free lite version that will monitor what you do on your computer and give you a detailed report each day.
If you have specific applications that you use for work, RescueTime can double as a time-logging tool so you can report your hours worked throughout the day on specific projects.
7. Block out time for specific types of activities
One of the best things you can do for productivity is to block out specific times for specific types of activities whenever possible. For example, you can plan to check and respond to your emails twice a day — once when you get in and once before you leave. Or you can set an hour or two aside each day for scheduling calls and meetings.
What this will allow you to do is train your brain to be efficient at a specific task at a specific time. It will also keep you from getting distracted by email and other interruptions during your peak work periods. Simply adjust the times you do specific things until you find the right times to do them all.
8. Turn off personal notifications
To aid in productivity, turn off as many personal notifications as possible during your work hours. Unless you’re using Facebook for marketing, you don’t need to get your notifications displayed on your smartphone’s lock screen or popping up on your desktop.
You also don’t need news alerts, new email alerts, or other notifications for that matter, unless your work involves writing up breaking news articles for your corporate blog or handling emergency customer service issues.
9. Be sure to energize yourself
There are two types of people: introverts and extroverts. Introverts find time with others energy-draining, and thus use their alone time for re-energizing. Extroverts find time without others energy-draining, and thus use their time with others for re-energizing.
If you are an introvert, then congratulations, working at home will likely bring you more energy than working in a crowded office place. If you are an extrovert, however, you need to make sure that you are getting the energy you need through socialization.
Extroverts will want to make sure that they find time to socialize to build up their energy. It could be as simple as going to the coffee shop every morning to talk to your favorite barista, finding networking events for your industry, or getting into personal hobbies that get you out of the house and socializing with others, such as a local softball team.
In short, the last thing you want to do is lose love for your work at home job just because you aren’t interacting with your colleagues. Getting energized will ensure that your productivity stays up on a daily basis.
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