Take a second to think back, long, long ago — before you could roll out of bed, throw on a nice top, hit “go” on your Keurig, and prepare for a day of back-to-back Zoom meetings.
There used to be a time when you had to wake up, take a shower, put on an entire outfit that was suitable for the office, and commute to work. Once you got there, you had to do your job from the moment you stepped in the door to the time you drove back home.
Now, jump forward to today. The chances are pretty high that you’re still not working in an office, and it’s probably through a hybrid work model if you are. In fact, experts predict that hybrid and remote work will only trend upward in the coming years, and a 2021 study performed by OWL Labs showed that nearly 85% of the workers surveyed were happier working from home.
With these statistics considered, and the fact that you’re probably reading this on your home computer, it’s essential to learn how to be productive at home.
Without further ado, we’ll tackle why finding motivation when working from home can be challenging and dive into seven of the best productivity tips for your work-from-home lifestyle. Hopefully, you can find some inspiration about how to maximize your productivity in this article!
Why Is It Challenging to Focus When Working from Home?
Much of the reason working from home poses a unique challenge regarding productivity lies in the name — Work. From. Home.
You’re working and trying to accomplish everything you would generally try to complete in a day at the office from the comfort of your home. This means all the distractions you’re typically distanced from — like a pet looking for attention, a toddler who wants a snack, or the chores you usually do after work — are all looking you in the eye while you’re trying to work. And if they aren’t looking you in the eye, they’re always in the back of your mind waiting to make an appearance.
To make the most of your day and maximize your productivity, you need to find a way to balance all of these extra distractions with some head-down-focused work. That means you need to define boundaries when it comes to work, learn to say no to the things that distract you, and find systems that make every work-from-home day productive.
Here are some of our favorite work-from-home strategies that can help you achieve greatness at work — while at home.
Productivity Hack #1: Use Time-Blocking to Build an Effective Routine
Time-blocking has been a buzzword for a while. That’s because it’s an effective way to make the most of the minutes of your schedule. But with all the time management techniques out there, the specifics of time-blocking can get lost in the mix.
If you’re asking yourself, What is time-blocking, exactly? We’ve got you covered.
Essentially, time-blocking is planning out every minute of your day by creating tasks and turning those tasks into calendar events so that you can be more productive. Just like how you use a budget to track how you spend your finances, time-blocking works as a detailed budget for how you spend your time.
If that sounds like a lot of work, don’t worry! It’s not as overwhelming as it may seem.
To time-block effectively, start by taking stock of everything you do throughout the day (not just work activities) and estimate how much time each task usually takes you. Maybe you spend 45 minutes checking emails and responding to them throughout the day, an hour preparing and eating lunch, and half an hour working out once the day wraps up.
Once you have names and times for your daily activities, it’s time to turn them into blocks for your calendar. After you’ve created the blocks, start to organize them on each day in your calendar.
Ideally, a well-blocked day will leave no gaps in your schedule so that you know exactly what to do and when to do it.
Productivity Hack #2: Define Physical Boundaries with a Dedicated Workspace
One of the most challenging aspects of working from home is knowing where to do it.
If you’ve never worked from home before, you probably don’t have a dedicated home office. But if you want to make working from home a full-time career, it’s essential to have dedicated physical space set aside for work.
You don’t need to start breaking down the furniture in the guest bedroom and doing a complete remodel to create your work area, but you do need a few things to have an adequate workspace:
- A quiet, well-lit area (It’s a plus if you have a door that you can close): You’re more than likely going to spend some time video-conferencing. The less added noise and distraction around you, the better your workspace will be.
- Comfortable furniture: Back pain is the last thing you want six hours into your eight-hour day — that’s why finding a chair and desk that promotes good posture is a must when working from home.
- Simple organization: “Controlled chaos” shouldn’t be the theme of your home office. The more organized your physical workspace is, the easier it will be to work there. Choosing a smaller desk with minimal drawer space can really help you get rid of clutter and stay organized.
Once you’ve set up your workspace, it’s crucial to adopt the mindset that when you’re there, you’re working. This means that both you and everyone in your household understand that you are at work when you are in your work area.
The better your physical boundaries are while working from home, the easier it will be to drop into a productive workflow.
Productivity Hack #3: Schedule Breaks into Your Work-from-Home Day
It can be challenging to work all day, turn off your computer, and not feel burned out when you walk from your home office to your living room. That’s because it’s easy to forgo breaks while working from home.
Sometimes it’s simpler to tell yourself that you are trying to avoid burnout than actually putting it into practice. For example, you say you’re going to take a fifteen-minute break while checking email in the morning, but you wind up working on projects that keep you busy until 3 PM. Before you know it, your day’s almost over, and you haven’t stopped to come up for air once.
To keep those “I’ll take a break in a minute” days from happening, you need to schedule a free time to think, breathe, and eat into your schedule. One great way to do that is by including your breaks in the time-blocking we discussed earlier. Another excellent way to build downtime into your day is the Pomodoro Method.
Rather than dividing your day into long working periods with only a couple of breaks per day, you break your day into small chunks — called pomodoros — of 25-minute work periods with five-minute breaks throughout. And after you finish four pomodoros, you take an entire 25-minute pomodoro off.
This time management style helps you optimize work during those short bursts of time, heightening your sense of achievement and giving you time to decompress throughout the entire day.
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Productivity Hack #4: Find Ways to Stay Connected with Your Team
While working from home, one significant thing is missing from the home office that you would find at a traditional office — other humans.
You may think, I’m an introvert, so working without other humans around me sounds terrific. And that’s a fair point. However, it’s easier for details to slip through the cracks without the ability to touch base with your teammates at a moment’s notice.
To keep communication levels high and ensure that your team is on the same page, you need ways to stay in contact with each other. That could mean a weekly Zoom call to get everyone aligned, project management software to ensure your team is working in harmony, instant messaging software to communicate through text, or a combination of the three.
It doesn’t matter what the secret recipe is for your team — what matters is that your team finds what works best for everyone.
When push comes to shove, you need to feel supported to feel productive, and that support will come down to how effectively you communicate with everyone on your team. Without that sense of connection through communication, it may feel like you are aimlessly drifting alone at your desk with no productivity in sight.
Productivity Hack #5: Play Music That Helps You Focus
Working in a completely quiet environment may be what works for you, and that’s alright. But for many, music drives us forward and helps us achieve our goals.
The best music to boost your productivity at work probably isn’t going to be your favorite pop station, though. Music with lyrics can sometimes do the opposite. After all, can you concentrate on anything else when you sing along with your favorite artist?
So, what should you listen to for that boost of inspiration and motivation to be productive? Music without lyrics is generally a better option to help you find focus while working.
There are many lyricless options out there — it just depends on your mood and what drives your day forward. If you need to calm down as you work and create a peaceful environment, it may be best to search for a calming classical or meditative playlist. On the other hand, if you need a beat that gets you going, maybe you need a more upbeat EDM playlist.
Whatever your work time jam may be, make sure it helps you keep working more than making you get up and dance around the room (Unless it’s your scheduled break time, of course).
And if you’re struggling to find the right music for your mood, let Google know how you’re feeling and see what it comes up with. There are countless music options available designed to help you focus. All it takes is finding the right one that sparks inspiration and keeps you productive the entire day.
Productivity Hack #6: Listen to Your Body While You’re Working
Sometimes your mind and body won’t want to work — even with the most optimized schedule. When those moments happen, don’tt try to push through so that everything gets accomplished.
You need to listen to your body while you’re working from home. If you’re tired of sitting at your desk, get up and move for a few minutes instead of staring at your computer screen. Taking the time to stand up, get the blood flowing, and give your eyes a rest may be just what you need to boost your productivity later on.
Speaking of your eyes, you need to take care of them while working at your computer. Prolonged screen time can lead to migraines and negatively impact your vision. Setting your computer screen to an eye-friendly mode and taking time to look away for a few seconds will help keep your eyes happy.
So when those moments of discomfort, tiredness, or stress start to creep into your mind, take a second to evaluate how you’re feeling. Ask yourself, What do I need to do to get back into a productive state?
Sometimes that looks like grabbing a glass of water, doing a quick workout at your desk, or participating in a brief meditation practice to get back in the right headspace.
Productivity Hack #7: Set Realistic Expectations for Your Workday
You will have days where you don’t accomplish everything you set out to do — it’s part of being human.
You’re not a robot, so don’t hold yourself to expectations of being a high achiever every minute of every day. Give yourself some grace in those moments when you find yourself procrastinating, spacing out, or feeling just plain unmotivated. You may be setting yourself up to leap forward when you feel like you’re being unproductive.
Look for ways to accomplish what you want to achieve realistically. That may look like grouping activities with the same theme together for each day of the week, setting deadlines a few days or weeks out, or simply allowing wiggle room in your schedule to let life happen.
You Can Achieve Greatness and Boost Your Productivity While Working from Home
Working from home can be a beautiful thing. It generally allows for more flexibility in your schedule, eliminates the hours per week you would normally spend commuting, and gives you the freedom to prioritize yourself while you work.
That doesn’t mean you still won’t find those days where productivity seems lacking and you feel stress starting to creep into your life. Working from home is still work, after all.
However, you can enjoy every day by adopting good work-from-home habits and implementing productivity hacks that can help you increase your achievement level. So take some time today to look at your current work setup and see if some of these tips can help you.
Here’s to achieving greatness while working from home!