Are you preventing yourself from being more productive when working from home? Through trial and error I’ve discovered ways to curb my natural tendencies and be more productive.
Working from home can be fantastic for the potential flexibility and increased productivity it provides.
But these benefits have challenges attached.
Over the last few years I’ve read countless articles, experimented with work patterns, sleep schedules, diets, herbal teas, software and everything in between to find what works best for me.
I’d like to share some of the most important findings with you so that you too might be more productive working from home.
1. Plan the right kinds of tasks
The first mistake I corrected was in planning the right kinds of tasks during my remote working days.
I’m at my most productive at home when I have big tasks which require dedicated, distraction-free concentration.
- Writing blog posts
- Building presentations
- Crafting concept documents
- Video editing
Spend some time determining which tasks you produce the best results from working from home.
2. Know when you work best
When do you get your best work done?
For me it’s between 8.30am and 11am. Then again from 3pm to 4pm.
If I begin my day by reading through emails, I use up some of my most valuable minutes on energy sapping tasks which take me no closer towards completing my goals.
Instead, I make sure that the first thing I do is the day’s most important task on my to-do list.
Do yourself a favor by matching tasks to your natural rhythm.
3. Create a space to work in
Where do you set up to work for the day? Some people like to keep several options open, finding that the variation inspires productivity.
For me, I discovered that I needed one ‘home office’ desk set up, where I could consistently settle in for the day. (In fact – I work best from a standing desk. But that’s a whole other blog post)
The working environment you create for yourself plays a large role in your ability to be effective.
Consider these things:
- Do you like working in a bright environment?
- Would background music/noise detract or add to your productivity?
- Does a dedicated workspace work better for you, or an ad-hoc solution?
- Do you work better in a clear space, or organized-chaos?
4. Maintain your morning routine
When you’re heading into the office, what does your morning routine look like?
I made the oversight when working from home of sleeping in a little longer, wearing casual clothes, and skipping breakfast in favor of starting my working day as soon as possible.
- Keep closely to the same routine as you would when going to the office
- Wear work-appropriate clothes instead of sweatpants and a t-shirt
- Use the time saved non-commuting to do something you enjoy. Go for a walk, hit the gym or play the guitar (assuming it’s ok with your neighbors)
- Start your working-day at the usual time
5. Take regular breaks
Without colleagues to shoot the breeze with at the watercooler, it’s easy to ignore or forget the importance of taking breaks.
The Pomodoro technique was a breakthrough for me. It forces you to take a breather for 5 minutes after 25 minutes of intense work. Give it a go using the browser-based Tomato Timer.
Having to complete a section of work within 25 minutes really helps me focus on the task at hand. And 5 minutes away is enough to re-charge ready for the next stint.
I learned to combine that with disciplining myself to take a full hour-long lunch break to create a killer daily routine. Keeping me motivated throughout the day.
6. Do everything you can to minimize distractions
Sometimes the universe seems to work against you. Throwing a barrage of distractions at you throughout the day, through no fault of your own.
That being said, there are some ways to mitigate against these distractions.
- Reduce the effect of ambient noise by wearing noise cancelling headphones
- Replace fluctuating external noise with white noise (Noisli is one of my favs)
- Keep your phone out of sight and earshot. Even if you don’t interact with it, a phone buzzing all day can pull you out of a productive streak
- Close all but essential tabs in your internet browser. Including social networks!
- Although it’s mighty tempting, leave the snacks in the cupboard
- Check email periodically, instead of constantly dipping in and out
7. Keep to a regular working pattern
I know that the advice here is easier said than done. But once you put it all together you can build a bulletproof structure.
This is now my routine for working from home:
6am Wake up at the usual time.
6.10am Take a shower and get dressed (shirt and jeans).
6.30am Eat breakfast and drink a cup of tea (I’m British).
7am Go for a long walk through the beautiful forest nearby.
7.50am Return from my walk and brew a cup of coffee.
8am Sit down and make a to-do list of tasks I am determined to finish today.
8.10am Open up my laptop and work on the most important task of the day, with headphones on, listening to instrumental music.
9.30am Check my emails for the first time, responding only to critical items.
9.45am Work through the next item on my list of to-dos.
11.30am Take a five minute coffee break.
1.30pm Time for lunch.
2.30pm After lunch, check through all new and remaining emails.
3pm Work through final tasks, listening to white noise on my headphones.
4pm Coffee and a cookie (I’ve earned it).
5pm Final check through emails before closing my laptop for the day.
5.10pm Prep and cook a delicious meal (hopefully) to disconnect and unwind.
Bonus tip: Communicate regularly and well
Most importantly of all – take steps to avoid isolation when working from home.
This is especially important if you ever work remotely for more than one day at a time.
Loneliness is a productivity killer.
Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch no matter where you are in the world. Virtual teams are becoming a core part of working life.
Online meetings, calls, document sharing, and collaboration – there are a number of ways to be an effective team member remotely.
I hope you’ve found this useful, and that there are one or two news things you’re thinking of testing yourself.
- Plan the right kinds of tasks
- Work at a time that suits you best
- Find a space to work in that boosts your productivity
- Keep close to your regular morning routine
- Remember to take short breaks throughout the day
- Minimize distractions
- Develop your own working pattern
- Communicate and collaborate remotely
I’m always looking to improve – please share your best tips in the comments section below!
Give the TeamViewer chat and meetings functions a whirl.
Or collaborate on tasks at work by setting up your office computer for remote access, enabling you to remotely connect and access files as if you were sat in the office.