Are you still working from home, most of or all of the time, yet not always productive? The way we work has changed forever and many of us are delighted to be able to work from home more. It really helps that life/work balance if you manage it right. Whether you work for yourself or a company, it can be easy to be distracted at home. If you are still having difficulty or are new to it, read on for 10 tips to stay productive when working from home.
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1. Plan the day before
You need to ensure you have structure if you are working from home regularly. Before the pandemic, I used to work a day or two from home but didn’t give much thought to it. Now I know it’s a long term way of working for me, I plan accordingly and work around any restrictions. Think about when to time zoom meetings when your home is most quiet and you are least likely to be interrupted. And just like when you were in the office, consider when you are at your most productive. If you are best in the mornings or afternoons, load up your most difficult tasks then.
2. Remember to stick to your mealtimes
Take your time and enjoy your breakfast before you start your workday. I have found myself too often having to excuse myself and turn off my camera as I’m still scoffing my cereal and it’s not a good look. Make sure you take your lunch too. Just because you are at home doesn’t mean you don’t get to stop and have a proper lunch or pop out if you need to, same as when you worked in an office. If you are staying in, allow yourself enough time to make yourself something and eat away from your computer.
3. Get dressed
This puts you in work mode and ensures you don’t get caught out in your PJ’s during a zoom call. Don’t risk the nice top with PJ bottoms combo either. You might have to stand up for something! I’m not suggesting a powersuit or formal wear but just ensure you are presentable. Work attire has naturally got more casual, but just make sure you are presentable as needed in your particular role. It is possible to strike the balance of looking ready to work, as well as being comfortable, as seen here.
4. Have a dedicated work area or nook
If you have a whole spare room/office set up, lucky you! If you are like me and at your kitchen table, then make sure it’s kept tidy and clear of crap. Make sure you have the right tools for comfort. I have an ergonomic office chair to support my back, a laptop stand so I can use my laptop as a monitor, then have a separate wireless keyboard and mouse. I suffered in pain for ages before realising I needed to get the appropriate gear for the home office. At the end of the day, I pack most of it away so I get my living space back.
Even if you are working in a corner of your bedroom, see if you can corner it off nicely and create some sense of separation (perhaps a screen, bookshelf or curtain). I love digging around Pinterest and dream about having a cute little office squeezed into a wardrobe space or under the stairs one day like these beauties. But until that day comes, I have to make do with the kitchen table.
5. Remind others that you are actually working!
This is still a tricky one for some, especially if the other person isn’t working and doesn’t take your work seriously. There can still be a perception by some that you are not really working hard if working from home which is so annoying! Whether it’s flatmates or children, explain you are working, this is how you make a living and you need to concentrate. Consider wearing headphones (even if you’re not playing anything) so they get the message and tell them you can catch up over lunchtime or a tea break.
6. Set times to check email (marked in your calendar)
Checking and rechecking emails really sucks up your time. Think about how many times you read an email before you actually respond. You read it once when you see it, and then more times while thinking about your response or procrastinating before answering. Try reading and responding straight away if you can, or flagging it, if you need more time before responding. Set times when you will respond to email, perhaps first thing, before lunch and late afternoon, or once every 2 hours and shut your email down between this. Then you don’t just spend the whole day wading through and never getting anything else done.
7. Lists, lists, lists (download my free daily planner)
I love a list! On my laptop, phone or the old-fashioned way, written down so I have the satisfaction of crossing things off. You need to make them realistic for what you can achieve in a day. Shift things to other days as needed to spread out your workload. This will motivate and keep you productive when working from home.
You can also try a daily planner. This is a great way to set up your day. Use them to plan your daily schedule, list your priorities and note down what you need for tomorrow. Download my free daily planner and see if it helps you get more done in your day too! If you don’t have a printer, you can open with Adobe and choose ‘fill’ to use as a form but I prefer to print it out and fill it in by hand.
8. Don’t forget to take a walk or other exercise
It’s so easy to get bogged down and forget to do your daily exercise when you work from home. When I used to work in an office, I was so disciplined about going to the gym first thing or taking a long lunchtime walk. Now I need to set a time and not make excuses. But I still get days I feel I can’t manage it. Sometimes I do a work call while on a walk and let my colleagues know that’s why they can hear background noise! Read more tips on squeezing in exercise while working from home.
There are lots of free workouts and dance classes online to experiment with, so find something that suits you. Buy some dumbbells or a kettlebell set to challenge yourself more. Running is also a great exercise to slot into your day when you have a window. If you want to start or restart running, see my post for ideas on how to get going.
9. Limit distractions
Don’t have the TV on in the background or scroll social media when you are supposed to be working. You wouldn’t do that in the office, so you need to apply the same discipline at home. You should still take breaks and have a proper lunch but don’t get sucked into distractions. It’s too easy to say, just five minutes and then an hour goes by! In order to stay focused, you need to be strict and limit any distractions that will pull you away. Stay on track by recognising your weaknesses and remaining focused.
10. Start and end your day properly.
To really get yourself in work mode, recreate some of the things you used to do in the office. Perhaps start with a coffee and go over your daily planner or to-do list. Then start on your emails. At the end of the day, sign off on time, close the laptop down and clear away all your work bits. I literally pack away most of it in a cupboard since I work in an open plan kitchen/living room and want my space back (and out of the way of my toddler’s hands). Finish your work day and reclaim your home!
Keep at it to stay productive when working from home…
Most of us are no longer new to working from home but the above can serve as a refresher if you still struggle. Or maybe you have changed jobs recently and found yourself remote working for the first time. If you are new to it, perhaps due to maternity leave for instance, read my post for more to consider. There will be different reasons why you might struggle to stay productive when working from home.
If you get a bit lonely working from home, catch up with a friend or colleague on a break or a walk. You could also suggest lunch or after-work meet-ups as it’s important to still maintain face-to-face contact! Many prefer to use their laptop cameras as much as possible, so they have a better sense of interaction. If you are usually shy about that, try it out and see if it changes the dynamic. Ask colleagues how they stay productive when working from home.
The key is to create a sense of separation from your normal home life and bring the professional vibes in so you are treating your workday with respect and focus. Many people don’t have the type of jobs where it’s even possible to work from home. If you do, consider yourself lucky and make the most of it. Commit to staying productive when working from home!