Hi everyone! Today I’m switching up today’s post and talking about how to stay productive when you work from home. I’ve been working from home for two years year now, and one of the questions I get the most is how I stay on top of things.
I am definitely no professional here but I wanted to share what I’ve learned over time that has worked for me to be more productive.
When I’m busy, I thrive. It’s actually on the slower days where I should be the most productive when I have tended to fall apart. There has to be something psychological about having a busy day or week because that’s actually when I really bring my A-game and I’m super organized: because I have to be.
But on those slower days, or maybe when you just don’t know where to start, try some of these tips to help you tackle things:
For starters, I always use a paper calendar in addition to the calendar on my phone. This way I can turn back and forth on pages, write out deadlines, appointments, etc. When things are written down in pencil or paper, they stick in your head and become more permanent. You’re less likely to flake on them if they are staring at you from your desk. I use a monthly planner by Day Designer. They are similar to Erin Condren life planners, but I prefer Day Designer because the pages are a bit simpler than EC with a timed-out schedule column, a to-do list, and a notes section.
I always try to write a to-do list the night before or first thing in the morning. I write it out during one of these times because at night or first thing in the morning, emails aren’t flowing in and you can actually think about what you need to accomplish.
Be realistic here and only write out 3 – 5 tasks each day to finish. If I have an event or I’m teaching my fitness classes, I know that I’ll be taking a chunk out of my work day and I’ll aim for only 3 things versus 5. Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you finish your tasks, then take 5 minutes during the day to write another 3 tasks, and so on.
Take a pen and cross things off your list. This is where the paper calendar comes into play again. Physically crossing off something on a piece of paper helps with a sense of accomplishment. Even if you don’t get through everything you want to, you can still feel okay about what you crossed off.
Spend less time on your phone. As a content creator, this is really hard for us. We get jobs based on likes, engagement, etc and it can feel nearly impossible to stay off your phone. But that little screen is a black whole and can cost you hours of precious productive time. Here are some tricks I use:
- Put your phone on do not disturb so that you aren’t distracted by a vibrating or ringing phone from a text or call.
- Put your phone out of reach. This could be simply just putting it behind your back, or in another room completely. I promise over time you’ll forget it’s even there. (Especially if you’re working on those 3 – 5 tasks you wrote out above!)
- Dedicate time to be on your phone. I know it’s impossible in today’s world and due to the nature of my job to be phone free all day. So I accept that, then work around it. I take time in the morning, afternoon, and at the end of my day to go on my phone. Set an alarm, and when if goes off you’ll know it’s time to put your phone down. The time you spend is up to you, there’s no magic number here.
Wake up early, even if you don’t “have” to. I am sorry to say this, but this might actually be my best piece of advice. When I worked in an office, I had to get up early and go into the office because it was required. But when you work for yourself, nobody is making you get up and go into an office.
I like to get my workouts in in the morning. Instead of going into an office, I use the gym or studio as my reason for having to get up and out of the house in the morning. By default, I come home, shower, and I’m ready to go by 9 or 10 am. I stay in sweats if I don’t have anywhere to be, but at least I’m showered if I have to make a last minute appointment or run an errand!
Since working from home means you don’t go into an office, make a dedicated space to work. I used to work on my laptop form my couch, and the second I got a desktop and worked from a desk, my productivity increaser exponentially. Do work in an area made just for it, even if that’s a dedicated seat at a kitchen table or if you buy a small IKEA desk for the corner of a room.
Go a little further here and make sure it’s a space you love. Organize your desk. Add inspirational quotes or a mood board somewhere close by to keep you motivated. If buying color coordinated pens sparks joy for you, go wild. I even started adding fresh flowers to our office so that I wanted to be at it.
Take time for lunch. I can space out and be sedentary for hours, but a lunch break means I have to get up for a quick change of scenery, and feed my brain. This is actually hard for me because when I’m really into something I won’t stop until it’s done. Still working on my own advice for this one!
Sometimes you have to turn your email off. Do you ever find yourself checking your email every five seconds? Unfortunately, email can be just like your phone in some senses. And taking a few seconds every couple of minutes can really add up during the day and week. If the tab is open and I’m staring at it, I’m going to click it. If you have a project you have to get through or a post to write, exit out of that email.
Use noise, music, or whatever you need to in order to focus. I have a neighbor with a really annoying dog. I’ll just say it like it is. But also my mind can wander if I’m only listening to my own thoughts.
- Play music you already know the lyrics to so it’s not a novelty to you, OR find an acoustic station with softer music. I like the coffee house stations or acoustic covers because these songs check off both of the above.
- Put TV on in another room (another room being key here). Similarly to music, make sure it’s a show or movie you’ve seen so many times, you don’t have FOMO over missing a scene.
- Use a noise machine to drown out tiny noises or annoying dogs. 🙂
- If you don’t like or want music, use essential oils to help you focus. Different scents evoke different feelings, and you can find specific blends for focusing, energizing, etc. (I wrote a full blog post on essential oils and how to use them here.) I prefer Saje Wellness, but even Target and Amazon sell essential oils. I’ve given this affordable diffuser from Amazon as a gift twice now, and both recipients absolutely love it.
- Try a vitamin to help you get in the zone. No, I’m not advocating using ADD meds here if you don’t have it. Don’t do that, okay guys? I’ve been taking these Olly Nutrition Laser Focus gummies when I’m feeling scatterbrained. The ginseng naturally helps you to focus.
When work is done for the day, leave your work space. Okay, so now you have a dedicated space, that’s wonderful! But when the day is done, close your laptop, turn it off, or shut the door. I think it’s just as important to know when to stop working for the day, because you need to relax your brain so it can work at its maximum potential the next day.
Feel free to leave your productivity suggestions below. I’d love to read them!