Anyone working from home knows that staying focused just might be the hardest part of their job. Once it’s time to settle into your long workday, you find this unforeseen burst of motivation to suddenly fold a month’s worth of laundry or prepare a six-course meal. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but by the time the day is over, it’s apparent that you’ve accomplished very little actual work.
In order to help you stay focused and productive, we’ve rounded up some helpful work from home tips that you can easily implement when making the tough commute from your bed to your laptop.
10 Tips for how to work from home:
Stay on schedule
Have a weekly plan
Utilize online communication tools
Take a break
Have a dedicated workspace
Check out productivity apps
Maintain a healthy routine
01. Stay on schedule
When you picture yourself working from home, it might look something like this: Sleep in until 11 AM, get up and make coffee, go back to bed with your laptop and pretend to be productive until about 3 PM, all while never changing out of your pajamas. As blissful as this sounds, we all know it doesn’t add up in the productive equation – especially for a person working on a solo project with a distant deadline. Instead, it's a wise choice to set a schedule and hold yourself accountable. Are you used to working from 9 to 5? Or maybe you’re more creative in the morning, and therefore starting at 7 AM would be better?
Find the time of day that works for you, and make sure you commit to it. It’s important to put yourself in the mindset that you are working from an office by staying strict about your time frame – as in, don’t expect to bake a batch of brownies from scratch or deep clean your oven during this time. If you have structure, it will benefit you greatly. You’ll know which hours are most productive for you, reducing your chances of procrastination. Moreover, when you turn off your computer, it means that you’re officially done for the day (and maybe you’ll actually get those chores done after all, too).
02. Get dressed
Even if you don’t plan to see anyone or leave your house all day, make it a point to put on clothes in the morning (and we’re not talking about just a dress shirt with boxers like you normally do for Skype interviews). But why? Because getting dressed tricks your mind into thinking you are going somewhere, hence preparing you to take on this workday full power. No, you don’t need to put on a suit and tie (unless you want to, we won’t stop you), but even changing from pajamas to slightly more presentable sweatpants or jeans will help you feel more put together and ready to work. Most people have a morning routine before they go to work, so don’t skip that. Do your hair, put on makeup (or maybe not), take a shower - whatever you need to do in order to feel prepared to take on your tasks.
03. Set deadlines
As people who sometimes procrastinate (like college students during finals time) we understand how difficult it is to work on a project that isn’t due for months. A good way to motivate yourself is to make your own deadlines. Set benchmarks along the way that will help you accomplish something each day, so that you’re consistently working rather than cramming at the last minute. Try bribing yourself with an added incentive. After meeting a deadline, you might give yourself a reward, whether it’s a healthy snack, a relaxing bath, or a new pair of sneakers.
04. Have a weekly plan
Similar to setting deadlines, having a plan for the week will help you stay focused and on track. At the end of each week, plan out your upcoming tasks for the following week. This way, when you wake up each morning, you can get started right away. Be sure to also set daily goals for yourself: start creating your freelance website, finish that presentation for the end of the week, write three social media posts, create a pitch – whatever you need to accomplish, commit to it.
05. Utilize online communication tools
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is communicating with the rest of your team. Good communication is crucial for a smooth and productive workflow, as it helps team members stay on the same page and avoid any misunderstandings or mistakes. Luckily, there are a variety of tools available to keep employees connected. Both Slack and Google Hangouts offer useful online messaging tools that are an efficient way to touch base throughout the day. For more in-depth discussions, opt for video conferencing using platforms like Skype, BlueJeans, or Zoom. You can take collaboration a step further with Connecteam, a team management app that not only helps you communicate with your employees remotely, but that also enables you to manage employee scheduling and send important documents By communicating regularly with your team, you’ll be able to maintain the meetings and discussions you’d have inside the office.
06. Log out
Social media can halt productivity faster than you can hit “retweet.” It’s tempting to scroll through your social media feeds throughout the day. But before you know it, an hour has gone by and you’re deep in the web creeping on your friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s Instagram photos from 2012. So, try logging out of all your social accounts during work hours. Checking social media is a habitual compulsion, so make it as difficult as possible for yourself. Also, restrain yourself from compulsively checking your inbox. This study finds people check their email an average of 74 times a day – talk about one of the utmost focus-breakers. Set yourself specific times in the morning, afternoon and evening to check and answer your emails, so that you can concentrate more on the actual productive work for the day ahead.
07. Take a break
There’s nothing wrong with stepping away and taking a break from your work; in fact, it will actually enhance your focus. Approach breaks with discipline. If you’ve had a really productive hour, give yourself 5-7 minutes to make a coffee or do some yoga. Maybe you just finished a project or sifted through half your inbox – this is a good time to take a walk, with an exact time you need to be back. You may find that taking 15 minutes to meditate or stretch gives you the mental refresh you need. Also: don’t forget to take a lunch break to help you maintain a healthy work-life balance.
08. Have a dedicated workspace
Create a space in your home that’s exclusively for doing work. This doesn’t have to be an entire room or even an entire table, just one area that you use everyday. This will help your mind know it’s time to work from the moment you sit down. It will be easier to resist the urge to do anything else around the house and you’ll accomplish more productive tasks. We know from experience that it’s best when everything is clean and organized before getting to work. Make sure to get up early enough to clear your working area before your scheduled start time.
09. Check out productivity apps
Whether it’s because of miscommunication with your team or a host of new distractions within your home, you may find yourself falling behind in your projects and tasks. To get back on track, not only do you need to wake up on time and get out of your pajamas, but you also need to create a clear and organized schedule of your work. More than committing your tasks to memory or creating a daily to-do list, it’s helpful to build a strategic weekly plan using task management tools such Monday, Asana, or Trello. You can also use time management apps specifically designed to track productivity and prevent procrastination, like RescueTime and Toggl. Listening to productivity music can also help you channel your focus. At the end of each week, make it a habit to review the past week’s performance and schedule your tasks for the week ahead. This will help ensure that you’re not just dragging out your projects, but that you’re instead moving forward in meeting your team’s goals.
10. Maintain a healthy routine
Working from home isn’t just about keeping your mind focused; it’s also about keeping your body healthy. You may find it tempting to casually snack all day when your refrigerator is just within your reach - but try to resist. Constant snacking could make you sluggish and unproductive when it comes to your work. Instead, stick to a consistent meal schedule similar to that of a normal workday in the office, setting aside an hour for a healthy, filling lunch. Each evening, prepare a nutritious afternoon snack, such as cut vegetables, fruit, or nuts, to anticipate any hunger you might feel the following day.
At the end of the day, you know yourself and how you work best. Use these tips, along with a little bit of self-discipline, to create a schedule and working environment that will allow you to stay productive and do your best work. After all, nothing feels better than wrapping up the day with a sense of accomplishment.