Anyone working from home knows that staying focused just might be the hardest part of their job. Once it’s time to settle into to your long work day, 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, however, by the time day is over, it’s apparent that you’ve accomplished nearly no actual work.
In order to help you stay focused and productive, we’ve rounded up these 10 working from home tips that you can easily implement when making the often tough commute from your bed to your laptop.
Stay on schedule
When you picture yourself working from home it looks something like this: Sleep in until 11 am, get up and make a 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. It’s a wise choice to actually 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, but 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 with a 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. For example, you’ll know those are your productive hours, and there’s less chance you’ll procrastinate. 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).
As people who sometimes procrastinates like college seniors at finals time, we understand how difficult it is to work on a project that isn’t due for months. A good way to put the pressure on yourself to get some motivation is to make your own deadlines. Set benchmarks along the way that will help you accomplish something each day. Try bribing yourself with an added incentive. For example, some let themselves eat that second brownie or even buy the new sneakers they’ve been drooling over for months after finally meeting a deadline. This way you are consistently working instead of having a really stressful push right before your project is due.
Have a daily plan
Similar to setting deadlines, having a plan for each day will help you stay focused and on track. It’s helpful to begin each day by writing a plan of attack. List all the tasks you need to complete for that day. It can also help to write your task list for the following day in the evening. This way, when you wake up the next morning, you can get going right from the get-go. Or simply set yourself a daily goal: 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.
Social media can halt productivity faster than you can hit retweet. It’s very tempting to scroll through your social media feeds. 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, force yourself not to look your mailbox compulsively. 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.
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. For me, taking 15 minutes to meditate or stretch helps me take my mind off work without getting distracted by social media or TV. Don’t forget to take a lunch break and coffee breaks are necessary when working from home
Have a dedicated work space
Create a space in your home that’s only for work. This doesn’t have to be an entire room or even an entire table, just one area that you use every day. This space helps 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 we start to work. For example, making sure to get up early enough to clear the kitchen table and set up your working area before your scheduled start time.
Set boundaries with other people
As someone who works from home, people may assume your days are flexible or even free. Set boundaries with your family and friends so that within working hours your neighbor doesn’t ask you to dog sit and your friend doesn’t call to complain about her ex for 3 hours. This won’t only send a signal to them, but it will also help you respect your own working time and communicate to others that just because you’re home doesn’t mean that you’re available.
However, at the end of the day, you know yourself and when and how you work best. Use these tips along with a little bit of self-discipline to create a schedule and working environment