I’ve been working from home since 2011 and I’m not sure you’ll find someone who loves the work-from-home lifestyle as much as I do! I find myself being more productive, creative, and focused when I’m able to work from home or a space outside the typical office setting. But for some, working from home can mean endless distractions, decreased productivity, and more stress. I’ve reflected back on my time as a work-from-home-devotee and pulled together what I think has contributed to my positive experience with it.
Most of my tips revolve around creating boundaries and structure. I think it’s fine to stay flexible and switch things up a bit, but in general, some semblance of routine and repetition is going to serve you well.
Here are my top tips and resources to make the most out of working from home and staying as productive as possible!
Start with a Solid To-Do List
My day is dictated by my to-do list. It helps me prioritize and focus my energy on the most important things each day. A great resource that helped me with to-do lists is the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. I don’t follow all of his techniques anymore, but I do continue to maintain a to-do list. My task management system of choice these days is Wrike, but I’ve used Outlook’s built-in task list and Asana as well.
Utilize Time Blocking
Each afternoon I time block the next day by putting my to-do list and calendar side-by-side and physically placing each task on the calendar, (if using Gmail, I have a separate calendar I schedule each task on – this way it’s visible to me, but doesn’t impact my availability). If the task doesn’t fit within the workday, it means it can’t be on the list!
The To-Do List (in Wrike) and the blocked calendar (in Gmail). I use a maroon color to indicate tasks blocked on my calendar. I move things around throughout the day and week as things shift.
Having my day blocked also helps me stay focused. If you get a lot of distractions coming at you (phone calls, noisy kiddos, life in general), this can help you quickly return to what you were working on. Another benefit of this is that it breaks the day up. If you’re working from home and don’t have any calls, you may look at your day and say “Wow, I have 8 hours to get all of this work done!” and then proceed to bounce from one thing to the next, procrastinate, and feel frustrated. Blocking pulls me through the day, from task to task, with discrete work efforts.
Use a Time Tracker or Timer
This may not be for everyone, but using a timer is another way I stay present and aware of how long I’m spending on things. I use Toggl, and have it set for the Pomodoro Technique (25 minute periods of work with 5 minutes of break). Basically, the timer goes off every 25 minutes – which is a great reminder when you were only planning to spend 15 minutes on something and suddenly 25 minutes have gone by! I also like having a record of how long I work each day and how I spend my time.
Have a Separate Space
I highly recommend working from a place that doesn’t feel like your living space. I’d avoid working from the bed or couch, and instead find a table, counter, or chair to work from. I’m a huge supporter of moving around and working from different spots throughout the day. I know it can be tough to find a dedicated area – but even if you have to work from the bed or couch, try to switch things up and work from a different location for part of the day. A small change of scenery can really help!
So, do you work from home? Do these tips resonate with you – and do you have any to add to the list? I love learning new productivity tips and hacks – share them in the comments!