In this post, I discuss a number of ways on how to be productive working from home.
The discussion is relevant if you run a small business from home or your company offers a work-from-home scheme. After all, working from home is about completing your tasks and producing targeted outputs.
Today, more and more companies are now encouraging their staff to work from home since, in many ways, the workers and the businesses both gain benefits.
One of the companies I admire, Canva, recently announced that working from home will be embedded deeply into their culture, and their employees only need to come to the office 8 times per year.
My company began offering working from home as a new means two years ago, just before the Covid-19 pandemic exploded.
Initially, there were mixed reactions to this scheme.
Bosses were worried since they could no longer monitor their personnel closely. Some employees were also quite reluctant to join the bandwagon as they were concerned that the home environment would render them ineffective.
For people like me, this is a blessing since I live about 40 miles from the workplace and working from home is not entirely new for me.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. And working from home began to become a normal thing.
The debate on how someone can remain productive while working from home remains a hot topic.
However, productivity is not something you can achieve by doing it once and expecting all to be well from then on.
Rather, productivity needs a long-term approach that entails the right tools and techniques. Let’s look at some of the ways you can work at optimum productivity level from the comfort of your home.
As the article can be quite lengthy, please use the table of contents to skip to a specific point of discussion.
Table of Contents
- 1. Plan your day the first thing in the morning
- 2. Efficiently use your time
- 3. Don’t mistake motion with action
- 4. Set deadlines
- 5. Focus or multitask?
- 6. Reward yourself
- 7. Have an adequate rest
- 8. Stay off distraction
- 9. Focus on daily work outputs
- 10. Try the Pomodoro technique
- 11. Don’t forget your family
- 12. Create your own, proper work-from-home space
- 13. Move around your home
- 14. Eat enough food and water
- Concluding remark
1. Plan your day the first thing in the morning
It’s a no-brainer. The first thing you want to do before starting your day is to overview the day’s schedule.
I organize myself with Google Calendar, where I enter all important tasks and schedules in the calendar. Most of today’s schedules usually would have been entered in the preceding days (or even weeks).
Google Calendar also integrates event scheduling (appointment, meeting, etc.) complete with a reminder system, which is convenient. To make my task overseeing the day easier, I set my Google Calendar to email me the daily schedule at 5 pm, every day.
2. Efficiently use your time
It is easy to get distracted by all of the tasks you have on hand.
A common misconception about working from is that you get “more time” at home.
The reality is always the opposite. Being at home, you will easily be swayed with procrastination, thinking that you will get away since no colleagues or superiors are watching you.
Make sure that you use every minute of work time wisely and not fall into procrastination traps. Set goals for yourself each day, week, or month based on what needs to be done first to reach your final goal.
Having said this, don’t be afraid to take a second and look away from the screen!
You don’t want your eyes getting tired or strained, so make sure that you give yourself some eye breaks now and again if possible. There is nothing wrong with taking a few minutes off of work to catch up on all those social media posts, either.
3. Don’t mistake motion with action
We are always in perpetual motion. And we always look busy.
Because of that, it is easy to think that we are operating at an optimum capacity and maximum productivity.
But productivity is about results, not motion.
Motion equals busyness and nothing else. It’s like weight loss or building muscles: it doesn’t matter how much you exercise if your diet isn’t on track to complement the workout you’re putting in at the gym.
A big part of productivity is focusing intently on a singular task and completing it to the best of your ability.
If you can’t do that, productivity will suffer no matter how much motion is involved in your workday.
Look at your daily output.
Is your day’s outcome justify your constant motion? Reflect and ask yourself. Did you get anything done? If we are honest with ourselves, then we will find the bitter truth.
4. Set deadlines
Make a schedule. Write out your tasks for the day and set deadlines on when you want to accomplish them.
Depending on the scale of your project, deadlines can be tomorrow or in three months.
You may also want to consider setting a weekly deadline for yourself too.
For example, if you have a task that will take all week to complete and only requires 30 minutes of work per day, set your self-imposed Monday night deadline as the finish line for this particular task.
Also, consider splitting your big projects into smaller milestones (also called “chunking”). That way, things do not seem so overwhelming and will look more manageable.
5. Focus or multitask?
How are you best operating? By focusing on one task at a time or multitasking?
Different people have different ways of doing things optimally. Neither is good or bad; it’s just the way we are hardwired.
For example, many people think that productivity is all about focusing on one task at a time. This method works for some, while others might prefer the multitasking route.
What’s important to keep in mind is knowing yourself and what your productivity style is. That way, you can find ways to make it work best for you!
I occasionally switch between focusing and multitasking. The deciding factor is primarily the size of projects I am working on.
When the task is smaller, I will switch on Focus mode. On the other hand, when a big-scale project is on hand, my brain switches to Multi-tasking.
6. Reward yourself
Reward yourself when you have completed a certain task. There is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself after you accomplish something that needs to be done.
Rewarding yourself can be as simple as watching an episode of your favorite TV show or taking the afternoon off to do whatever it is you enjoy doing outside of work.
Whatever it is that you decide to reward yourself with, make sure it will be something simple.
Try out different rewards and see what works best for you. Just make sure not to get distracted by the reward.
7. Have an adequate rest
Work can be exhausting. Yes, even working from home.
There will be days where you have to accomplish so many things. Without a sufficient energy level, you will falter. You’ll get stressed out, and you won’t be able to function.
Your motivation will go down the drain. And so will your productivity.
It would help if you took care of yourself after work to go up during the day. Give your eyes ample time to rest by not staring at the computer screen all day long (try getting a pair of computer glasses if you have to!), and give yourself a break from the constant effort that work entails.
Do take a moment to breathe. You’ve earned it. You have been working so hard all day long that I bet you could use some relaxation time anyways.
Try watching Netflix in the evening when kids are finally asleep or taking a relaxing bubble bath once everyone is tucked away for bedtime. Just make sure to get back on track with working tomorrow because there is always another day!
Remember, take time off your day to relax, even for just half an hour in between tasks.
And sleep well too!
8. Stay off distraction
Being productive working from home means staying off distractions.
And when you are at home, distractions can be so tempting!
Since working from home means not having a separate workspace, it’s easy for your house environment to sabotage productivity levels and motivation.
Ensure that you have everything organized so there aren’t any unnecessary things around (or at least out of sight).
Distractions can be anything, such as the TV in the living room or a neighbor who mows their lawn at odd hours. Try to tune out any distractions so that you give yourself enough time to work on important tasks.
9. Focus on daily work outputs
Rather than focusing on the number of hours, zoom in on the output instead. This way, you will know what you need to get done for the day.
Ask yourself: what are the deliverables required at the end of the day?
It is important to start the day with goals in mind. Then we reverse engineer and work towards creating the goal outputs: submitting a financial report, completing manuscript editing, approving requests for leave and so on.
10. Try the Pomodoro technique
One interesting productivity method you can consider is the Pomodoro technique.
Pomo what? Come again?
It’s the Pomodoro technique.
Pomodoro is a time management strategy that helps keep distractions at bay and boost work productivity. Pomodoro works by working for 25 minutes non-stop, followed by a five-minute break.
Then you repeat until all set tasks have been completed. There are also productivity apps that can help you keep track of your time, such as the Pomodoro timer app.
This Pomodoro productivity method is based on a simple premise: working in spurts prevents burnout and boosts productivity.
11. Don’t forget your family
Don’t forget your family needs time together too.
We are talking off-work productivity here.
You don’t want everyone to feel like you are neglecting them for work, so make sure that they know how much it means to you when they spend quality time outside the home.
You will need to set an acceptable work-home boundary so that each family member will respect your space while at the same time do not feel unwanted.
Make an effort to watch a show together, go on walks with the family pet, or even eat dinner at the table and chat about everyone’s day. You never know when it will be your last moment to spend quality time together.
Don’t get lost in work and forget about everyone else! Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean that your family wants to feel like they don’t matter anymore.
12. Create your own, proper work-from-home space
Optimum productivity requires optimum workspace.
Nonetheless, you do not necessarily need a premium work desk, comfy gaming chair, and a fully air-conditioned room.
Having a good work-from-home space requires financial investment, but you can always start small and focus on the most important stuff first: your workstation.
Create your workstation that has everything you need – computer, printer, writing materials, etc. Chances are, some of these facilities will be provided by your company as part of the work-from-home perks.
This workstation needs a corner that allows you to focus on your work for many hours with minimal disruption.
Better yet is to have a dedicated room as your work office.
13. Move around your home
Don’t just sit there at your work desk for hours like a stump.
Take a break now and then, go to the kitchen for some snacks or tea. Take a brisk walk around your home in between work sessions.
Just this small distraction will refresh you up, making it easier to concentrate on productivity when you get back into working mode again.
Make sure to get up and move around for five minutes every hour if possible. You don’t want to become too stiff sitting in the same position for hours on end! You can take a quick walk around the house or even do some stretches, so you stay limber.
14. Eat enough food and water
Thinking is difficult.
And when you are working from home, a lot of tasks need thinking: replying to a long email, writing a proposal, brainstorming the next best business idea, translating a document and so on.
Without proper food and water, you suppress your thinking. Your morale will plummet, and your work productivity will go down the drain as a result.
Don’t forget to eat throughout the day either because it is easy to get wrapped up in work and not realize how hungry you are until dinnertime. Try bringing a trail mix of almonds and dried fruit with you, so you have something quick to eat when needed.
Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day with plenty of water. If you are working in an air-conditioned room, keeping yourself away from dehydration is vital.
To take care of your work, you need to take care of yourself first.
There are many ways how to be productive working from home, as outlined and discussed above.
You don’t have to follow every suggestion, but you will certainly see improvement and increase productivity by applying only a few tips.
Working from home will stay for a long time; it is now in the mainstream, and more and more companies are fine with their staff delivering productivity from the comfort of their home.
Whichever ways you choose, the most important thing is to look at your health, and you can achieve this by balancing your work with your personal life and enjoying every moment of your work.
If you are one of those working from home and have tips to share on maximizing work productivity, do drop by your comment if you can add more useful tips for the readers.