Whether you regularly work from home or only do so on occasion, there are some easy steps you can take to be successful while working from home.
I often work from home at night and on the weekends to write articles for this blog. I also have a day job that requires me to occasionally work from home.
This experience helped me to figure out what works (and what doesn’t work) to successfully work from home.
Being at home can be distracting, especially if it’s not your regular routine. But the steps below will help you to be a productivity superstar while you’re working from home.
Act as if you’re in a workplace
To be successful while working from home, the first step is to create an environment that feels like a workplace. If working at home feels like an extension of your weekend, it’ll be hard to get anything done. Here are some tips to recreate the feeling of a workplace:
1. Get ready for the day
I’m definitely not telling you to act as if you’re going to the office or even leaving the house. But I am encouraging you to change out of your nighttime sweats into your daytime sweats.
While it can be tempting to roll out of bed and head straight to your computer, this doesn’t set the stage for a productive day.
On days when I’ve just rolled out of bed and started working, I’m often tempted to head back bed for a “quick” nap. (Spoiler: My naps are never quick.) And suddenly my whole day is derailed.
If I take a shower and put on clean clothes (even if those clothes are sweatpants), it’s easier for me to concentrate on my work. If I’m tempted to nap, I think “well, I just took a shower” or “I’ve already changed into my daytime sweatpants”, and that motivates me to keep working.
2. Identify a designated workspace
At offices, you usually have a designated desk where you do your work. Recreate this type of environment at home by identifying a designated workspace.
This space doesn’t have to be a desk. It can be a dining room table, your kitchen counter, or maybe your outdoor patio furniture.
To be the most productive, the workspace probably shouldn’t be your bed or the sofa. It’s just too tempting to take a nap or turn to other lounging activities (reading, watching TV, scrolling through your phone) because that’s what you usually do in those areas.
In my experience, having a dedicated workspace gets me in the right mindset to work. I have a desk in the corner of my living room that serves as my workspace. The act of sitting down in my desk chair is almost a preconditioned act now. When I sit down in my desk chair, it’s like my mind flips into gear and I’m mentally prepped for work.
Organize your day
As with any day at the office, take some time at the beginning of your workday to plan and organize your day. This is key for you to be successful while working from home. Here are some suggestions on how to do this:
3. Create a prioritized to-do list
Start your day by listing what you want to accomplish that day.
There are many great tools to help you create your to-do list. I’m partial to Trello and Google’s Keep app to create my to-do lists. But some days I love a good notebook. (I’ve convinced my entire office to use this notebook.)
After you’ve listed out your to-do list for the day, create a general priority for the tasks. For example, which tasks have to be completed immediately? Or which tasks have to be completed by the end of the day, but not necessarily right away?
Noting these priorities will help you create your schedule for the day – your next step in setting yourself up to be successful while working from home.
4. Create a schedule for the day
For me, creating a schedule is absolutely vital for being productive while at home.
If I don’t create a schedule, I can get buried in a task and lose sight of my priorities. Or worse, I get distracted by other things around the house (laundry, cooking, cleaning) and don’t get any of my actual work done.
- Working hours. What are going to be my set start and stop times? (If you don’t establish the stop times, you can find yourself working well past your regular work time and will burn yourself out for future days at home.)
- Break times. At the office, you probably take several breaks throughout the day. Maybe you chat with coworkers, take lunch and snack breaks, and take a quick walk around the block to clear your head. Incorporate these types of breaks into your working from home schedule. Breaks are essential for staying mentally refreshed and on-point during the workday.
- Scheduled phone or video calls. If you’re working from home, there’s a good chance you’ll need to interact with the outside world at some point. If you have any calls scheduled for the day, add them to your schedule.
- Priority to-do items. If there are any items that I absolutely have to get done on a particular day, I block out time on my schedule to complete those tasks.
- Mentally tough tasks. I also review my to-do list to see if there are any tasks that are going to mentally tough (like reviewing a complex spreadsheet or writing about a technical topic). I schedule these tasks during the part of the day when I’m most productive. For me, this is the afternoon, but many people find the morning to be their most productive time.
Pro Tip: Try not to extend your breaks past your scheduled break time. It can be easy to get lost in a social media or television black hole if you don’t stick to your planned schedule.
Focus your attention on work
It can be easy to treat yourself to the comforts of being at home by having the television on or music playing. While these may sound fun, they can be incredibly distracting. To be successful while working at home, I recommend that you focus your attention on work by doing the following:
5. Eliminate distractions
I can’t focus on work if I have too many distractions around me. To get the most done during the workday, here is what I do:
- Turn off the television. I know I can treat myself to HGTV when my working hours are over.
- Shut off the music. While certain types of music can be calming and help you concentrate (see below), most music doesn’t fall into this category. I skip the distraction and shut off the music.
- Put my phone in the next room. I’m tempted to look at social media 103 times a day while I’m working from home. To stop this from happening, I put my phone in the next room. I’ll still hear the phone ring if someone from work calls, but I can’t mindlessly reach for it and get lost in a social media time suck. You can also use an app like Freedom to temporarily block distracting sites or apps.
6. Find your mental “go time” trick
Way (waaaay) back in the day when I was taking the SAT exam, I read a few tricks that helped people concentrate during big tests.
When I need to seriously concentrate, these are my mental “go time” tricks. Try them out. Hopefully, they help you concentrate, too!
Working from home can take some getting used to. But it’s my hope that these tips will help you to be successful while working from home.