Working from home is great. You get to wear your pyjamas all day, lounge on the sofa with your laptop and take Youtube-watching breaks whenever you feel like it. But it’s also hard work, and I think people often don’t appreciate just how much time and effort it involves. Just because we’re at home doesn’t mean we’re sitting around doing nothing.
If you’re self-employed, motivating yourself when you work from home can be pretty tricky. Even though you know you’ve got a mountain of work to do, because no one is watching over you, handing you a list of tasks to complete by the end of the day or shouting at you for slacking off, it can be easy to get distracted and not manage your time effectively. For the majority of my working life I have worked at home, either part or full time, so over the years I have learned how to be productive and get everything done whilst still enjoying the benefits of working from home.
1. Keep your to-do list small, but complete everything
There’s no point in writing out a huge to-do list and never completing it all, so keep your daily list of tasks small to make sure you get everything done by the end of the day. Break down your week and assign different tasks to different days so each individual day is manageable. Completing everything will give you a big boost of motivation and you’ll feel inspired to work hard again the next day. Plus, if you get all your tasks finished early you can take the rest of the afternoon off!
2. Schedule your time
Break your day up into blocks of time and work out which tasks to do when. Rather than 10 minutes working on something, half an hour on something else, back to the first thing for a bit, then starting a new project an hour later, work on one task for a couple of hours at a time. This will keep your mind focused on that particular task, before moving on to a couple of hours working on the next task. Things always crop up throughout the day, but unless it’s urgent try to leave it until you have completed whatever you’re currently working on. If you’re working with a number of different clients/projects, this is essential to keep yourself organised and focused.
3. Create a routine that works for you
I’ve seen a lot of blog posts about working from home which say getting up early and getting dressed in proper clothes is essential. For me, this just doesn’t work. I have never been a morning person, and never will be, so there’s no point in forcing myself to get up early if I don’t have to. I can’t really function properly before about 9.30/10am, so that’s when I usually start work. If I was up and ready by 8am I would just be super unproductive and grumpy for the first three or four hours – instead, I get up a bit later, put on some comfy loungewear and get on with my day. I always try to finish work by 6pm, but if there’s lots of work that needs done I don’t mind occasionally working a bit later if that means I get to have a lie-in. The whole point of working for yourself is that you get to choose your own hours, so if 9-5 doesn’t suit you, then don’t feel like you have to stick to this.
4. Take regular breaks
This is something I’m definitely guilty of not doing enough of, but it really does help you to stay productive. Take a short break every hour or so – even if that just means scrolling through Pinterest for 5 minutes, reading a couple of news articles or going to make a cup of tea. Make sure to take a lunch break too, as you’ll come back to your desk feeling refreshed and raring to go. Taking your mind off your work for a little while – whether that’s a 5 minute break or a whole hour for lunch – really helps you to stay positive and make sure you don’t get too consumed with any one particular task.
5. Get rid of distractions
What you find distracting will depend on your personality, but try to get rid of or switch off anything you know you’ll get easily sucked in to. Some people find it easier to work with the TV on quietly in the background, but I find that I often start watching whatever’s on rather than just having it as background noise. Music, however, seems to make me work better so I’ll often put on a playlist or tune into Spotify radio and leave that playing for a few hours. If anyone else will be in the house whilst you’re working, make sure you’re clear with them that you’re working and don’t want to be distracted.
What are your top tips for being productive when working from home?