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Last updated on March 15th, 2020 at 03:30 pm
Do you have to work from home but struggle with focus and productivity? Here are some of my top tips to stay productive when working from home.
Working from the comfort of your home in pyjamas sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
For an introverted soul like me, this is THE perfect work life.
Dodging long-winded work commute and office politics, and having my cat as the only coworker is a pretty nice scenario. But it’s not all that peaches and cream. One of the key challenges is to stay productive when working from home.
Remote work comes with its own set of daunting challenges. Feelings of isolation, lack of motivation, and haphazard working hours can all rapidly become overwhelming. On some days, I speak my first words of the entire day when my partner comes back home from work in the evening.
Well, that was before we got the cat anyway 😀
It is important to be willing about how you use your time to stay focused, productive, and accumulate more clients and billable hours! I have been working remotely and from home for six years now. Over these years, I have learned and tried various methods and routines.
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Here are some of the ways I stay productive working from home.
Have a Dedicated Workspace
Whether you have a home office or a nook in your living room, it’s essential to have a devoted workplace. It’s easy to park yourself on your couch each morning with a laptop and your cat.
Trust me, I’ve been there! The temptation is real. 😉
But can you get any work done on the couch?
To start with, the couch isn’t healthy for your posture and ergonomics. And it’s often near to a TV, which is a potential distraction. Moreover, my couch is a super cat magnet who keeps coming to me for cuddles and attention.
That’s why a committed workspace is significant for remote working. Just as your bedroom is for sleeping, your workspace should be reserved for working. Ever since I got out of my student dorm and got into full-time freelancing, I have only ever worked in a dedicated home office.
Nevertheless, it does not hurt to switch it up every now and then. I change the sceneries by having lunch in the dining room or Friday afternoon work sesh on the couch. If the weather is nice I work from the balcony as well! All these little touches can get rid of boredom and help you stay productive when working from home.
Dress Up for Success
As tempting as it may seem, resist the urge to stay in your pj’s all day long.
According to a research by Northwestern University, clothing can affect our psychological procedures and have a true effect on productivity. Clothes have symbolic significance for us. Our brain naturally links the outfit type with the significance that it retains– whether it is sportswear, a corporate suit or cosy loungewear.
That’s right, people – the clothes we wear have an impact on our work performance and productivity. While there’s no need to dress up in a three-piece suit or a pencil skirt and heels when you’re working from your home, there’s still a way to get dressed for work.
Ladies and gents, enter – home office wardrobe.
I make it a point of getting dressed every day – even if it’s just jeans and a blouse. My go-to home office wear is comfy jeggings and flowy tops. During winter I layer them with cosy cardigans. In the summer I switch to wearing comfy dresses and shorts.
Just wear what’s convenient and comfy for you. Getting a daily routine — meaning brushing your teeth, doing your hair and getting out of your pyjamas — is essential, even if you’re just switching to yoga pants and a tee.
The trick is to look presentable – imagine going on a shopping trip on a Saturday afternoon, just without the high heels. Or a bra! 😉
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Make Time For Some Physical Activity
Move. Your. Body.
Sitting on your arse for 8 to 10 hours each day is unhealthy. You will end up with a sore neck, achy back, headaches and in worst cases something serious as a carpal tunnel syndrome or a heart condition.
Besides this, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real, people. Working from home during winter can be very hard on remote workers. Long periods of no sunshine, non-stop rain and short days can dampen spirits of even the most positive optimistic person. It eventually leads to productivity issues and a lack of motivation.
It really helps to get some fresh air and sunshine if you have been indoors for too long. Dog owners have to leave the house every day anyway. But if you are a cat owner, you can also leash train the kitty and go out for walks together.
Regular exercise also helps. There’s no need to get an expensive gym membership. A simple home workout session is also a great pick me up. You will need a yoga mat and some sports attire at most. I make it a point to workout a few times a week from home.
Set Boundaries With Friends and Family
A common belief is that remote work does not mean actual, real work. Some even doubt the potential of remote work as a source of a full-time income.
Your family and friends might assume that working from home = a lot of free time. Parents might call during the peak morning hours, your friends may send an invite for a brunch, or your partner may ask you to join them for a walk.
But it can help to set some boundaries.
You can always inform your family and friends of your working hours to help them understand that you are not always available.
By telling when you’re available rather than waiting for people to tell you when to meet up or call you, you’re in the full control of your time. Working from home isn’t a trump card for convenience. You are available when you’re available whether you’re in the office or not.
Remember you have to guide people on how to treat you and your work time.
But Don’t Shy Away From Human Contact
Now that we have your work schedule out of the way, make sure you work on your social calendar.
Working from home for an extended time can leave anyone feeling a bit lonely. If you are like me, then you probably are better equipped to work on your own without the company of any colleagues. Otherwise, make it a point to meet a friend for lunch, take your dog (or cat!) for a walk, have a skype chat with mum.
Heck, I sometimes just set aside time to talk with my cat!
Reaching out to at least one to three people a day can help you feel connected in an otherwise isolated environment.
If you really really miss the hustle and bustle of office life, rent a coworking space in your area. In Germany, there are trendy coworking spaces in almost all big cities. You can rent office space for a very nominal fee. Some of them even organise networking events and game nights for their members.
At coworking spaces, independent contractors, scrappy entrepreneurs, and home-based business owners can enjoy a healthy shared workspace (and sense of community) that’s hard to replicate at home.
Working at cafes is a good alternative to coworking hubs. Studies even show that it is easier to focus at a coffee shop than an open-plan office. But it isn’t possible to work from a cafe regularly. I live in a small town with very few cafes around. It’d be a little time-consuming for me to travel to just sit in a coffee place ever so often.
But background sounds also work just fine. I just put on some music, podcasts or audiobooks to imitate background noises. The key is to find something interesting, but also not so interesting that will completely sidetrack you from your work.
I love all things sci-fi, so I put on some YouTube review channels or some audiobooks of my favourite movies. That way I do not have to pay much attention and at the same time have some ambient noise.
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Get Face Time With Your Clients and Colleagues
Even if you work from home solo you should take time for your clients and team, and interact with them as much as possible. Without frequent communication, it’s easy for others to presume that you’re not doing much.
Regular contact adds some transparency and some human connection into your remote work life.
Team-building takes the utmost importance when you work remotely.
It’s important to be as forthcoming with your team members as you would be if you worked physically in an office with them.
I make sure to schedule a weekly jour fixe with my clients and remote team. It helps me exchange regular check-ins as to what I’m working on and what has been accomplished. Video calls also help build rapport and connection with your clients and remote team.
Maintain a Base Level of Pressure
Besides regular calls, I find I work best when I have deadlines. The more time I have allocated for a project, the slower I work and the less I get done. This is where self-set deadlines come in handy.
Give yourself a snug but realistic timeframes in which to get specific projects or tasks done. This will help you delay procrastination (hehe).
No seriously, deadlines can help you maintain some level of urgency and give you laser-focus and weed out distractions. But don’t overdo it and don’t give your clients any unrealistic expectations.
In Short, Have a Ritual
Having a proper routine and a work structure can help you get back your work from home mojo.
What is your work from home ritual? Do you have some special routine or a tradition before you start your day? How do you stay productive when you work from home?
Tell us in the comments below.