I am a. Being your own boss is awesome in many ways:
You can write your own paycheck.
You can have as much flexibility as you choose.
You can choose which projects to work on, and which clients to work with.
You can make your own schedule.
And perhaps the best part? You get to work from home.
It sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right?
Working from home is great, but if you aren’t careful, you can easily become distracted by other things, such as cleaning, going out shopping, grabbing a coffee, or even sitting on the couch with Netflix rather than getting work done.
Trust me—I have managed to fall victim to all these distractions at least once. Or twice.
However, I knew that if I wanted to be successful at running a business from home, then I needed to make some changes to how I approached and structured my day to stay productive.
Work From Home Productivity Tips
Here are some ways to ensure you are as productive as possible while working from home:
Set Up a Permanent Work Space. The first step is to designate an area of your home, apartment or studio specifically for work. And, yes, there are ways to claim a work area even if you are pressed for space.
What Worked For Me: I love my home. I wouldn’t trade it for even the largest mansion on the block. However, houses built in the 1950s were designed with only an outlet (maybe two) per room.
My former office space was the smallest room in the house, and it was also the darkest and coldest (see picture to the right). I realized over time that this wasn’t the best space for me if I wanted to succeed in a work-from-home career.
So, in May 2018, I actually moved my home office into a larger, brighter space, and did some slight remodeling. I repainted the walls, added crown molding, and even upgraded the electrical outlets for more plug options, including the plugs with USB ports.
What You Can Do: For those with a larger space, you can designate a room in your home or apartment as your “office”. I recommend a room with a door so you can shut out distractions as needed, especially if you spend a lot of time on the phone.
Some people believe that a work from home career is invasive because work will begin to consume and take over your home or personal life. I suppose this could be true, but only if you let it…
If you have a designated work space, then commit to only working in this area during your set “business hours”. When you aren’t working, or you are ready to call it a day, shut the door and leave work behind you. This ALSO includes any work-related messages, emails, or other notifications you get on your phone…
2. Don’t Work in Your PJs. I know, I know, this is one of the things that many people love most about working from home, but it can also be the worst for productivity.
What Worked For Me: Even if I don’t have to leave the house, I set an alarm for 4:30-5:00 am, get up, shower, brush my teeth and get dressed. Sometimes I exercise. By the time I sit down in my office with my first cup of coffee, I’m awake and ready to tackle the day.
What You Can Do: No, you don’t have to get up at the ass crack of dawn, especially if you aren’t a morning person, but you can set an alarm and get up and prepare yourself for the day just like you would if you had to leave for work or school. Not only will you feel refreshed, but did you also know that 72 percent of people have creative insights while in the shower?
3. Make a Daily To-Do List or Planner. It seems so basic, but one of the best things you can do to ensure that you are productive while working from home is to make a to-do list or keep a daily, weekly, or monthly planner. Write down what you need to get done on a daily and weekly basis and key deadlines.
What Worked For Me: I work for about six to 10 clients per day. So, it is definitely a challenge to keep track of every client’s project, deadlines, and things that need to get done. I know that if I’m not careful or if I don’t take the time to plan and prioritize, things will get out of control and overwhelming very quickly.
The first thing I do every morning is make a list of the top three to five things I absolutely need to accomplish for the day. Then, I cross or check off the items or tasks as I complete them throughout the day.
I also use Airtable and Todoist. I use Airtable to keep track of client projects, and also assign tasks to my team members. This level of transparency helps ensure that my team members know what I’m working on and what needs to get done when. I use Todoist as my own personal to-do list.
What You Can Do: Find an app you like and use it. There are PLENTY of free productivity and task management apps out there. You can also use the traditional method and write down a to-do list on a piece of paper, or keep a planner.
4. Plan and Prioritize. After you have made a list of goals that you want to accomplish for the day, the next step is to make a plan on how you will achieve those goals and prioritize.
What Worked For Me: As you saw in my previous point, I make lists, use an app, and a daily planner to help me plan and prioritize each day and week. At the beginning of each day and week, I know exactly what I want to accomplish. However, I recommend only outlining a few top priorities. Writing down too many things can be overwhelming, which decreases motivation and productivity.
What You Can Do: Only make a to-do list of what you know you can realistically complete each day. This means that you might have to learn how long certain tasks take. I recommend using a time clock app, which helps you keep track of how much time you spend doing certain tasks. There are a ton of apps available, many of which are free.
Over time, you will learn how long certain tasks take, so you have a better understanding of what you can realistically accomplish in a day.
5. Take a Break. It might seem counterproductive to take a break, but research has shown that taking short, five-minute breaks can increase productivity and creativity levels.
What Worked For Me: I admit it… I really had to work at this one. On days when I have back-to-back calls and meetings scheduled, and an endless list of things to do, taking a break seems out of the question.
However, I have made it a point to schedule in breaks throughout the day. And I don’t mean a break like switching the laundry or emptying the dishwasher, I mean taking a walk around the block or the backyard, or getting up and doing 10 to 15 minutes of stretches. The point is to get up, get away from my phone and computer, and give my brain a rest.
What You Can Do: Schedule at least two, 10- to 15-minute breaks throughout the day—one in the morning and one in the afternoon, or whatever works best for your schedule. Use your “break time” to move around and get away from your screens.
6. Exercise.naturally boosts endorphins, which increase happiness, enjoyment, and interest levels, also of which are important for maximizing productivity, creativity, and motivation. Sure, it might suck to think, “ugh, I really don’t feel like exercising,” but try to remember how great you always feel after.
What Worked For Me: Because I’m a morning person by nature, I found that getting up early and exercising (my favorite is going for a run) sets the tone for my entire day. It allows me to wake up, get my blood and oxygen flowing, and take some time for myself before the day even begins. I also find that my best ideas come to me during exercise, which is one reason why I have grown to love it and depend on it for my success.
What You Can Do: If your day allows, take a lunch break and go for a walk, go to the gym, or do some stretching. Your body—and your mind—will thank you for it.
7. Eat Healthy. Another work from home reality is that we have full reins to the kitchen, anytime we want. So, when it’s time for lunch or a snack break, we often go to the usual snacks, such as soda, chips, cookies or leftover pizza. When we work in an office, we are at the mercy of whatever is available in the cafeteria or whatever lunch we brought from home.
In fact, I’ve had a handful of people tell me about their work from home careers, claiming that they have gained weight when they thought they would lose it. I’m willing to bet that in most cases it’s because they resort to snacking a lot more often.
What Worked For Me: To be honest, I’m not much of a snacker anymore. When I was forced to adjust my activity levels and diet some years ago, I cut out unnecessary snacks, sweets, carbs and dairy. Yes, I still eat these things, but sparingly. I make a meal plan each week, so I more or less know what I plan to eat and when (with some flexibility, of course).
If I feel hungry in the afternoon, I will make tea rather than snack. Over time, you “teach” your brain and your body to “want” what you give it rather than crave the bad stuff.
What You Can Do: Research has actually shown that eating fruits and vegetables has a direct link to productivity levels. If you are an avid snacker, then make it a point to make yourself a healthy lunch, just as you would if you had to go into an office, or avoid buying unhealthy snacks altogether.
But don’t forget to reward yourself! If you are a sweet or salty snacker, then reward yourself with one of your favorite snacks on Friday after a long, productive week.
8. Hide Your Phone. Make it a point to put away your phone for specific periods throughout the day. Sure, we all want to text our friends or surf social media periodically through the day, however, this a HUGE productivity killer.
What Worked For Me: As a business owner, it is REALLY easy to be permanently glued and attached to your phone. I know, because I used to be one of these people. However, over time, it got old. I got sick of social media. I got sick of text messages. I got sick of crap marketing phone calls. My phone also got in the way of getting things done.
I am also one of those people that needs my phone for business. Although I rely mostly on video calls with clients through my laptop, I also use regular voice calls through my phone. I’ve gotten in the habit to ignore my phone when it dings, buzzes, or rings. I also mute text messages and social media notifications.
After a certain hour of the day, I will catch up on all messages, calls, and notifications from the day. But I also set a time limit for doing this. I don’t pick up my phone during dinner, and after 7pm, I put it on “do not disturb” altogether. I REFUSE to let my phone run my life.
What You Can Do: If you need to really buckle down, focus, and crank out some work, then put your phone on silent, turn it off, or put it in another room altogether. If accepting calls is part of your business, then adjust your voicemail to say that you check calls and voicemails during certain points of the day.
A Healthy Body is a Healthy Mind
You can tell yourself that you can sit with your laptop in front of the TV and still get things done, but you would really just be lying to yourself. In fact, it will probably take you twice as long to get something done than it normally would, because you aren’t 100 percent focused.
I have been working from home regularly over the last 4 years, and I have found that these productivity hacks work best for me. You might have to figure out what works best for you, but this is a good place to start.