Whether you are new to working from home or have been doing so for years, you may be looking for ways to be more productive.
Work from home jobs are awesome, plain and simple. They allow you to to create and grow your ideal lifestyle, on your own time and on your own terms. You can control your own schedule, take on work that you actually love doing, take time off when you need it, and perhaps most importantly, report to yourself.
Who wouldn’t want to be their own boss?
I transformed my side gig into a full-time freelancing business over 5 years ago and I will never look back. However, it didn’t come without its struggles – struggles that I continue to navigate through trial, error and patience. Adjusting to the work-from-home life hasn’t been easy, especially because I am a notorious procrastinator and have a tendency to get distracted easily.
People work at home in a variety of capacities: as a freelancer, a part-time contractor, a side hustler, a blogger, a stay at home parent, etc. But no matter what your scope of work is, it’s important that you stay productive so you can KEEP working from home for as long as you choose.
We live in such a digital age, granting more and more people the luxury of flexible work. It’s amazing, but I won’t lie… it isn’t as easy at it sounds. It is VERY easy to get distracted, to procrastinate, and to justify doing things in a way that you definitely wouldn’t if you had to go to an office every day.
That’s why you need to treat it like the real thing. If you want to get s*** done and grow as a self-employed individual, you need to control the day.
Here are some essential tips for being more productive working from home:
1. Set Your Alarm (& Don’t Press Snooze!)
This may sound like the most basic piece of advice, but it is one of the most important and effective. Working from home means flexibility. It means creating your own schedule. Starting work when you want. Stopping work when you want. Waking up when you want.
Ah, the luxury of choosing when you’re going to sleep in, ’cause hey, you work for you. The problem starts when you say, “well I’m really tired so I will just work a little later tonight,” multiple times a week. That snooze button becomes your best friend, and before you know it, it’s late morning (long after you would normally have to be at work if you weren’t self-employed) and you’re yawning and rolling yourself out of bed for that first cup of coffee.
Set your alarm and when it goes off, you get up. Pretend SNOOZE doesn’t even exist. Set it for the time that you would have had to get up to get ready for work if you didn’t work from home. Treat it like the real thing if you want it to be the real thing. If you have to, put your alarm on the other side of the room so you’re forced to get up to turn it off!
2. Don’t Check Your Emails In Bed
When your alarm goes off, don’t spend half an hour scrolling through your inbox before you get out of bed. Save it for when you get to your desk. The problem with trying to get stuff done from the bed is that it’s way too easy to get absorbed in work before we’ve even wiped the crust from our eyes.
While it may feel like you’re getting ahead of the game, you’re really just dragging your feet. Your emails will still be there when you get to your computer. If you’re worried about answering something in a timely manner, maybe you should be getting up earlier.
3. Have Your Coffeemaker Preset
If you’re a coffee drinker, then you will understand what I mean when I say there is nothing better than that first cup in the morning. Especially if you’re dysfunctional before caffeine.
If you’ve got a coffeemaker, set it before you go to bed so that it starts to brew as your alarm is going off. Hop into step 4 and by the time you are done, the coffee will be ready and waiting for you! It’s one less thing to think about in the morning and is one of those feel-good things that will help start your day on the right foot.
4. Shower & Dress For The Day Before Anything Else
There really is something to be said for preparing for the day as if you are going to a “real job,” even if you are just going downstairs to your home office. Skipping your morning shower and staying in your sleepwear until lunch time is the last thing you want to do when working from home (but I’m not going to lie, I am guilty of this from time to time).
You know the saying, “you only look as good as you feel”? Well, you’re also only as productive as you feel.
Think about it: when you are unclean, wearing your PJs and feeling sluggish… are you your most productive self? Or do you find yourself yawning over and over because you just can’t shake off last night’s sleep?
You will feel much more refreshed if you get up and get ready as you would if you had somewhere to be, and people to see. I don’t know what it is but when I am wearing work clothes, or even just day clothes that are not my default leggings and a big sweatshirt, I focus more on my work and less on my comfort.
Don’t work in your PJs. GET DRESSED!
5. Wake Up Knowing What’s On The Agenda
Knowing what is on your to-do list before you even sit down is a great way to create and follow a schedule. This is especially important if you work in a variety of capacities, or for more than one client.
If you don’t wake up prepared, you may sit down at your desk and stare at your screen for hours, doing things, but not really doing anything at all. Don’t work aimlessly. Know what you have to get done. Create to-do lists each day, explicitly outlining what you need to accomplish and when. If you have to, mark them in order of importance so you know what you need to do first, second, third, and so on.
6. Create A Designated Work Space (& Skip The Couch)
It can be really hard to focus when you’re cooking, eating, hanging out, sleeping and working all in the same place. I will admit that I have opted for the couch over the desk on more than one occasion. It’s more comfortable and I am still getting the job done, right? Well, maybe not to the best of my ability.
A designated workspace will, without a doubt, take your productivity to the next level. A proper work environment is SO important when you work from home. Not only will it keep your eye on the prize, but you will get so much more done because you will be focused, organized, more motivated, and with fewer distractions. Distractions are what get you.
At one point, Sam and I transformed our only guest room into an office for me because my set up at the time just wasn’t cutting it. As much as I loved working for myself, I missed having an office to work in. I wasn’t working as productively as I knew I could and I was constantly distracted by the things around me.
That first day in my new space was honestly one of the top five most productive work days I have ever had. It wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t well decorated, there was a bed frame and mattress leaning against the wall, but it was still MY office. With a door. I didn’t wander to the fridge to graze throughout the day. Laundry and house chores remained untouched until my workday was over. I didn’t turn the news on for background noise. I definitely didn’t take my laptop over to the couch. And I absolutely KILLED it.
If you don’t have a room that you can use as an office, find a clean, quiet space that you can call your own. Leave your laptop there, your planner, your supplies… this is YOUR desk girlfriend, and this is where you work now.
7. Keep Track Of Your Time
Depending on the type of work you do from home, time can literally translate to money. If you work as a freelancer, for example, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.
Time management is impossible if you don’t know how much you are spending on each task. Time is limited, and to be successful in whatever you do, you must spend it wisely.
Tracking your time is one of the best (if not THE best) ways to be as productive with your work as possible, especially when you are self-employed. Time tracking allows you to log what you are working on and when, keeping you organized and able to plan your schedule. Arming yourself with the knowledge of where your time is going will enable you to allocate your minutes and hours appropriately. This is especially important for people that work in a variety of capacities. If you are reading this, chances are you do.
We have created an advanced excel time tracking tool for this very purpose. Together, we are bloggers, freelancers/contractors, and small business owners. This means that our attention is pulled in what feels like one hundred directions a day! It can be incredibly easy to lose track of time when you have multiple clients, a side hustle, and/or your own business. I get extremely confused and my productivity suffers when I am trying to figure out what to work on and when. I am willing to bet that you can relate.
This tool is perfect for bloggers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, small business owners, stay-at-home parents, or simply anyone who needs help managing their time. Access the tool here.
8. Make Sure Your Family & Friends Understand That You Mean Business
One of the more difficult parts of self-employment is ensuring that your family and friends understand that your work-from-home job is still a real job.
“What do you mean you can’t meet me for lunch, you work from home!”
“I have the day off, let’s go get a drink.”
“Why aren’t you answering my messages, aren’t you home?”
“I’m going to talk your ear off even though you are clearly in the middle of something, cause hey, you’re not actually ‘at work’.” – OK, no one has actually said this last one before, but it has sure felt like it!
Boundaries. We have to set them.
Even if we know in our hearts that they don’t mean any harm, friends and family can make self-employment a bit challenging, especially if it’s new to them and they are used to having more access to you. It’s natural for the people that we regularly communicate with to not understand that you are still a busy person, even though you now create your own schedule.
To avoid hurt feelings and frustration, make your schedule and obligations clear so that you can focus on your business without the distractions.
9. Learn How To Time Block
Time blocking is exactly what it sounds like: blocking out specific chunks of time to dedicated tasks. To some, this method is even more productive than simply making a to-do list because if followed carefully, you will work on everything you INTEND to work on during any given day, even the stuff you tend to procrastinate on.
Create a list of to-dos and schedule out a block of time (1-hour, 2-hours, 1/2 of your work day, etc.) that you are going to focus on it. Be realistic with your expectations, bearing in mind how long it usually takes you to do something. If you plan to work for Client A from 9 am to 11 am, do so, and then move onto whatever is supposed to start at 11 am when your time is up.
This technique is best accomplished if you treat it like you would an appointment or meeting. You KNOW you have a dentist appointment at 12 pm and that it should take an hour, so you arrive on time for that appointment. Well, why shouldn’t your work be treated the same way?
10. Avoid Social Media
Social media can be such a time sucker. We scroll through our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feed mindlessly throughout the day. Often, we intend to watch one short video but end up watching an hour’s worth of “related” videos that the algorithm so cleverly delivers to us. We read a friend’s controversial post on their news feed and get sucked into the 100 comment debate that it triggered, reaching for the popcorn rather than our computer mouse.
Social media is the ultimate distraction.
When you’re “locked in” to your work, stay locked in. Don’t open any apps, don’t keep your Facebook open in a new tab. It will all still be there when the job is done.
If you can’t fully remove yourself from 9 to 5, gift yourself a block of social media time, and once you get your fix, shut that thing down and get back to business.
11. Get A Change Of Scenery
It’s important to get out of the house from time to time. Working at home is fun and all, but it doesn’t mean that you LITERALLY have to WORK at HOME all the time. It just means that you work where you want to work.
If the same four walls are starting to make you feel a bit stir crazy, pack your briefcase and hit a new spot for the day. One of my favorite things to do is work at a quiet cafe or coffee shop, a library, or even in student study areas at a local university. The latter is my favorite
Placing yourself in a productive work environment, where you are around people similar to you, is a great way to stay motivated and get your work done.