I love working from home, but just like anyone who’s ever tried it can tell you, it’s a totally different experience from working in a traditional business setting. There are so many more distractions than the latest office gossip or newest variety of sticky notes, and it requires a special kind of determination to stay focused on the task at hand with PJs only 15 feet away and dishes in the sink calling your name. Here are some of the best work from home productivity hacks that I’ve discovered after working remotely for 5 years.
1. Establish a workday routine.
Routines are essential for simplifying life and making the most of the time you have, and unlike when you work outside the home, there’s no out-the-door and commute routine to remind your brain that it’s time to get to work. Other than some general guidelines, like coffee is awesome and personal social media is probably a bad idea, this is pretty customizable to you. Try to have a routine that takes about 10-15 minutes that you can easily manage before the start every workday, and as you stay consistent it will start to help you zone into work more quickly and easily. Bonus points if you can do it at around the same time each day!
2. Put on real pants.
If you’ve told anyone about your work from home experience, chances are you’ve gotten the cliche “I’d love to stay in my pajamas at home all day!” or something along those lines. This is a stereotype for a reason, and if you’ve been maximizing the pajama workday options it probably isn’t doing you any favors. It doesn’t have to be a full suit, but a good pair of jeans and a nicer top can help you feel a lot more put together, prepared, and productive than those cozy pajama bottoms. If you live with a chronic illness that makes “real pants” an impractical option, try to set aside some comfortable clothes to work in so you can mentally associate those outfits with being productive as opposed to resting.
3. Make a plan to keep housework under control
Messy office, messy mind – and when you work at home, the whole house is basically your office. Whatever your home life looks like, make a plan to keep your housework under control and stick to it. I am always one to advocate for minimalism as a way to make housework more manageable, but whether or not you are also an aspiring minimalist, try to set up a game plan to keep your house clean enough for it to not be on your mind while you’re working. This may look like scheduling certain chores for certain days, establishing daily routines and set times for you to clean, or hiring outside help to manage some of the more in-depth cleaning that needs to be done. Whatever you need to do to make sure there aren’t dishes in the sink or laundry getting mildewy that keep calling your name while you work? Do that. Don’t let yourself get up to do just that one thing while you’re working, because you’re about to have an If You Give A Mouse A Cookie moment and it’s just not worth it. Not that I’m speaking from experience.
4. Create a work space (even if it’s at the dining room table)
If you’re lucky, you may have a pre-designated space to work. A desk, a specific table, or a kitchen bar may work well, but even if you don’t have that kind of designated work area, you can create one that works for you and your space. Try to create the same set-up every morning to help yourself stay in the work zone. For me, this looks like a mug of coffee or tea, my planner, any necessary devices and chargers, a notepad for thoughts and scribbles, and earbuds. I can move this set-up from my desk to the table depending on the day’s needs, but I try not to sit down to work without a similar arrangement. Whatever arrangement works for you, just try to keep it consistent, comfortable, and clutter-free.
5. Set aside times to respond to messages & emails
Especially when working from home, it’s easy to want to reply to every message and email right away. You want to show you’re focused and working, right? Unfortunately, it takes quite a bit of time to refocus on the task at hand after this kind of distraction. To avoid spending significant chunks of your day trying to turn your attention back to whatever you’re working on, set specific times during your workday to check your email, social media, and messaging apps for work-related messages. If you struggle with the distracting dings and pop-ups, consider muting notifications when you’re really planning to focus on a specific task or project.
These are my current top 5 hacks for a productive day of working from home, but it’s far from a complete list of everything I’ve tried over the years. What are some of your favorite productivity hacks for working from home?