How to Stay Productive While Working From Home

Ready for a few killer work from home productivity tips? Cool. Here are my favorites!

Working from home was the goal for me ever since I decided I was committed to spending my time on my own terms rather than someone else’s. But once I stopped working outside of my home and started working at a small desk in the corner of my living room, I quickly realized that working from home isn’t the simple, idyllic process I expected. You know this if you’ve ever worked from home – but staying productive while working from home is a job in and of itself!

I needed some kind of structure to keep myself on-task and accountable. There are SO many distractions at large when you work from home! On top of that, when it comes to running a business, I had shiny object syndrome. I’d have great intentions, but sometimes a whole day would go by and I’d realized I hadn’t crossed anything off my to-do list.

After a few months of flailing around, I decided that something needed to change. For weeks, I read blog posts and books about productivity and working from home. I studied the habits of successful business owners who run their businesses in a home office. There was a lot of bogus information out there, but there was plenty of good advice.

The biggest thing about work from home productivity is to remember that what might work really well for someone might not work the same way for you. This list of work at home productivity tips is intended to provide you with some varying, high-quality ideas. After reading through them, you’ll have to try several to see which ones truly work for your personality.

 

1 | Set goals for yourself. Be specific.

If yearly goals and new year resolutions don’t work well for you, ditch them. Set quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals for yourself. And make sure you know exactly what you want.

The more specific you are about the goals you’re committing to, the more likely you’ll be able to reach them. The goals you set on a quarterly basis tend to be smaller than a goal you may have set yourself for the year. Because of that, they’ll seem more attainable to you.

Think of the big, overarching goals you have concerning your business. Break them down into small chunks, steps, and tasks that you can assign to yourself as quarterly or weekly goals. Rather than “Have a successful blog for my business,” try “Write three blog posts each week.”

When I started setting specific, smaller goals for myself and my business, I started getting a lot more done.

 

2 | Use time blocking or another scheduling method that works for you.

Time blocking seems to be a popular way for business owners to schedule their day. I think that’s because it provides structure but still allows for reasonable flexibility. Many of us have family or friends who are important to us and doing our schedules hour-by-hour isn’t realistic.

Time blocking is a form of batching (batching is mentioned later on this list if you need an explanation.) In my experience, batching is such an effective way to get more done. So scheduling my days out in chunks like this works really well for me.

Try time blocking with Google Calendar is you prefer to organize digitally. If you’re a pen and paper type like me, find a planner with week-at-a-glance pages or download a printable that you can use to block out your days for maximum productivity.

 

3 | Minimize distractions. Including distractions within your browser.

If you end up on Facebook all the time while working, stop visiting Facebook during work hours… Pro tip.

Just kidding.

We all have issues with staying focused while working at home. Try installing a Chrome extension like StayFocusd that will block specific websites during your work hours. Another extension, RescueTime, will tell you exactly how much time you’re spending on each website you navigate to during your workday.

Consider removing your bookmarks bar from your browser window or moving unproductive sites out of the front of your bookmark bar.

I use an app called Forest that basically locks me out of my phone for a specific window of time. I think it’s something like $2.99 on the app store and it keeps me on task when I feel like scrolling through Instagram instead. You’ll be able to answer calls and unlock your phone, of course, but it does a great job of keeping you out of your phone.

 

4 | Stay productive by taking breaks as frequently as you need to.

There have been so many studies done that show that the average worker is more productive when they take regular breaks. This article from MIT’s Sloan School of Management says taking a break every 75 to 90 minutes is ideal. This study from time tracking app DeskTime identified that the most productive workers took a 17-minute break every 52 minutes.

What’s the takeaway here? It’s less about how many minutes you spend on your breaks and more related to the fact that you should be taking them! Allow yourself regular breaks – disconnecting from your work and taking a walk or enjoying a moment to yourself will help you return to your desk refreshed and ready to take on the next task on your to-do list.

 

5 | Take care of yourself and listen to your needs.

Don’t burn out. When you overwork yourself, you’ll end up getting frustrated and taking breaks that are too long. I’m talking about shutting down for a week and avoiding business-related tasks.

Pay attention to your needs – eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, take a walk when you need to get outside, and spend time with your family or friend when you’re craving some time with your loved ones. Your home-based business will be a big part of your life, but it shouldn’t take over your life. Be sure to make time for yourself and the people you care about.

 

6 | Establish boundaries with your clients.

From the get-go, your clients should know what to expect while you’re working with them. Establishing boundaries at the beginning of your relationship with a client will help them understand what working with you will look like.

If you’re just starting your business, you might be tempted to provide support to customers 24/7/365. After a few weeks of doing this, you’re going to become less excited about getting texts from clients at 1 AM.

Set your office hours and let your customers know how they can get in touch with you. It’s your choice as to whether you want to use your personal phone number for your business. You may want to grab a separate phone number. You may not want to have phone support at all and do all of your customer service work by email.

One of the easiest ways to establish boundaries with a new client is to send them a document that lists your business’s office hours, contact info, and policies. Send it to them before you start working with them. That way, they won’t ever have to ask.

 

7 | Create templates and processes.

As business owners, we have things we’re doing every day. Sometimes, multiple times a day. Whether it’s reading emails, creating lead magnets and content upgrades, or writing blog posts, each of these things has a set of tasks that it takes to complete the process.

Start creating templates for each of these processes. Here’s what that might look like.

  • Write templated responses that you can use for the most common questions you receive by email.
  • Design templates for your lead magnets and social media graphics. If you don’t design, have your designer create some branded templates for you. You’ll want to get custom design done from time to time, of course, but templates will help you quickly create new content for your business.
  • Write a template for your blog posts, if possible. Grab these free ones from Coschedule if you don’t have to time to make your own right now!

 

8 | Outsource tasks as soon as you can.

When you can afford to hire help, do it. Most small business owners hire out bookkeeping, design, marketing services or website help once they become profitable and have the money to invest. Some choose to go with a nanny or a home cleaning service instead, to gain a few more hours a day for their business. If you research the service provider you hire and you’re happy with your choice, you’ll be growing your business by outsourcing tasks to capable freelancers or businesses.

There are so many places to find qualified people to get work done for you. Try Facebook groups for freelancers! Freelancing Females is a huge group of talented virtual assistants, copywriters, project managers, bookkeepers, web developers, and almost anything, really.

 

9 | Use automation when possible.

If you’re not using automation in any way in your business, I have some great news for you. You can save sooooo much time by choosing to automate a few of your routine tasks! That way, you can spend more time doing whatever it is you love to do (or need to get done).

Here are some tools to use to automate different elements of your business:

  • Boomerang: Schedules emails to be sent out at a specific time. This is a lifesaver for me, personally, since I do most of my client work super late at night. When I need to send over a logo concept or a website presentation, I just type the email up and schedule it to go out the next morning. It’s free for up to 10 emails per month.
  • Tailwind: You’ve probably heard of Tailwind if you’re not using it. This thing pins for you on autopilot. It also serves as a great platform to join groups of other bloggers and business owners and work together as a community to repin each other’s high-quality content. I spend about an hour a week scheduling pins on my account and I don’t touch Pinterest for the rest of the week (unless I want to!) Tailwind saves me hours each week, because manually pinning 10-20 times a day (or more, depending on your pinning strategy) takes a lot of time. Tailwind recently added a feature called SmartLoop, which helps you create a schedule to loop your evergreen content without having to manually schedule it ever again. Game-changing.
  • Zapier: This is a mostly-free tool that you can use to connect so many elements of your brand. Basically, you set up a “zap” which dictates that when X action happens, Y happens as a reaction. So, you can set up a zap to have all of your new blog posts instantly published to your Facebook page, for example. This saves you from having to go schedule a Facebook post yourself. Zapier supports every major social media platform, the entire Google suite, and a lot more.
  • Schedule your social posts in advance with a tool like Buffer, UNUM, or Planoly. All of these options have free versions that you can use as well as premium versions you can upgrade to, should you choose. Creating all of your social posts for the week and scheduling them out in advance saves hours for most business owners.

 

10 | Meal prep and have healthy snack + drink options on-hand.

I’m a big stress-snacker. I’ll eat whatever is there when I feel like I’m pressed for time. If that’s an apple, it’s gone. If it’s an entire family-sized bag of Lay’s sour cream and onion chips… it’s mine.

Having relatively healthy options pre-made and available to you throughout the day will help keep you energized and feeling good. It also saves so much time to meal prep 1-2 time a week rather than spending an hour or so cooking each day.

 

11 | Wear clothes that make you feel your best.

Some people work best in their PJs. Some people don’t.

One way isn’t better than another, but figure out what works for you. Try working in your robe or PJs one day and get dressed up the next. The day after that, try dressing in a casual but outside-world-appropriate outfit.

Which feels better? Which helps you feel more focused? Dress like that and don’t worry about anyone else’s opinion when it comes to what you wear while working from home.

 

12 | Figure out if routines work for you and use them if they do.

Again, this is something that tons of people love and tons of people hate. Morning routines. Nighttime routines. Workday routines. Are they something that works for you?

If so, solidify your routine. Write it down. Commit to it and allow it to catapult your business forward.

 

13 | Make your workspace comfortable and inspirational.

You need a comfy chair to work in. Ideally, not too comfy, though. If you’re working on a super-squishy sofa, you’ll probably see a dip in productivity. Invest in a high-quality office chair for your desk area and buy a footrest that feels natural to you. You’ll be spending so much time at your desk each day, so make sure you’re comfortable. Your back will thank you.

Aside from a chair and a footrest, there’s nothing you really need at your workspace (other than the tools you use to run your business.)

But think about your workspace and how it makes you feel. Does it make you happy? Does it inspire you to work hard? Does it make you feel empowered? Remove items from the space that make you feel overwhelmed or stressed out. If you have bills laying around, put those somewhere else.

If you have the ability to decorate your workspace, you should – it’s been shown that people are more productive if they enjoy their workspace. So get crazy with the Etsy printable quote art or grab a few cute succulents, desk organizers, or pretty books to decorate your work area. Make it an area that you truly enjoy being in and not a place that you hate to look at.

 

14 | Batch your tasks.

Batching tasks is a small business owner’s best friend. You wear multiple hats when you start a business. By multiple, I mean 60 or 70… You’re the social media coordinator, the designer, the website builder, the customer support, and the business strategist. You might love the feeling of juggling tasks and bring in control, but that setup can quickly become inefficient.

Batch the tasks that you’re able to batch by dedicating a few hours in a row to ONE task only. Create all of your social posts for the week at once rather than making one a day. Write three blog posts in one day instead of frantically trying to get blog posts published throughout the week. Spend several hours mapping out your content strategy instead of blogging as you go. Schedule all of your pins in Tailwind at once so that you don’t have to schedule more every other day.

You will save so much time by focusing on a single task before moving onto the next one. Trust me. That to-do list is about to be demolished.

 

15 | Start the day by working on the most critical task on your list.

When it comes to tackling your to-do list effectively, there are two major schools of thought. The first one says that you should get the biggest, most critical task on your list out of the way first.

This works for me, personally, because I tend to feel antsy when I have obligations hanging over my head.

 

16 | If the last tip doesn’t work for you, start the day by knocking out several easy tasks.

You might feel overwhelmed at the thought of starting with the biggest task. That’s so normal, so don’t worry. Try starting with some of the minor tasks on your list. The motivation you’ll get when you start crossing to-dos off your list will fuel your climb to the top of the list.

Crossing something off a to-do list feels great. Working up from the bottom of your list will let you cross stuff off quicker

 

17 | Do Not Disturb on your phone

If you can get away with silencing your phone or putting it on “Do not disturb,” do it! I’m pretty sure we all work outside of office hours more often than we want to admit, but that doesn’t mean you have to be available for calls and texts.

Leaving your phone somewhere else when you don’t need direct access to it is another easy way to boost your productivity. Especially if you have a tendency to check your email five times a day or scroll through Instagram when you get off-task.

It’s so easy to mindlessly scroll through Facebook before realizing you wasted an entire hour doing nothing. I’m so guilty of this, so I leave my phone in another room when I can.

 

So, there you have it. some of these work from home productivity tips work for me every day (batching tasks and using automation + templates) while others I can’t always make use of (do not disturb settings on my phone). Everyone is different! Try some of these out and experiment with how productive you can help yourself become. You have more power than you think!

 

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How to stay productive while working from home

1 thought on “How to Stay Productive While Working From Home”

  1. This is an excellent post Ciara. I’ve been working from home for almost a year at this point and it is NOT an idyllic process as you say.

    For me the biggest problem is how to combat loneliness and the sense of isolation. I’ve found getting out of the house for at least 30 minutes walk (longer if possible) is one of the best ways to manage this, but it’s still tough.

    Distractions too are a problem… even making lunch takes time away from you so I’m going to adopt your suggestion of preparing snacks / meals in advance.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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