There are people who can work from home, people who can’t, and people who are trying but are either partially or completely failing. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, all at-home workers could probably use a few productivity pointers.
We’re here to answer the call. From actually getting dressed to, yes—and don’t hate us for this one—blocking social media, we’ve gathered some time-tested suggestions that will help you reap immediate results.
Set your hours.
Working haphazard hours isn’t going to cut it when you work from home. You’d work regular hours at the office, so do it from home, too. You have the enviable ability to set start and end times that suit you best—and without a commute. So take advantage of it, then work your new hours regularly.
Get into a routine.
With your hours figured out, it’s time to get into a routine. Early-morning yoga, dog walks, breakfast, getting the kids out the door, then sitting at your desk. Whatever you need to do, try to do it the same way every work day. A routine will get you in the mindset to work and boost productivity.
A lot of people will tell you to dress “like you’re going to the office” when you work from home, but let’s face it: a major perk of working from home is wearing what you want. If that’s a suit and tie, office casual, or yoga pants and a hoodie, go for it. Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable and productive. The important thing is to get dressed and ready for the day.
Find the right space to work.
Some people like a dedicated workspace in a home office. Others prefer working at the kitchen table. Maybe you like to move your laptop wherever the sun is shining. Figure out what works best for you—even if it’s next to your snoring labradoodle—not what a business or home decor magazine instructs. (Check out our brief, friendly guide on optimizing your workspace here.)
Plan your meals.
Meals are one of those things that, if you’re unprepared for them, can really throw a wrench into your work day. Running out to grab something takes up valuable work time and ordering in can get expensive. Your best bet is to eat at home. Try to plan quick, simple meals that are easy to prepare and will keep you going. Even better? Leftovers from dinner the night before.
Save housework for later.
No matter how hard it is, resist the urge to do housework. Put down the laundry basket and drop the toilet brush. Because one load of laundry leads to five and one toilet turns into the entire bathroom. Your work day is for work. The housework will still be there when it ends.
Save social media for later, too.
Social media is the ultimate time suck. Unless social media is your job, stay away from it during your work day. (And even if it is your job, stay off your personal accounts.) Just like housework, checking “just one notification” leads to scrolling your newsfeed, which leads to cat videos and your cousin’s vacation pics. If you lack self control, there are plenty of apps to block social media so you can stay on task.
And minimize distractions in general.
Speaking of social media, a big part of successfully working from home is minimizing distractions in general. Tell family and friends about your work hours and check in with them after hours. If texting is an issue (and it’s an issue for most of us!), turn off notifications. If you use cell for business, some VoIP phone companies offer great do not disturb and call screening tools you can enable with just a click.
Get out once in a while.
Ironically, one of the best things about working from home is leaving home to work sometimes. Many successful home-based workers find a change of scenery is a great productivity booster. Most coffee shops and libraries offer free wifi. Coworking spaces are also a great, inexpensive option.
Take some breaks.
Sure, working from home can make you vulnerable to distractions, but, when you’re really flying, you can fall down a productivity black hole. Don’t forget to come up for air once in a while. Make a cup of coffee. Play with your cat. Walk your dog. Call your mom. Whatever you do to take a break, make sure it’s actually a break. We all need a breather.