As many of us have suddenly shifted to working at home, I believe now may be the best time to share a few tips and tricks for maximizing productivity outside of the office. After three years of completing freelance work in every environment from airports to coffee bars to barns, I've developed a strong foundation on which remote work can thrive. So, let's take a look at a few of my top suggestions, and I hope your productivity will benefit in turn.
Designate Your Work Space
Easily the most crucial step is to establish your 'work area'. While I'm sure this can help with your overall organization – i.e., keeping all your work-related tools and documents in one place – I count this step as the most important from a mental standpoint.
By far, the hardest aspect of working from home is that, in our minds, home equals relaxation and not work. Therefore, it's infinitely easier to succumb to distractions and get side-tracked simply because we're not at the office.
So, create your own home office where almost nothing happens except work. If you're lucky enough to have a physical home office, great, if not, find a nook or spot that works for you. Once you've found the space, make a special effort to only work there.
Once again, this emphasis on only working in one spot is geared towards getting your mind back into the 'work' groove. Once you've stepped into your new office, it's easier to focus, be productive, and not spiral into the infinite number of distractions that the internet holds.
From personal experience, I highly recommend that you avoid the couch and bedroom for your workspace. These spaces are intrinsically linked to relaxation in our minds and make it incredibly challenging to focus on work and stay focused for any worthwhile length of time.
Trust me, the simple act of getting up from the couch and moving to the dining room table – my established workspace – does wonders for my productivity. As far as my brain is concerned, that table is there to get work done, and the YouTube videos can take a backseat until I'm back on the couch.
However, I completely understand that, through no fault of your own, distractions sometimes come looking for you. So let's look at how you can limit those diversions.
Let's start with the greatest distraction of all – which also happens to be your tool for working from home – the internet. It's the most natural thing in the world to stumble onto an article, video, or website that devours an hour of what should have been your work time. But there are some steps you can take to limit this.
First, consider downloading a new internet browser that you'll use just for work. For example, if you typically use Google Chrome, try downloading Firefox for your work, and only have that browser open during your work time. The reason behind this is that the new browser won't have any of your social media passwords saved.
Therefore, when habit causes you to jump over to Facebook or Instagram, you'll first hit the sign-in page, which will serve as a reminder that you should be working. The same will hold true for any video-streaming services that tempt you away from productivity.
Now, outside of the internet, family and roommates tend to be the next largest source of distraction. In this department, I can only emphasize communication. Let all your fellow housemates know when you're working, and that this is your time to complete your honest toil. This communication will be a little bit easier if you establish strict work hours for yourself, which brings us to my next point.
Set Strict Work Hours
While it's easy to chip away at work throughout the day, please do yourself a favor and set strict work hours to maximize your productivity.
First, doing so can condense your daily work from being strung out over several hours of lazy computer time to just a couple hours of actual work. Therefore, being productive and focusing on your work during strict working hours will quickly free up more time for the rest of your day.
For example, if I set myself the goal of completing a 1000-word article in one day, I'm sure that I would waste hours being distracted on my computer and only writing a sentence here and a sentence there. In the end, the article would get finished, but it would have taken perhaps five hours of computer time in all. If, on the other hand, I set strict work hours and needed to complete a 1000-word article within just one hour, it would get done.
The second reason behind establishing solid work hours circles back to limiting your distractions by communicating with your roommates and family. If everyone in your household is aware that 10 am to 3 pm is your work time, then they'll know that asking you to clear the gutters or weed the yard can wait until your work time is over.
Therefore, knuckle down and focus exclusively on work for a few hours every day, and you're sure to be much more productive than haphazardly chipping away at work throughout the day.
Bring it All Together
To review, my top three tips for maximizing your productivity while working at home are:
Designate your workspace
Limit distractions online and in the house
Set strict work hours
Adhere to these guidelines, focus on your work, and I'm confident that your productivity will skyrocket!