5 Fail-Proof Tips for Optimizing Productivity When Working from Home
BY: BRIAN HUGHES ON MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
As a small business owner, friends and colleagues alike frequently tell me how lucky I am to be able to work from home whenever I choose. And it’s true: the flexibility afforded by my home office is a huge bonus, especially when it comes to improving work-life balance. There’s no lengthy commute, no time lost to coworker distractions, and no workplace drama. Plus, I can make my workspace look any way that I choose.
But it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. In the office, coworkers are your biggest productivity threat. At home, you are. It’s amazing how the power of procrastination can drive you to bleach your bathtub (for the second time in a month), organize your tax return three months early, or even clean out the fridge. And don’t even get me started on social media!
Over the years, I’ve tried dozens of different work-from-home productivity strategies. After much trial and error, I’ve finally settled on an approach that maximizes my productivity and creativity while keeping me focused and (relatively) distraction-free.
Stuck in your own work-from-home rut? These are my five go-to home office productivity tricks:
1. Stop distractions early.
It’s tempting to check email first thing and then get sucked into multiple rounds of client correspondence. Before you know it, you’ve already lost the better half of the morning sending messages back and forth. For me, I’ve found that limiting my morning email and social media activity has been a huge productivity boost. After flagging priority correspondence for later, I close email, put the smartphone away, and dedicate the first hour of my workday to actually working. This structure keeps me focused and productive, and by tackling the most important tasks early, I build momentum for the day ahead.
2. Take regular productivity breaks.
Yes, you read that correctly. In order to be truly productive, you need to take regular breaks throughout the day. Studies show that the ideal work/break length is working for 52 minutes and breaking for 17, reports the Atlantic. Depending on your job, however, a different pattern might work better for you.
When I’m writing an article, I often find that if I get in a zone, I can easily write straight for 90 minutes or longer. But if I’m spinning my wheels brainstorming, I jot down as many notes as I can and then set the task aside for 30 minutes. I always schedule time in my day for being active. Even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood or playing outside with my son, time outside and away from screens (computer, smartphones and televisions) is a welcome and refreshing break.
3. Secure your network and devices.
One-third of remote workers admit to using unsecured Wi-Fi networks, reports WorkFlowMax. Yikes! Sending and receiving data over an unsecured network is a huge security risk. Don’t underestimate the risk for data breaches, identity theft, and the loss of confidential client information. Workflow Max recommends encrypting a laptop and using secure VPN to protect sensitive intellectual property. Remember, many data breaches are crimes of opportunity. When you aren’t using a device, turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
4. Head to a coffee shop– or bring the coffee shop to you.
Miss the creative buzz of a co-working space but don’t want to be interrupted every five minutes? Sometimes an afternoon or morning at the local coffee shop is just the solution.
Studies show that some people find this white noise – the quiet chatter, music, the sound of coffee orders being made – actually helps them focus better than total silence. There are even apps that will recreate this “coffee shop white noise” for you. These “environmental enhancer” apps are designed to help you relax, focus and boost creativity with background white noise chatter.
While I personally prefer to work from home, many of my colleagues have found that a morning in their local coffee shop is key to a productive day. Just remember that public Wi-Fi networks are not always as secure as your home network.
5. Designate “non-work” times.
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is that you never truly leave the office at the end of the day. I value spending time with my family, but I found too often that my work bled into the evening and then late into the night. I was working long hours and missing out on that quality time without even accomplishing all my daily tasks. By creating set structures in my day and designating certain times for non-work activities, like family dinner, I’ve learned to turn the computer off and disconnect (albeit briefly) from work. You don’t have to work 100% of the time to be productive!
By and far, building consistent structure has been my biggest work from home productivity boost. My daily routine – a set time to write, a set time to respond to emails and schedule client calls, a set time to enjoy my family – has helped me significantly improve daily productivity. I can definitively say that I get more accomplished from home now than I used to get done in the office!
Do you work from home? What are your go-to productivity secrets?
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