Working from home, it’s been my normal for over 4 years now. However, I didn’t become a work from home whiz overnight. It took a complete shift in my routine and habits to learn how to be productive while working from home. A lot of you are probably still working from home some parts of your week. Some have totally mastered it and others are still adjusting. I’ve had a lot of people ask me for my work from home tips, so here are my 7 steps to productivity when working from home.
Let me just put this out there first. Working from home seems like it’s such a treat! It’s a chance to stay home, work in your pajamas from the comfort of your couch. Watch tv in the background or listen to music. And yes, these are all options for your work from home routine. I’ll even admit that when I first started working from home I regularly worked from my couch, with the tv on in the background. I didn’t have a boss any longer, since I had left my marketing job, and began working for myself. It was freeing to have my own routine, with no one to report to and no set hours in stone.
But let me be the first to tell you, that my productivity level during this time was 75% less than when I worked in an office. One word: DISTRACTIONS.
Waking up and just moving from my bed to the couch, without changing into normal clothes. Distraction. Having the tv on with a show I had recorded, while ‘working’ with my laptop on my lap. Distraction.
The biggest step to successfully working from home is removing distractions from your space. It’s definitely easier said than done, but hopefully these steps can help!
7 Steps to Productivity When Working From Home
1. Make time for your usual morning routine
Successfully working from home means keeping your routine just as you would if you were leaving the house and going to the office. Wake up as you normally would. Perhaps you set your alarm a little earlier to enjoy that fresh cup of coffee on the couch or have a little quiet time. Whatever helps you kickoff your day right, continue to do it Monday through Friday even if you’re working from home.
2. Change out of your pajamas and get dressed!
One of the biggest steps to productivity, in my opinion, changing out of those pajamas! I’m not an expert, but I know from experience that there’s something that clicks in our brains when we change out of our pajamas and into real clothing. I know it seems like it wouldn’t make a huge difference, but it does.
I might not get dressed everyday as if I were going into the office. Some followers on my Instagram suggested to dress as if you’re going into the office every single day, and if that helps your mindset, I say do it! For me, it’s simply changing out of my pjs, putting on my contacts and doing my morning skincare routine and some light makeup. I might get dressed but still wear my house slippers around the house. That’s okay! But truly, changing out of those pjs will get your mind ready to sit down and be productive.
3. Designate a specific work space
For someone like me who works from home everyday, I’m fortunate to have my own office at home. If you have a spare space not in use, like a guest bedroom or den, make this your work from home space! Just like the mind shift that happens when you change out of your pajamas, creating a designated space for working will totally help with your work from home productivity. But if I’m traveling, my second favorite spot to create a designated work from home space is a table, the bigger the better. My favorite is a dining room table, but a kitchen table will work well, too.
4. Plan out your days
I’m one of those people who lives and dies by my planner. I write out everything I have scheduled in my planner with the time and then separately write out my daily to do list (learn in this post how I do my brain dumps, which become my to do lists). I write the top three things I need to tackle for my day at the top of the list then backfill anything else. The items that are at the bottom of my list, sometimes carry over into future days, and that’s okay! When I write my new to do list each morning, I just carry those to do list items over.
Another trick I’ve learned over the last few years of working from home is to schedule specific tasks on specific days. Perhaps Monday mornings are when you map out your week and plan out Monday-Friday. Wednesdays might be your appointment day, where if you have meetings outside of the home, you take them then. On Friday afternoons you tackle your accounts receivable. Make sense? For my small business, I make sure to keep Mondays completely free of appointments or meetings if possible. That way I have no reason to not sit at my desk and get work done. My photographer and I have a standing Tuesday/Thursday afternoon appointment, so I know that’s the day for shooting projects. Fridays are when I set my out of office appoints like visits to the doctor’s office or a lunch meeting. When I plan out my days, I’m much more productive.
5. Time batch your work (timers are your friend!)
Building off step four, I suggest time batching as a means to productivity when working from home. But what exactly is time batching?
“Time batching is a simple time-management productivity hack that allows you to take advantage of your full concentration by grouping a bunch of similar activities together and doing them all at the same time.”
So let me break that down by sharing my firsthand experience. I keep this cube timer next to my computer. When I need to knock out specific items, I set the timer and stick to a task, such as responding to emails, writing a post draft to turn into a brand or schedule out social media content.
By intentionally managing your time, you’re saving yourself from distractions and taking steps to increase your productivity. Start with attainable time goals, such as responding to emails for 15 minutes and updating your P&L statement for 25 minutes. Once you achieve those times, then you can start building upon them. Ultimately you should be able to time batch most of your day and knock out tasks that can keep you ahead of your work schedule.
6. Maintain office hours
Personally, this might be the hardest step for me. Maintaining office hours is extremely important not just for your sanity, but your health, too. Whether it’s 8-4 or 9-5, keep some structure. As a small business owner, it’s super easy to let myself work whenever, including working late at night or on the weekends. I’ve learned over the last few years, that sticking to an office hours schedule is absolutely key to productivity and success. Keeping with a specific set of office hours allows you to keep that work/life balance we ALL need.
7. Give yourself a little grace
Quite possibly the most important step! Working from home takes discipline. And let me be clear, for most, you won’t be successful at it over night. I’ve been working from home for over four years, and quite honestly, this is the first year I’ve felt like I really have a concrete work from home routine. Don’t be too hard on yourself! Give yourself a little grace, and realize that working from home is an adjustment.
Looking for more business tips? Check out this Adored by Alex budgeting post.
One more thing! Often I listen to low-key music in the afternoons to break up the monotony. I usually listen to stations on Pandora, but recently have been creating some playlists on Spotify. If you’re interested, here’s one of my playlists: