I can’t believe it, the end of fall semester is in sight. I give my last few lectures this week, and I finish up finals shortly after that. Wow. Where did this semester go?
One of the benefits of professor life is that we often get a long winter break. It provides a great time to prepare for the coming semester, and also to work on neglected research.
Well… that’s the idea anyway.
And in all fairness, I begin each break with that very intention. I dream up all of the productive things I’ll accomplish; I’ll write my lectures for the following semester, I’ll finish my book, I’ll complete research on a new article, etc.
Unfortunately, more often than not, the days fly by too quickly. All of a sudden it’s January, and I’ve accomplished maybe a quarter of my list.
Have you ever experienced this? It’s so discouraging.
With this year’s break coming up fast, I decided to be proactive. I’m determined to make the most of my time, so I knew I needed a plan.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve researched how to stay productive working from home, which is one of my biggest challenges.
You see, during winter break, I tend to work from my home office. It saves on commute time and gas. Plus, it’s just so much easier than schlepping into work each day – especially in the winter.
With that being said, working from home is often a major productivity stumbling block for me. I get incredibly distracted by just about everything. (This is probably because just about everything sounds more interesting than doing my work.)
Needless to say, this is incredibly frustrating.
Fortunately, I’ve created a list of 25 effective strategies to stay productive working from home. They are easy to implement, and you’ll see results immediately.
So if you struggle to stay focused working in your home, or you’re simply looking to get more done each day, read on.
I share 5 of my favorite strategies here. And if you’re looking for more great tips, you can click here to download my complete list of 25 ways to stay productive working from home.
Stay Productive Working From Home
Set Work Hours
One of the biggest benefits of working from home is the flexibility that comes with it. You can wear what you want. You can set your own hours. And if you need a nap in the middle of the day, no one will see you rest your head on your desk 😉
On the flip side, complete flexibility can also be a productivity stumbling block. And this is especially true when it comes to setting your own hours. Why? Because most people thrive on daily routine.
Without structured hours in your day, it’s very easy to work too much, which squelches your work-life balance. And alternatively, it’s easy to work too little, which leaves you scrambling to accomplish your work.
The easiest fix is to set yourself work hours and stick to them. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to follow the standard 9-5 structure. If you prefer to section off your day from 6am-8am, 11am-3pm, and again from 7pm-9pm, go for it!
The important thing is establishing a consistent routine with clear work boundaries. Because once you enter that time frame, it’s the first signal to your brain that says, “Okay brain, it’s time to focus.”
Create Your Own Space
If possible, designate a clear “workspace that is separate from the rest of your home. This is important for a couple of reasons.
First of all, it helps you maintain work-life balance. One of the biggest challenges of working from home is feeling like you’re always at work. When this happens, we often feel inclined to keep working, because we never really get away.
A situation like this is just asking for burn out. And that leads directly into a productivity nosedive. Not an ideal situation.
If you can maintain a designated “workspace,” however, you can reinforce that work-life balance. You give your brain time to recharge so you can come back fresh each day.
Second of all, select a workspace that is quiet and free from distractions. Sure, lounging on the couch may sound more appealing than sitting at the dining table. But the couch is also where you hang out, watch TV, play games, etc. In other words, sitting on the couch probably doesn’t scream, “get work done!” Choose a place as free from distractions as possible, and get to work!
Comfort is also important. If you’re trying to work, but you can’t stop thinking about that pinch in your lower back, the bad lighting in your office, or the fact that you’re freezing cold, your productivity will slide. So set yourself up for success.
Purchase a desk chair that provides good back support (this is the one I have). Make sure your lighting is sufficient so you’re not straining your eyes. And ensure that your AC and heating work properly. It may seem superfluous, but these little extras really make a big difference.
Get In The Zone
You’ve set your hours, and you’re sitting comfortably in your office. Now it’s time to focus.
I recommend starting with the strategy of time blocking. This will help you efficiently map out your workday and recognize how much time you want to spend on each task.
Next, tell yourself you’re ready to work. Literally.
When I sit down to work, I think to myself: “Okay, I’m going to focus hard for the next 90 minutes.” I visualize what I’m going to accomplish, and I decide what I’ll do as a reward during my 10-minute break. By simply stating that intention clearly – either in your mind or aloud – you’re helping shift your mind into “work zone.”
Now there are times, however, when I need a bit more help focusing. I’m very noise-sensitive, so I often find myself distracted by the tiniest of sounds. When this happens, I put on a headset and pull up some white noise from simplynoise. (It’s free; I like brown noise the best.) It really helps to quiet the distractions (both outer noises and inner thoughts alike!)
So if you find your mind wandering, or you’re distracted by those little sounds, get some headphones for work. Then, put on music or white noise, and focus on the task at hand.
If you’ve read my time blocking post, you know I’m a big believer in taking breaks. Working for hours on end, in my humble opinion, can actually be counterproductive. You’ll burn yourself out, and your quality of work suffers as a result.
So make sure you allow yourself breaks throughout the day. Get up and stretch, walk to the kitchen for a glass of water, and keep those energy levels up. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Looking for more great strategies to increase productivity working from home? Click here for an entire list of 25!
How do you stay productive working from home? Alternatively, how do you stay productive at work? Do you prefer working at home or in an office better? Let me know below!