7 Best Ways To Increase Productivity If You Work From Home
Updated: May 16
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Most freelancers get to work from home. Recently though, almost everyone else had to join this work from home train too, while in quarantine thanks to Miss Corona.
Ahhh, to be able to wear your PJs in the office and have your comfy socks on while you work. Sound like a luxury! Although there are so many pros and cons to working remotely.
We do get to use the computer from our bed if we want. We get to watch tv while we make stuff, we don't have to get dressed to go to work, we most likely get to set our own hours and so much more. But if you're anything like me, sometimes it feels like there's not nearly enough hours in the day to get all the work done. Let alone enjoy or accomplish other non-work related stuff, like cleaning the house, doctors visits, and kids.
There are loads of recommended ways to stay productive and on-task while still having the space for some much needed free time.
I've tried and tested pretty much all the tips and tactics, watched heaps of Youtube videos, listened to a ton of podcasts and read countless articles whenever I want to know how the other, more successful entreprenuers organise their days to get more done. And you know what I found? There are just a few simple things that have really stuck so I can get (most of) my shit done.
Here are 7 proven ways to stay productive if you work from home, and tools and apps that will help you get organised and feel much better about your To-Do Lists.
1. Get your mind right
When you wake up, try to read or think of something positive and non-work related. Gratitude goes a long way and it's really important to accept and appreciate where you are right now. Spend 2 mins with your eyes closed and list 10 things you're grateful for. Think of anything.
Then spend the next 2 mins imagining yourself feeling accomplished, proud and feeling fully satisfied with yourself. This helps you to get into the feeling space of how you want to end your day.
Instead of jumping straight into my notifications first thing in the morning, read something positive and welcoming. I have greatday.com bookmarked on my phone and read Ralph Marston's daily motivations first thing in the morning. It's a nice way to ease into my screen and his daily posts are always positive serving as helpful reminders to be kind to yourself.
2. Take one small step at a time
You may find yourself trying to accomplish all your goals in one day, you make a list of everything and dive right into the deep end. Woah!
Slow down a bit... Setting goals is great but give yourself some smaller stepping stones, or else you're just setting yourself up to fall off the wagon. If you're one of those people who are like "Yeah! I'm gonna do this, and that and this and that!" and you set yourself month-long challenges and never complete them, then congrats, you're a human.
Don't get down on yourself, just get realistic. Perhaps you're not ready for the a month-long challenge? See how well you handle a 3 day challenge. Then a 5 day, then 7, and so on. Start small and get bigger.
Start wherever you are now, and you'll get to where you want to go. I recently read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. I'm not even finished it yet and it's already changed my whole outlook on goal setting and how I develop habits and do small tasks that will ultimately take me to my desired future self. If you haven't read it, you should.
3. Wake up at the same time everyday
Try and have a good nights sleep. Go to bed early and wake up early. It sounds so easy. As someone who hasn't quite nailed this one down, it can be difficult to switch off and relax at night. But by waking up early, the extra hours in the morning feel like a bonus!
There’s a certain flow and procedure that develops and more tasks happen in a timely manner more often. This, as opposed to waking up whenever and improvising every little thing, turning that into a day that ends before anything is really accomplished - which rolls over on to the next day, and the next.
A little bit of structure to your day can go along way. (Hey, that rhymes)
Watch these three guys try to match the morning routines of CEO's
4. Organise your day in blocks
Have you heard of time batching? Time blocking? This is where you split your day into big chunks of 2-4 hours. Most common is 3 hour blocks. 9am-12pm, 12pm-3pm and so on.
The idea here is that you focus on one task or a set of themed tasks in a block of time. For instance, between 9am-12pm you focus on getting ready, working out, tidying up and making breakfast. Between 12pm-3pm you work on your creative projects.
Remember how much you accomplished in a single day when you were at school? You managed to get up early, get fully dressed, read and write essays, and learn anything from Languages to Science in a single day. Not to mention you had plenty of time to catch up with friends, play out side, and travel to and from school. All by 3pm!
This is because time blocking is efficient.
You can accomplish more things in a day or week, when you compartmentalise your tasks. That means, you're fully devoted to one subject for a period of time. When that time's up, you pack up and move on to focus on the next task. Just like when you had Math, you were only doing math. When Math was over, you packed up and went to Science class for example. Batching your time allows you feel a lot less overwhelmed and a lot more accomplished.
Jordan Page from Fun Cheap or Free is a full-time entrepreneur with 5 young kids. Her approach to time blocking is super helpful for people who have families and really have a lot on the go. Check out this video where she shares her schedule.
5. Stop Multi-tasking
"Good at multi-tasking" Something you probably have written on your CV. The truth is, though you may be good at managing an array of different types of tasks, you are most likely not, at all, good at 'multi-tasking'
As Jory McKay mentions in this post 'Multi-tasking is a Myth' he shares why several studies have shown that people who are splitting their attention between multiple tasks are not getting more done. They're doing less, getting more stressed out, and perform worse than people who focus on a single task at a time.
If you're anything like me you get ambitious and pack your to-do list with items that you feel can probably be accomplished at more or less the same time. But instead find yourself half listening, typing emails or texts that don't get sent, doing the laundry while burning things on the stove etc.
It's always more effective to focus on one thing at time.
As Quincy Jones his father "Once a task has just begun, never leave it til' it's done. Be the labour big or small, do it well or not at all"
6. Write it down, schedule it in, check it off.
Your To-Do list only works if you:
A. Write a To-Do list, and
B. Designate a time to do each item
It's simple really. If you plan times to do certain things, you will know what to do when the time comes.
I am a list freak and write notes and lists for everything. ( I even set a reminder to make a list of what to do for the day.) Either digitally or on paper. Most often if a task doesn't get written down and scheduled in, it doesn't get done. But it does get completed, striking it off the list is oh so satisfying.
7. Make things easier
There are several apps and tools you can use to help you organise your time.
Use a Daily Planner
A simple notebook or daily planner is really all you need. The best for me, are the ones where you can see the full week at a glance, like this planner.
Google Calendar is my favourite scheduling tool. It's easy to use, drag and drop and colour code your tasks if you want. My schedule is typically batched in daily themes. Mondays are for writing, Tuesdays and Thursdays are for client work, Wednesdays are for my creative projects etc.
Another app I can not live without is MinimaList for iPhone. As someone who loves clean, simple designs, this is perfect. Add a task, and strike it out when it's down. This app allows you to time your tasks or run tasks by the Pomodoro method.
The Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro method is where you spend 25 mins focussed and take a 5 minute break. 25 mins on, 5 mins off. Any duration of focus time is suitable whether 25, 35, 45 mins etc. The idea is that you take regular breaks in order to keep yourself from getting bored or distracted while doing a task.
Consider downloading the app Habit for iPhone. It's another favourite of mine. Similar to MinimaList, it's a simple, clean design where you add items that you want to track. For instance, if your goal is to make a habit of working out every morning, add it to Habit and tick off everyday you managed to workout. You'll soon start to see all the ticks mounting up to a well-developed healthy habit.
A few simple tweaks to your daily schedule is the difference between the old you, and the new more organised and accomplished version of you. Which one will you be?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauren was born in London, but grew up in Canada where she received her degrees with distinction in Fine Arts and Education. Now she's back, she continues her work in creative arts by making art and teaching it, while developing opportunities for early career artists as the founder of the online platform Dark Yellow Dot.