by Josh Millar
Whether you’re a freelancer, have a remote position, or simply enjoy working outside of the office from time to time, there are some great benefits that come with working from home. With those benefits also come some challenges. As someone who often works from home or while traveling, I feel quite familiar with each. It’s great when you can make your own hours, run out to pick up your kids from school, or work from your favorite cafe. On the flip side, this flexibility can pose a threat to productivity if you’re not cautious. When you delay your work to finish cleaning the kitchen, or you’re simply feeling a bit stir-crazy, the freedom of working remotely can hinder efficiency. Here are a few of the strategies I use to stay productive while working away from the office:
Define Your Schedule
Sure, one of the benefits of working from home is getting to create your own hours. But I find that when I completely ‘wing it’, I’m not at my most efficient. Enjoy this benefit by getting to set your own hours, not make them up on the fly. I find I’m most productive in the morning hours, so it works well for me to get my day started early. For others, they prefer to use those morning hours to get in a workout and do some housework before settling into work. Pinpoint the times of day you’re most productive, and harness those hours for focused work. In addition to a clear start time, it helps to have a clear end time as well. When you work remotely, boundaries between home and work can blur. Leaving a physical office is helpful in transitioning from work-mode to home-mode, so when you don’t have that, it’s important to give yourself a cutoff time to maintain a balance. In addition to your start and end times, clearly-scheduled breaks can keep distractions at bay while.
I won’t say don’t multitask. Working from home does give you some unique opportunities to cross things off your at-home to-do list while also getting work done, but this one can quickly destroy productivity if you’re not careful. So, when you do multitask, do it intentionally. Put in a load of laundry, and then commit to focusing on a single task while it’s in. The specific window of time is great motivation to increase concentration and efficiency. On the other hand, trying to fold that laundry while on the call with a client can rapidly backfire. It’s tough to give 100% of your attention to the call or take notes when you’re engaged with another task. When it comes to multitasking, I make sure I choose my tasks intentionally instead of letting it creep into my work hours without my active choosing.
Create a Workspace
We don’t all have space for a full home-office. If you can’t set up in your own private work zone, you can still designate an area for work. Whether it’s a desk in the living room or a place at the kitchen table, giving yourself a clear place for working is a way to signal to your mind to switch into work mode. Even if you choose to take advantage of working away from the house, you can still be intentional about where you choose to go. Perhaps you have a few cafes that you know to be quiet places that promote productive work — setting up in an environment that feels specific to working helps me stay focused and engaged.
This might not immediately seem relevant to your at-home productivity, but hear me out. One of the major challenges for those who work from home is that they feel disconnected from a professional community, and that can make you feel less engaged in your work. Whether you have local friends or colleagues who also work from home, or you’re able to communicate online with other coworkers throughout the day, staying connected to that professional community can help keep your motivation up — higher motivation usually equals higher productivity.
These strategies help me enjoy the benefits of working away from the office without falling into a productivity pitfall. It requires some self-discipline to manage your time well when working remotely, but when you commit to it, it’s easy to maintain maximum efficiency. If you work from home, either regularly or sporadically, how do you stay productive? I’d love to hear your thoughts!