With great freedom comes endless opportunities to waste time.
Working from home gives you the chance to create your ideal environment. There’s no lengthy commute. No fixed schedule. No boss hovering over you. Yet, the perks that make remote work appealing are often the biggest barriers to your productivity.
From family and friends dropping by to social media tempting you away from your to-do list, everything around you can become a distraction. And if you’re a natural procrastinator, it’s even harder to get the most out of your work hours.
By adapting your work mentality to fit your home environment, you can stay focused and disciplined. Set boundaries for yourself to develop productive habits and work from home like a pro.
Create a Work-Oriented Space
The way you arrange your workspace sends mental cues that affect your performance. While you might relish the idea of kicking back in bed with the TV on, it’s difficult to stay in work mode in an environment that’s too relaxed. Instead, carve out an area where you can easily concentrate for long periods.
A dedicated office space is best, but you can also set up a desk in another room of your home. The most important thing is to choose an area where you can shut out unwanted noise and keep everything you need in arm’s reach. That way, you won’t waste time hunting around for essential supplies.
Invest in comfortable seating that allows you to maintain good posture and avoid physical strain. While you work, consider turning off the electronics you aren’t using or removing them from your work space altogether. Although it’s perfectly fine to enjoy the comforts of home, keeping distractions out of reach helps to de-clutter your mind.
Get an Early Start
Picture your morning routine. Are you groggy, sluggish, and barely able to lift an eyelid, or do you feel energized and eager to tackle your to-do list? Having a healthy, consistent sleep schedule reduces fatigue, making it easier for you to focus and work efficiently.
Strive to start your day early. You need sufficient time to complete your most important tasks and wiggle room to deal with unexpected setbacks.
Not only do you lose prime business hours when you sleep in, but it often takes additional time to achieve a steady pace. Getting up early grants you the time to monitor your progress throughout the day and adjust to meet your goals.
Identify Patterns of Procrastination
When you work from home, you alone are responsible for managing your time and surroundings. Without the built-in supervision of a formal work environment, your worst habits may take over.
Maybe, you’re a frequent snacker or glued to your email inbox. You might be a news junkie who gets sucked into reading articles online or busy trying to binge watch your favorite shows with work deadlines looming. In some cases, the distraction is external, such as frequent calls from friends or young children who need your attention.
Set yourself up for success by identifying these negative patterns early on. Then, think about how you can get rid of the distraction or replace it with a constructive habit. For example, you can designate a time to read all your emails or structure your day around your toddler’s nap, play, and mealtimes.
At the same time, try to pinpoint factors that improve your concentration. For many people, it helps to have light, noninterruptive noise in the background, such as instrumental music. Take control of your environment by surrounding yourself with positive mental cues that keep you in the zone.
Squeeze in a Daily Workout
Exercise isn’t just for physical conditioning. Working out gives you energy and endorphins, which can supply a much-needed boost of concentration at the beginning of your workday.
If you think you can’t spare the time, find creative ways to squeeze fitness into your schedule. Why not try walking the kids to school if it’s close by or jogging to run errands?
Prepare a To-Do List
It’s common for newly remote workers to get less done, even though they’re putting in a lot of hours. Frequent starting and stopping cuts into your productivity, and you don’t realize it until you fall further and further behind on your goals.
Get ahead of the problem by coming up with a rough plan of business the evening before. As you go through your list, make note of which tasks are high- or low-priority. If you do get behind schedule, you’ll have an easier time figuring out which assignments should come first.
Complete any prep work in advance to maximize your efficiency. If you need specific resources or data from team members to make progress, check in with them as soon as possible to avoid delays.
Establish Work Hours
Even if you work flexible hours, there are usually periods in the day when you consistently get the bulk of your assignments done. This is especially true for people who collaborate with other team members on a daily basis.
Prevent unwanted interruptions from family and friends by setting work hours when they aren’t allowed to drop by or disturb you. If you’re a freelancer, establish hours for client contact as well. You can enjoy a more balanced home life if you limit yourself to only monitoring your communication channels during agreed upon times.
Conduct Performance Reviews
Accountability and feedback are often built into the traditional work experience, and you shouldn’t overlook the value of performance reviews when you work from home. Weekly, monthly, and quarterly reviews can help you evaluate what you’re doing and refocus your efforts if necessary. Set long- and short-term goals that are measurable, and be honest with yourself when you aren’t showing progress.
Send and Request Progress Reports
Whether you work for yourself or as a remote employee, it’s normal to feel disconnected from your co-workers now and then. Not to mention, supervisors or co-workers may question how you’re using your time. To maintain balanced relationships and increase personal accountability, you should routinely checking in with team members.
Instead of waiting for co-workers to inquire about your project, send an email that sums up your progress and what materials you need from others to continue. The frequency of your messages should depend on how closely you work with others on assignments, so be careful about spamming your colleagues with emails.
Another option is to use video messaging or meet up with co-workers in person a few times a months. Communicating on a regular basis motivates you to stay on track, since it reminds you that other people are relying on you to honor your commitments.
With the right mindset, working from home can be a blessing. Although it takes more initiative and self-discipline to succeed on your own, the trade-off is more control over your professional growth and the chance to escape a one-size-fits-all work environment.