5 little habits that help me work from home more productively

Tanya Abdul Jalil
Jan 11, 2019 · 4 min read

and still get time to put the washing out.

In late 2017, I started working from home full time.

For anyone who has made the journey from commute/office days/lunch breaks to working for yourself, you’ll know the struggle to actually get anything done.

There are dishes to be done, washing to hang out, school committee meetings you get invited to once they know you’re at home. Not to mention the things you can do in the peace and quiet of the day, like grocery shopping, lunch in a cafe, or just a nap in peace.

So, how do you make it all happen? Without the peer pressure of colleagues watching your every move, you need to cultivate the habits that get you at your desk and working.

  1. Get up early. It’s been said a million times before and is seen as a sign of success in entrepreneurs the world over. I had always dismissed it as being for the same type of people that run marathons for fun (not for me). But it bloody works. There’s something about the quiet of the morning, the peaceful house, no disruptions that makes waking up for work somewhat enjoyable. I’ve been trying to get up at 5am (sometimes more like 6am), and start my day with a cup of tea, and writing three pages freehand in a journal (as inspired by The Artists Way). It doesn’t matter what I write, but it switches off the negative, critical part of your brain and allows for better writing.
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2. Give your to-do list a time frame. For every job on your list, write how long you allocate yourself to do that task. If it’s too long, break it down into subtasks. Then set yourself times to do a bunch of small tasks (10 x 6 minutes = 1 hour of work, and 10 things off your to-do list). This is even more important when you calculate how much you’re being paid to finish work — taking double the time you charge means being paid half the rate, and you miss out on another potential job you could be working on.

3. On the topic of time — if you don’t already — use the Pomodoro technique. The basic premise of this is that humans can only focus solidly for short blocks of time. So working on 25 minutes on-5 minutes off schedule means you’ll be more productive and power through your tasks. I’ve just invested $3.00 in a small kitchen timer, because it’s on my desk as a visual reminder to set it, and makes a loud beep. I’ve tried the online versions, but they are a bit glitchy, or I just forget to set them. Strict workflow is a great online version with chrome plugin that blocks selected pages so you aren’t tempted to distract yourself while you should be working.

4. Delight your senses. Habits are sensual, and if you trigger the five senses with your habits, you’ll soon be ready to work. For me, this is

Sound — music — my Spotify playlist (I’m a huge fan of movie classics and light opera/theatre hits — especially Peter Hollens). This also helps drown out the household sounds that would otherwise disturb me.

Taste — I always sit down with a cup of tea to work — but I’m alternating black tea with herbals such as licorice, peppermint and green tea.

Sight — Keeping some sense of organisation in my office means less time thinking I should be cleaning.

Smell — I’m a huge essential oil fan. I have orange and peppermint in my diffuser for when I need to focus, bergamot when I need to talk to someone about a job, lavender when the stress builds up. I also have a spray bottle with lemon, frankincense, orange, grapefruit, and clary sage that I use to clear the air when I find I’m losing focus, or need to centre myself for the next task.

Touch — Having an ergonomic setup is important, I like to switch between sitting and standing (with a stylish cardboard box under my laptop). When my back gets sore, I add a heat pack to my shoulders or lower back to help push through the deadlines.

5. Treat yourself. Not every day, but all CEO’s take a day off sometimes. If your schedule is packed, block out an afternoon a week away to catch up on chores, do the banking, go out for a nice lunch, or go have that nap. You’ll feel better for it, and knowing a reward is coming up, you’ll be motivated to push through those last few hard tasks.

By making these few small changes to my habits, I’ve been able to get more done than ever before. The biggest change I noticed is in my stress levels and anxiety, because I know I can go back to these at any time and reset my workday.

The next challenge for me will be to create space in my work from home schedule for more exercise — I’m thinking a lunchtime walk might be this years productivity booster.

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