7 Ways to Be More Productive When Working from Home
No commute, no annoying colleagues, no uncomfortable office chairs. Working from the comfort of home is a dream come true for many people and it has a myriad of benefits over the typical office environment.
However, the home environment also has its drawbacks and one of these is distraction. It’s easy for office workers to assume the home will be a quiet oasis of focus and productivity, but as freelancers soon find out, it can be a minefield of distractions.
There’s social media, YouTube, Netflix and instant messaging apps right at your fingertips. For news junkies, there’s 24-hour television and news websites but a screen away. Then there’s family who think because you’re sitting in front of a laptop in the spare bedroom that you can also fold the laundry or pop to the store.
Whether self-created or thrown upon us by well-meaning relatives and friends, distractions are a big issue for work-from-home freelancers and solo-entrepreneurs.
This really needn’t be the case. Here are 7 ways to make better use of your work time and as a result be more productive when working from home.
1. Use a timer to focus concentration
Have you ever noticed when you’re up against a very tight deadline you manage to get things done? This is because the brain is focused on the task at hand knowing the work has to be completed by a certain time. Adrenaline also helps but it’s the fact you have given your brain a clear timeframe in which to finish the work that really hones your concentration.
You can take this principle to the rest of your work, even when deadlines are on the far horizon. Break your work day into segments and aim to get certain tasks finished within those timeframes.
For example, renowned copywriter Eugene Schwartz would set a kitchen timer to 33.33 minutes. He gave himself a rule that he could not leave his chair during this time period. He either wrote or just started at the blank paper but either way, he had to sit there.
2. Track your time to see where you can improve
Use time tracking tools and apps to measure the amount of time you spend working on certain tasks throughout the day. You can track time spent on actual client work as well as how much time it takes to market yourself as a freelancer. Even general admin work can be timed, as can research, social media usage, phone calls, break times, and any work-related travelling.
Use the collected data to find ways you can reduce time spent on certain tasks and projects, and allot more time to other processes that might gain improved results.
3. Structure the work day based on your most productive times
You may have already discovered that some periods of the day are more productive for you than others. Maybe in the morning you flow into your work and can get a lot done before lunchtime. Then in the afternoon you feel like a zombie which no amount of coffee can allay. Everyone is different and we all have various times of the day where our productivity and creativity are at their most potent.
Make use of these times and structure your work day around them. Schedule your best times for the most important work, and then use downtimes for admin work, invoicing, emails, and tasks which don’t require too much thought.
4. Take regular breaks at set times
Don’t sit in your home office all day staring at the computer. Even if you’re up against an approaching deadline, your brain will work better when it’s allowed small and frequent breaks. These breaks will give your mind a little rest and a change of scenery before the next batch of work. This is especially important when you are moving from one project to the next and a different type of thinking is required.
Aim to take a timed rest for 10 minutes every hour or so. Get out of your chair and venture into the garden or take a small walk around the block. Focus on something other than work during this break. A little mindfulness practice can do the world of good.
5. Inform friends/family you’ll be unavailable during certain hours
Friends and family sometimes find it difficult to respect your work hours when you work from home. It’s tempting for those who are not self-employed to assume you have the freedom to work whenever you want. Therefore, they think their pressing call about their sore throat or annoying spouse is not going to disturb you. However, it does disturb you and most successful freelancers do have set hours.
Inform family and friends of the hours you keep and avoid answering their phone calls and instant messages when work needs to be a priority. Unless it’s a true emergency, then most things can wait a few hours.
6. Check email and social media at select times
A well-known drain of time is the email inbox. Freelancers and solo entrepreneurs often find they get lost in reading, writing, and answering emails throughout the day. The same applies to social media, especially if you use it in a self-marketing context. Suddenly you realize you’ve been reading unimportant but enticing status updates for half an hour instead of working on an important client project.
A way around all this is to devote certain times each day to email checking and social media updating. For example, you can impose a rule where you check email at certain times, perhaps twice a day, for 15 minutes each session. Then the same rule for social media, where you can use scheduling tools to automatically post an update.
7. Finish at the same time each day
Part of a healthy and happy freelance lifestyle is the ability to place a clear divider between work and general home life. Work shouldn’t encroach into your personal and family life after home office hours. What’s done in the office, should stay in the office, and that applies even more so to work-from-home business owners.
Set a time when all work stops and the home office door is closed for the day. Occasionally there might be tight deadline which will require a few extra hours in the evening but if you time your work accurately, really focus during the day, and of course raise your rates, then these instances should be very few and far between.
Don’t let your family life suffer from poor time management.
With a few simple adjustments to the way you use your time, you can find yourself quickly becoming more focused, more productive, getting paid faster, and potentially making a lot more money.