How to Be More Productive When You Work from Home
It’s maybe one of the more popular topics on the Internet (and in magazines and in books and in my brain). It seems that every single one of us is searching for how we can balance it all—family, work, friendships, church, businesses, relationships, self-care, and more—with ease and efficiency.
As an entrepreneur whose bed often doubles as an office, productivity is an intriguing topic to me. I love everything that I get to do from the comfort of my own home, but I’m always looking for ways to do it better. Especially my work.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably sought out the perfect work-from-home productive process, too. You may have read tips like:
Plan your day the night before!
(Note: This is a generally good rule of thumb for anyone ever, folks.)
Have a designated space to work!
Schedule breaks throughout the day!
These are all excellent tips, and I second every single person who’s ever recommended them. But there’s a few more not-so-common suggestions I’d add to the list.
Motivate Yourself with Choice
Motivation is a tricky beast for everyone, but I think it’s especially tricky for people who work from home. It can be hard to motivate yourself to get to work when you’re surrounded by distractions, good and bad. But in his new book, Smarter Faster Better, Charles Duhigg suggests that motivation is a skill; it’s something that can be learned and honed, just like reading and writing.
According to Duhigg:
“The trick, researchers say, is realizing that a prerequisite to motivation is believing we have authority over our actions and surroundings. To motivate ourselves, we must feel like we are in control.”
So, what does that mean? It means that when you start your day by proving to yourself that you’re in control—even in very small ways—you’ll start to train your brain to believe that. Look at the tasks on your to-do lists as decisions, not commands, and make a very specific choice about how you will complete them.
You are deciding to answer the most exciting email in your inbox first.
You are deciding to start that blog post by picking out the image you want to accompany your words.
You are deciding to call your favorite client back, before you respond to customer service requests.
And with each decision, each choice, you’re proving your self-autonomy, and building up your motivation to complete the next task—and every task on your to-do list from that day forward.
Stick to the Schedule
Here’s the thing about working from home: there’s no punch cards or time clocks.
(OK, I don’t think there’s punch cards in most offices anymore, but you get what I’m saying.)
When your office is your dining room table or your kitchen counter or your bed—or even an actual separate room within your house—it can be easy to work at any and all hours of the day and night. There will always be work to do, right? Emails to answer, calls to make, launches to plan. And rarely will there be someone there to tell you to stop (aside from maybe a frustrated partner), so you need to be able to do that yourself.
I’m not saying you have to work from 9-to-5—unless, of course, the logistics of your business or work dictate that you do—but it’s helpful to set a schedule, whenever that works best for you. Think about when you’re most fresh—for some people, that’s first thing in the morning; for others, it’s late at night. Then think about the realities of your life: Do you need to take three or four hours off every afternoon to pick the kids up from school and get dinner started?
The actual hours you pick don’t matter so much, as long as they work for you—and, if I may say so, as long as they account for the other important people and activities in your life. It’s too easy to work 24/7 when you work from home, but that’s not productive; it’s a one-way ticket to burnout and unhappiness.
Give yourself some structure and stick to it. Your work and your family (and you yourself) will thank you for it!
Take a Shower
Aren’t you glad I ended with an easy one? And yes, I mean it.
Take a shower.
And not at 3pm. Take a shower after you first get up in the morning, before you settle into emails and calls and dropping the kids off at school. You can have a cup of coffee (or two) first, but I beg of you, take a shower.
This isn’t because I’m worried about your personal hygiene. Besides waking you up and helping you feel refreshed before you start the day, taking a shower (and getting dressed for work, not back in your PJs, ahem) helps you to feel more professional, even as you work amongst your unfolded laundry. Showering and grooming yourself can actually help you to take yourself and your work more seriously.
It’s all too easy for those of us who work from home to zombie walk from our beds to our laptops and not get up again until lunchtime. Take care of yourself the way you take care of your customers or your employer or your family—when you devote that time to yourself first thing in the morning, I guarantee you the rest of your day will go so much more smoothly.
And you’ll smell better, too. 🙂
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I wouldn’t say that I have the productivity process perfect just yet. But in the 14 years I’ve spent working for myself, from the comfort of my own dining room table (/kitchen counter/bed/kids’ bedroom floor/etc.), these tips have helped me get closer than ever to truly balancing it all under my roof.
I hope they’ll do the same for you!
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Do you work from home? Which of these tips will you incorporate to help you be more productive this week? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for this! Loved it! The shower one is a big one that I agree with 100%. It totally changes the way I think when I’m all cleaned up and I even suggest going as far as putting shoes on! It’s weird how much more a person gets done with shoes on!
Great post, Whitney! I’ve been self employed, working from a home office, for 30+ years. As with all things, there are pros and cons. Being productive can be challenging with all the distractions of home swirling around you. I really enjoyed your perspective.
Oh, that quote from Duhigg just hit me square between the eyes:
“Motivation is believing we have authority over our actions and surroundings.”
That’s one to remember FOR LIFE.
And not just personally, but in how I interact with others as well: husband… assistant…. you name it. If I’m questioning their motivation then I need to look at whether or not they feel in authority over their actions and surroundings. This is a big, huge lightbulb for me, so thank you!
Thank you!! This is my new goal ~ to have a business I work out of my home, and not a business that runs my home. So many good ideas!