Six Tips to Keep You Productive When Working from Home

Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Staying productive and on task when you work from home can be super challenging, but, if you’re a freelancer and your home is also your office you absolutely need to nail this if you want to succeed.

Getting everything done just as you want it and on time can be one of the hardest things to get right when transitioning from office life to working for yourself at home.

When I first started working from home I’d get up just before I needed to be at my desk and then spend the morning working in my pyjamas.

I’d make regular trips to the kettle, potter around the kitchen, and, before I knew it, it was 11am which meant time for a break. I’d eat biscuits, stick on Netflix then sit at my PC to work without focusing on anything in particular.

Soon enough it’d be 3pm and I’d done pretty much nothing.

I did this for two weeks before realising I was getting nowhere and would be back in a ludicrous 9-5 office job in no time if I didn’t get my act together, pronto!

Now I successfully work from home as a freelancer and here I share my top tips for how to stay on task and be sure the job gets done when your office is also your living space.

1. Get yourself a routine

Find what works for you then create a routine and stick to it.

One of the great perks of being a freelancer is that you can choose your own hours. Don’t feel you have to stick to a 9-5 schedule if that’s not what you want.

I was so ingrained in the corporate lifestyle that it took me a while to work out that my hours were now flexible.

That Wednesday afternoon Yoga class that was always so appealing was suddenly accessible. I’d just work an hour in the evening instead.

I don’t work so well in the early hours so now I use my mornings to manage my social media accounts, read blogs and learn what I can about the industries that I’m involved in.

I write best after 5pm, when the evening is drawing in, so I generally use early afternoons for exercising, meeting friends or scheduling personal appointments.

Maybe you work best at the crack of dawn or the middle of the night? The beauty is it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that you find your routine and follow it daily, that way you’ll always know what you should be doing. You won’t waste precious time trying to decide which task to tackle next.

2. Get out of the house

Whether it’s to walk the dog, go for a run or pick up some milk, just get yourself outside before you start your working day.

The effect this can have is incredible.

When you work from home it can be really tough to separate yourself from your business. You wouldn’t think something as simple as leaving the house and going back inside would help but it truly does.

Firstly, it makes you get dressed so you avoid the habit of working in your pyjamas. Some people do work in their pyjamas by the way and they work well, but, if you’re anything like me and you struggle with self-discipline getting dressed can help shift your mindset from ‘home’ to ‘work’.

I’m not talking smart business dress, just something different to what you woke up in.

Secondly, when you physically leave your home you can convince yourself you’re leaving home life to enter work life.

When you come back inside you’re walking into your office rather than the place you eat, sleep and chill out in.

3. Make a daily to-do list

Having a to-do list can help you stay on track and ensure that nothing important falls on the back burner.

Keep it in a handy place such as a whiteboard next to your desk or a dedicated planner you can carry with you.

Find a time for you to update your to-do list, you could spend 10 minutes each morning and each evening planning your day and checking whether you’ve done what you needed to do.

In the morning this can help you to get into ‘work’ mode and in the evening, when you check off what you’ve accomplished, this can help you to wind down and clock off.

The satisfaction of ticking things off your to-list is motivation in itself. It’s great knowing you’ve checked off everything you had planned.

4. Have a dedicated workstation

When you work from home it can be really tempting to work sprawled on the sofa, at your breakfast bar or even in bed.

The problem with this?

It doesn’t put you in that professional mindset to start work.

I know I keep banging on about this mindset malarkey but it’s so important it’s worth repeating … several times.

When you have a dedicated workstation you can have everything set up just as you need it.

If you’re lucky enough to have a house that has a spare room turn that into your office. Go on, do it now!

If, however, you’re like me and working from a little one bedroom flat you won’t have this luxury yet, but you can still make it work.

I have a desk in my living room that has my PC on, a desk drawer with all my notebooks, letters and business documents inside, and my whiteboard with my daily to-do list hanging on the wall next to me.

Unfortunately, I also have my sofa and TV right next to me and the wine rack on the wall opposite which can, admittedly, be a challenge sometimes.

Hey, I can give you all the tips in the world to make this work but the biggest thing here? Self-discipline my friend.

You gotta keep away from that TV. After all, Stranger Things will still be there when you clock off.

5. Block distractions with an app

You know Apple’s trademarked phrase, ‘There’s an app for that!’? Well guess what…

If you find that your number one source of procrastination is your phone there are tons of apps you can get to help.

There’s apps that block social media accounts, mute notifications, save links to read later and even lock your phone completely for a set period of time that you choose.

Do some research and find the one that suits you best, there’s plenty of free options out there too.

6. Reward yourself

Completed everything on your weekly to-do list? Landed a new client? Updated your website? When you achieve what you set out to do reward yourself.

I’m not suggesting here that you go out and buy everything on your wishlist just because you managed to tick off everything you planned to do this week. I am suggesting you treat yourself in some way. Rewards don’t have to cost a lot of money.

At the end of a successful week I like to take a bubble bath with a large glass of wine and listen to an audio book.

Landed a great new client? Well, maybe that does deserve some bubbly with your favourite meal.

Think of it like a game; the status of your reward should match the level of your achievement.

The way to stay productive when you work from home is finding what works for you.

You can read all the advice in the world but you’ll soon find that it becomes overwhelming and discover that what works for one person isn’t going to work for someone else.

Just try different ways of working and see what sticks.

Good Luck and Happy Freelancing!

What about you? Do you agree with the tips above? What do you do to stay on task? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

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