Working from Home: The Ultimate Guide!

stuffed animal working at home

“I don’t need to put pants on today… right?” Working from home provides the ultimate in freedom and comfort — but sometimes, a little too much. Before you know it, you’re three seasons deep into Game of Thrones and you haven’t accomplished a single task. So, how can you maximize your productivity while running your business from home? I’m going to share 10 of my best tips.

Working From Home: 10 Tips for Maximum Productivity

1. Designate Space for Your Office

Even if you don’t have an actual office, clear a spot that you dedicate to work only.

No, not your bed.

Not your couch either!

It needs to feel like an office and remind you of an office. If all you’ve got is the kitchen table, that’s okay. But clear the plates and food and set up your laptop, a notebook and pen, and any other paperwork or devices you need.

You might also consider keeping a plant or two nearby. Research says plants improve productivity.

Bonus points if you can work near the window, as well. Natural light boosts your levels of vitamin D and also encourages better sleep. Take that, artificial fluorescent light! Call that a win.

The takeaway here is that even though you’re not getting up and physically going “into the office,” you need to mimic this experience.

And that brings us to our next point.

2. Pretend You’re “Going Into Work” Instead of Working From Home

dog working from home on a laptop

It might sound superficial, but it’s true: When you look good, you feel good — and it’ll work wonders for your productivity.

When you’re working from home, I know that it’s tempting to roll out of bed and move straight to your computer, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever do this. We’re all entitled to those days every once in a while.

But they should be the exception to the rule — not the rule.

Comb your hair. If you wear makeup, put some on. Get dressed in something presentable. Brush your teeth. Even if you have no plans to leave the house that day, even if you have no calls or video meetings, act like you’re going into work.

Invest in yourself and take pride in your appearance. Your productivity will thank you for it.

3. Set Aside Time for Emails, and Ignore Them Otherwise

You’re not supposed to be available 24/7. You might be working from home, but you’re still working. Emails could be sucking up more of your time than you think.

How much time, you ask? Well, data varies. But some sources say that we could be spending in the ballpark of 28% of our work week on email. That’s more than 11 hours a week.

To make matters worse, Forbes says that we get an average of 200 emails a day, 144 of which are completely irrelevant to us. (Think emails that you’re CC’d and BCC’d on).

The solution? You need to set boundaries.

Find the system that works best for you, but one idea is to check email three times a day: first thing in the morning, around lunchtime, and shortly before you stop working for the day.

This limits the amount of time you’ll get pulled into emails and also means that people trying to reach you will never wait more than a few hours for a reply — which is more than reasonable.

4. Do the Hardest Tasks First

If you’re anything like me, you “get the easy stuff out of the way first” so that you can really focus on the harder tasks.

Here’s the problem with that, though. When you do this, you save the harder tasks for later in the day, when your concentration is waning and your energy is running out. How much sense does that make?

It all means that as you get more tired, your day actually gets harder. So, do the hardest, most challenging work first.

It’s a small change that’ll trigger a big impact. Once you get those specific tasks out of the way, the rest of your day will feel like a walk in the park. This is a simple way to make working from home more productive.

5. Try the Pomodoro Technique

With the Pomodoro technique, you work in intervals of 25 minutes. For those 25 minutes, you focus very specifically on the task(s) at hand and absolutely nothing else. At the end of each interval, you take a five-minute break.

After you’ve repeated four rounds, you take a 20-minute break. Simple.

The idea behind this is that our brains can only focus for so long, and it’s not nearly as long as most of us think. Everyone is different, but after somewhere between 20 and 50 minutes, our brains go, “I’m done, thanks.”

Try to go much beyond that and your productivity is going to seriously suffer. Instead, give yourself frequent short breaks to recharge, and you’ll maintain your efficiency.

6. Require Appointments for Phone Calls Over Five Minutes

cat attacking cellphone

“Hey, quick question!” says every client before then keeping you on the phone for 45 minutes.

Stuff comes up. It happens. However, this is why boundaries are so important when working from home. If a client asks a question or brings something up that is indeed quick — five minutes or less — then handle it on the spot.

However, if you anticipate that their question or request will actually be much more time-consuming, tell them you’ll need to schedule a time to go over it in more detail.

You are not expected to drop what you’re doing without any notice to accommodate everyone who calls. Within reason, it’s okay. Outside of that, schedule time out to address it.

7. Batch Your Work

Ah, batch work. I’m obsessed, and I don’t care who knows it.

Batch work means you combine similar tasks and knock them out at once. For example, every Friday, I approve and schedule out all of my social media posts that will go out the following week.

So, I batch my social media.

You can do this with just about anything. There are two main reasons why batch work helps keep you productive. First of all, it allows you to direct intense focus to one type of task.

Secondly, it makes it so that you’re not switching between tasks so much, which is a total time-killer.

And speaking of…

8. Focus on One Thing at a Time — I’m Serious

guinea pig working from home on his laptop

We all like to think we’re excellent multitaskers, but we’re not. Research has told us that we overestimate how good we are at juggling tasks. So, just don’t do it.

You should also know that each time you switch tasks, your brain has to actively work to focus on the new task. This takes several seconds, which might not sound like a lot. But if you’re switching tasks hundreds of times a day (which you might very well be, without even realizing it), this will really add up.

Switch tasks less frequently, save time, become the master of productivity.

9. Plan Each Day the Night Before

When you’re working from home, you should always be one step ahead. This means that you shouldn’t sit down at your computer in the morning and be getting an idea of what your day looks like for the first time.

How can you forecast your workload and plan ahead a little when you’re flying by the seat of your pants?

Instead, before you end each workday, spend some time looking at your responsibilities for the next day. Plan a rough schedule and know what you’ll need to accomplish. This helps you hit the ground running the following morning.

Here’s how you can better list those tasks.

10. List Concrete, Actionable Mini-Goals

budgie contemplating his tasks for the day while resting on a computer mouse

Your tasks are essentially goals you need to accomplish each day. And you’ve probably heard that in order to achieve your goals, they need to be actionable and specific.

This is how your daily to-do list should look, then, as well.

For example, instead of putting “Write eBook” on your list, specify what exact steps you’ll take, such as:

  • Write Chapter 4 of eBook.
  • Edit first two chapters of eBook.
  • Finish research for eBook – Chapter 10.

“Write eBook” is too broad and too abstract. You can’t track or measure it. However, with the three examples above, they’re specific, concrete, and actionable. These are things you can accomplish within a given day.

Working from home is like anything else: It offers its own benefits and drawbacks. When you play your cards right and use the above 10 tips, you’ll always stay on top of your responsibilities.


Stock photo images via!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *