Working from home seems like the greatest thing in the world. You set your own hours, you don’t have annoying co-workers dropping by to distract you, you can work in your PJs, you can set up an awesome home office with the decor you like, essentially you are your own boss, right? Well, not really! Working from your house may seem amazing and perfect at first but as you start doing it you realize that there are many more distractions at home than at the office and that maybe the freedom of making your own hours isn’t as great as you thought because you are wasting a lot of time on really silly things.
I know how difficult it is to adjust to a “working from home” routine and how incredibly hard is it to set regular working hours and sticking to them. It happens to everyone when they start working from home and they realize they need the structure of office hours and rules. Especially when it comes to starting out your day, it was easy to get up and go to work everyday but now that you are home it’s a different beast, you get up at different hours and have a truly messed up schedule, I know because it happened to me!
A couple of years ago when I started doing some freelance work I thought: “this is great, I’ll be my own boss and set my own hours, I’ll have plenty of time to work and have a social life” Yes, I know! Extremely naive of me but I was new in the work from home game and I really thought I could do it, I realized very early on that I was shit at making my own hours and working from home, I was working 12 hour work days and getting nothing accomplished, absolutely nothing! Until I figured out the perfect formula to increase my productivity.
This tips worked perfectly for me, I started working regular 8 hour days and my productivity skyrocketed in a manner of days, it was truly amazing, I couldn’t believe how well I was doing in comparison to my previous productivity rate which was very LOW. I went from doing one 500 word article in 10 hours to writing 3 or 4 articles in my new 8 hour work days. I’ll stop beating around the bush and give you 11 ways to increase your productivity.
Level Up Your Game
Here’s the thing, before you can be productive and effective you need to master what you are doing and know what are your strong points and your not so strong points in order to know which tasks or projects you’ll be able to handle faster and which ones may require a bit more of your time and effort. Level up simple means surpass your current skill level, like you do when playing games and gaining points and skills so your character levels up and garners new weapons or healing potions or what not.
It’s the same principle, enhance the skill you have and master new skills that may be needed in your line of work, for example if you are a web designer you need to perfect your technique using certain tools and applications that you already use, and you need to find new tools that could be of use and master those as well before you start working on a project that may require their use. This way you’ll be able to work with any one of them without wasting time trying to figure out how they work.
- Forget About Multitasking
Trying to get several things done at once it’s a dream come true for any freelancer but the thing is that it’s impossible to accomplish this, and I talk from experience. I had so much faith in my own abilities that I would tackle several things at once, truly believing that I would get everything done before the day was over. That was naive and a bit stupid of me, because in reality I couldn’t even finish one thing let alone three or four, because my mind was split in many directions on top of all the distractions that come with working from home.
So, leave the multitasking to soccer moms who can watch their kids, see their favorite talk show, make lunch and work on their kid’s school project all at once without dropping one ball, leave the juggling to the professionals and stick to just one ball at the time, simple but efficient. I realized that finishing one task before starting another one was the more effective use of my time and skills, not everyone is equipped to multitask and I’m not ashamed to say my multitasking skills are null, void, zero, nada!
If you are like me and multitasking just flies over your head the best thing you can do is unitasking – see I made up a word! – which means just one task or assignment at the time. This will allow you to shift all your focus on this task thus completing it faster and with better quality of product, because let’s face it sometimes we produce some shitty stuff just because we are trying to get things done faster. Take your time, focus on your assignment and you’ll see how your productivity and quality levels skyrocket.
- Create A Schedule And Stick To It
It sounds like an easy feat, just write up a schedule and that’s it, but it’s actually much more complex than that, you need to study yourself and figure out your most productive hours during the day, those are the hours you want to set for work. Some people find that they are most productive during the early morning hours, while others achieve their highest productivity in the evening, this is very personal and specific to each person. You need to take a good look at yourself and judge, as objectively as possible, which hours will be best for you to work and which time of the day will be wasted if you attempt to work during these hours.
Everything starts with you, not one of these tricks will work if you don’t have the willpower to stick to your working hours, I know it’s difficult to be working while everyone around your house is watching TV, playing video games and doing other more entertaining activities but if you manage to keep to your schedule for at least a week you’ll see that afterwards it becomes easier to stick to it and with time you won’t see it as a chore or something awful, you’ll see it as part of your regular day and this will surely increase your productivity.
- Take A Break Every Now And Then
Working 8 hours straight without breaks it’s not only unhealthy but illegal, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, employees should take half an hour break for every 5 hours worked consecutively. This seems like a fair and useful law to prevent employees to be overworked and exhausted before their work day is over, while people working from home don’t endure the same labors as factory workers, taking breaks it’s essential.
I found that taking a 10 minute break every couple of hours, as well as an hour break for lunch or dinner, has increased my productivity and after every break I felt energized and ready to continue working with renewed drive. During these 10 minutes you can go out for a smoke, stretch your muscles, take a walk around your home, get a snack, go outside for some fresh air and many other things you might find relaxing.
Don’t spend your breaks on your phone or checking emails, these breaks are to unplug, disconnect and relax to give your brain some breathing room and allow it to power up with more energy and better ideas.
- Complete The Most Loathsome Tasks First
Yes, I know you hate those annoying little tasks that take up a lot of your time and leave you wanting to strangle someone but you if can complete these loathsome tasks first thing in the morning you’ll see a great increase in your productivity because after getting these little tasks out of the way you’ll be able to focus on the tasks you love and your work day will fly away.
Being productive means accomplishing more in less time, getting these annoying works out of the way will allow you to increase your productivity because you’ll know all the tedious tasks are done and now all you have to do is sit back and be brilliant while you work, which in turn will increase the amount of work you produce.
I found that by completing these dreaded tasks, such as: Writing bills and invoices for clients, answering emails, calling clients to make sure they are happy with the work, and any other activity you dislike but need to do, I could look forward to the rest of my day and feel excitement over completing my other tasks that I love doing, such as creating content, doing research, among other activities.
- Keep Your Workspace Organized And Clean
Working in a dirty and cluttered desk won’t help your productivity at all because you won’t like seeing all these mess around you and you’ll associate this dislike with a dislike for work. A way to increment your productivity rate and accomplish more tasks during your work day is to organize and clean out your desk or home office, keep your desk free of clutter and in perfect order, organize your drawers by their content and always put the most used and needed items in the top drawers of your desk.
Comfort is essential for your productivity when working from home, get a well sized and height appropriate desk with a comfortable ergonomic chair, DigitalTrends compiled a wonderful article that showcases the best chairs available for your home office. Or go out and find your own chair, the important thing is to get a chair that will make you feel comfortable, this will increase your productivity since you will actually enjoy sitting at your desk.
- Eliminate Distractions Around You But Keep The Music On
This might be the hardest tip to take and accomplish, eliminating distractions can be quite difficult and in most cases in doesn’t depend entirely on you but you have to do your best to keep the distractions to a minimum. The hardest obstacle to overcome when it comes to getting rid of your distractions is social media, as long as you have your social media Apps beeping in your home or computer you won’t focus on your work. Turn off notifications for all social media while you are working and you’ll see an immediate increase in your production rates.
I said to eliminate distractions but keep the music on because I realized that music helps me focus, I accomplish my tasks faster when I’m listening to music than when I’m in complete silence, for me soft classical music like Mozart and Vivaldi work best but you might find that other genres help you focus more than the classics, some people might realize that music actually distracts them more, it’s a trial and error method that you need to implement in order to see what works best for YOU.
- Exercise Daily And Get 8 Hours Of Shuteye
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need at least 8 hours of sleep if they want to be productive and active during their work hours, lack of sleep will cause very bad consequences in your work, such as mistakes, less productivity, violent behavior towards clients, and even some dangerous health hazards like headaches, changes in mood, among other things.
Schedule your day in a way that will leave you plenty of time to get to bed early and get your 8 hours, going to bed early and waking up early will increase your energy and drive which will boost up your productivity immensely. I realized that staying up late and sleeping in was messing up with my production process, once I started going to bed at a decent hour, 10 pm, and getting up early, 6 am, my productivity improved greatly.
- Schedule Specific Times For Email Checks
When I first started working from home I was a slave to my email, every time it pinged I was running to check it and I’d immediately send out a reply, until I realized just how much time I was spending on email checks, HOURS! Hours that could have been spent on actual work. Yes, checking your email is important and clients expect constant communication but you can’t spend all your time sending feedback and answering questions because you won’t have time to work.
What I did was pretty simple, I decided to set up specific times during the day for email checks; for example, I dedicate my first half hour of the morning to checking my overnight emails and answering them, after I’m done I forget about my email until my last half hour of the day when I check my email again and reply to any emails I got during the day. Now my clients know that I have scheduled email times and they know when to send their emails and when to expect a reply, this simple trick increased my productivity immensely because I no longer waste hours and hours checking my email.
- Use A Time Tracker Or Time Managing Software
A time tracking software, like PerfQ, is the best tool anyone working from home or freelancing can have because it allows me to log my worked hours in a way that I can create very specific bills for my client for the work I’ve done for them. With a time managing software you won’t have wasted hours of work that can’t be charged because there’s nothing to support them, the time tracker takes screenshots of your computer while it’s logging time and you can use them to show your clients the amount of time you spent on their projects.
After I started using the time tracker not only did my productivity increase but my overall work status improved because I now have a way to prove to my clients the exact hours it takes me to complete their projects and my bills are more accurate and organized.
- Give Yourself A Pat On The Back
This is the most important tip for me, rewarding yourself for a job well done, it’s important to give yourself credit for doings thing right, on time and excellently. Just like you are very hard on yourself every time something goes wrong or you fail at something, you need to be just as kind to yourself when you do things right and tasks are completed in a timely fashion.
Treat yourself to a night out with your friends or get those awesome cupcakes you love so much as a reward for a job well done during the week and you’ll see just how great you’ll feel. If you feel good about yourself and the work you are doing then your productivity will definitely increase.