More and more people are working at home as flex-time and telecommuting steadily become more common. From 2010 to 2019, there was a 35% rise in the number of workers who clocked hours at their houses. We probably have the Internet and other communication advances to thank for that. But while most people like having the option of answering phone calls and emails in their pajamas, not everyone is prepared to be highly productive in an environment full of distractions.
Here are some tips and tricks for being a happy worker bee away from the office.
Find or make a dedicated workspace
Sure it’s comfortable to settle into your couch or convenient to bring your laptop into bed, but aside from wreaking havoc on your posture you’ll also be more inclined to take frequent breaks that could disrupt your workflow. You might think turning on the television is okay or take a glance at the book on your bedside table and wonder if you should finish the chapter you began last night. Carving out a separate workspace will help you focus on your work and forget about the laundry or dishes or closet organizing you’d rather be doing.
Keep a strict schedule
Take five minutes the night beforehand or first-thing in the morning to write down a master to-do list of everything you need to accomplish and every meeting or appointment you need to keep for the day. Construct a realistic hourly schedule and stick to it. It’s a good idea to do this when you’re in an office too but it’s especially important when you don’t have outside cues (co-workers, conference room meetings) to remind you of how quickly time is passing. This will be an invaluable tool for getting everything done and you’ll also feel highly productive seeing what you’ve done each hour.
Get off to a strong start
Begin the day with the hardest task on your to-do list, no matter how complex it may be. You will only become more tired and less motivated as the day goes on, and checking a big item off your list will give you the extra boost you need to power through the next assignment.
Don’t obsessively check your email
Only check your email once every two hours, and include this task in your hourly schedule. Most emails don’t need to be answered immediately and you’re more likely to become distracted if you keep toggling back and forth to and from your inbox. Plus, knowing you aren’t going to check your messages makes it easier to concentrate on the task at hand.
Answer messages immediately
On the topic of email, answer each one immediately upon opening it, otherwise you waste time going back and reopening and rereading messages that could have been taken care of already. For people who are guilty of pushing off replies, this can make a huge difference in your level of productivity.
Put your cell phone away
Unless you’re expecting any important calls, put your cell phone in the bathroom and only allow yourself to check it when you take a bathroom break. This prevents you from being sidetracked by text messages and other alerts.
Heed the lunchtime whistle
Take a true lunch break away from your desk. Go out to grab a sandwich or make something in your kitchen but take at least twenty minutes to separate yourself from your workspace both mentally and physically. It can be difficult to establish boundaries between work and home life when you work from home so taking a midday break away from your computer will help you recharge and return to your desk with fresh motivation for the afternoon.
Clock out at the end of the day
Unless you have a pressing deadline, designate a time when you’re done for the day even if you’re in the middle of something. It can be hard to step away from your desk when your commute is nonexistent but it’s important to respect home-office parameters and be ready to focus on any other people at home who might want your attention. This way you won’t burn out quickly when you should really be reaping the flexibility benefits of working in your own house.