How To Work From Home & Actually Be Productive |

How To Work From Home & Actually Be Productive

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Working from home may seem like a dream, but in reality, endless distractions mean a day of at-home work can easily turn into an unproductive day followed by a night of furiously playing catch up. If you’re slightly lacking in organisational discipline and know you struggle to focus when there’s no one holding you to account, SL contributor Nina Bertok shares her tips to ensure you stay on task…

Start early

The early bird doesn’t have to leave the nest to catch the worm. If you’re a morning person, you can probably get a ton of work done in those quiet, wee hours while everyone else is still asleep. Waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed means that you're refreshed and bursting with energy to give you that jump-start first thing in the morning. If you're not exactly bouncing off the walls, put on a pot of coffee to help you keep your eyes open and get a little bit motivated.

Pretend you’re going to the office

'But the whole point of working from home is staying in my PJs without my boss knowing!', you cry... Well, you could do, but you wouldn’t be doing yourself any favours. Getting up, having a shower, putting on some nice clothes and make-up as though you really were heading to the office may actually be a huge boost to your overall productivity. An experiment conducted by motivational website A Life Of Productivity found that “Clothes are symbolic and hugely affect how you feel about yourself, and the more time you put in your appearance, the more you’re motivated to ‘get out there’.” So do put in a bit of an effort, otherwise you might find yourself back in bed.

Choose a dedicated work space (and save money)

Having your own work space is guaranteed to increase your productivity tenfold because having a designated place for your work means fewer distractions. If you're self-employed and in the habit of keeping receipts for home office supplies like stationary or a printer, you can deduct money spent on these items on your annual taxes. You could even take it up a notch, according to money-saving website,, by "Deducting the percentage of costs associated with your home, such as utilities and home improvements. To qualify for it, you must use your office exclusively and regularly for business.”

Stick to your normal schedule

Go through your day as though you were in the office. Do you normally use your mornings to check your emails? Do you usually use the afternoons to get the writing done? Stick to following the same routine while working from home as you would from the office. As a result, not only will you feel less scattered, but you’ll probably get a lot more done in a shorter amount of time at home while staying focused on your regular structure. Whatever you do, try to make sure you work during normal business hours as this will make it easier to liaise in sync with your clients, your colleagues and your boss.

On a Similar Note

Plan ahead of time and have a to-do list

If you normally work in an office but you're planning on working from home on certain days, it pays to think ahead and get any work done that requires you do be in the office, while you're still at the office. Plan out your week in advance to optimise for the environment you'll be in. It can be easy to put certain tasks off when left to your own devices, setting a schedule that works for you on a daily or weekly basis is extremely helpful –  try a few of the countless iOS and Android apps to help you juggle your to-do list efficiently. As a side note, it may even be worthwhile planning out your meals for the week – that way, you could minimise time spent on cooking or preparing lunch and dinner on the day.

Take clear breaks

Working from home doesn't mean you are quarantined or that you have to stay at home all day – after all, you wouldn't do that in the office either.  Why not try working from a local café with WiFi where there are plenty of tables and lots of people to prevent you from feeling too isolated. The background chatter and white noise can actually prove quite stimulating to some people, especially those who are used to working in an office environment, so don't be afraid to venture away from the four walls. However, if you do decide to stay home, ensure you're taking breaks throughout the day to stretch your legs and have a proper lunch – getting a bit of exercise can recharge you to be more productive (and feel a bit more human in general).

Set boundaries

It would be a good idea to communicate your expectations with anyone who might also find themselves at home with you while you are working, be that your spouse, children or housemates. Make it clear that you are in your 'office' to limit distractions and focus better on your task. Because working from home is sometimes a 'team effort', asking everyone to do their part to help you stay productive is a good idea – why not try to 'stoplight' system where you hang a red, yellow or green circle on your office door to signal how busy you are.

Stay connected

Don't forget to check in with your boss and your colleagues throughout the day, or if you’re working from home situation is a more permanent one, make sure you plan a weekly or bi-monthly meeting with other company staff. One way to work with others in real time is to upload important documents to a cloud storage service like Google Drive or Dropbox where you can log in from anywhere, any time. These storage systems are usually free, and make submitting reports or getting some face-time with your co-workers easy.

Know when to turn off

Pick a definite time to finish up each day, otherwise you risk working from home full-time, all the time. Because you're not leaving one space and going to another (office to home), it can be easy for your work life to cross over into your personal life, so maintaining a boundary in this respect is very important. Set office hours and set a specific time to work and prioritise urgent emails and those that can wait, as well as projects that are more important than others. The team at Becoming Minimalist write that successful entrepreneurs who work for themselves know when it's time to call it a day and unplug. If you must, set an alarm to remind yourself it's time to stop.


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