Smart working and working from home is becoming increasingly popular, but many people struggle to be productive when working from home. I personally love working from home, and over the years have perfected a system to work efficiently from home.
I’ve been a full time travel blogger for 2.5 years, which means that when I’m not travelling I spend a lot of time working from home alone. Before that I was a management consultant for a Big Four company that allowed flexible working, something I made the most of when I could. And before that as a university student I was never the kind to go study at the library. I much preferred using the extra time I saved by not having to commute to university for studying or revision breaks.
That’s all just to say that I have my fair bit of experience working from home, and in doing so productively and effectively. In this guide I’ve put together my top tips on how to stay productive at home. I hope you find them useful in making your work from home days more efficient!
10 tips for working from home effectively
I know what you’re thinking; “But I’m not leaving the house, why should I get dressed?!” I’m not saying you should suit up, comfortable trackies are completely fine too, just make sure to get out of your pijamas.
I’ve spent a lot of work from home days where I didn’t feel like getting dressed and just working in pijamas, and I can assure you they were nowhere near as productive as the ones where I changed outfit. It may sound silly but it’s something that will make you feel ready for the day and make you more productive.
Break up your to-do list into smaller actionable items
One of the biggest issues people have when working from home (or in general, this one isn’t limited to working from home) is setting themselves too many big tasks. If your to-do list is too long you might find yourself struggling to complete it, which then leads to a “Fuck it, I’m never going to be done with this I’m taking a break” mentality.
When you write your to-do list you want to break up big tasks into smaller ones. For example if my aim for the day is to publish a blog post, I would break that up into writing the draft, editing pictures, uploading to WordPress, creating pins, sharing on social media etc. So that I can tick off every little thing as I go along.
Being able to tick things off your to-do list, no matter how small, will make you feel way more productive than having one big task on there that never seems to go away.
Create a schedule (and stick to it!)
Another key element in being productive when you work from home is to create a schedule, and actually stick to it! It’s easy to think “Oh I’ll edit pictures this morning, then write the blog post after lunch, then upload it after my gym break” and then before you realise it’s dinnertime and you haven’t completed anything on your list.
Either the night before or in the morning you should look at your to-do list, figure out how long you need for each task, assign them each a time slot and create a schedule for your day. Having it under hand as you work will ensure that you are completing your tasks within a productive timeframe.
I’ve included below an example of what my daily schedule might look like. If my goal for the day is to publish a blog post I break that up into smaller tasks (as mentioned in the previous point) and then spread them out through the day like you see below.
Schedule in breaks
You might have noticed from the above schedule that I have plenty of breaks scheduled in. This is possibly the most important feature to help you stay productive when you’re working from home, when let’s face it, you’re probably fairly bored too.
If you schedule in breaks at specific time slots you know you have something to look forward to. Instead of mindlessly opening social media between a task and another you can power through your to-do list knowing that you have a proper break coming up later.
Have a designated workspace
You don’t necessarily need a home office with a proper desk, extra big screen, plants, printer, or whatever it is you normally have at work. Just find a space in your house that you like working from and turn that into your home office.
It can also be the couch, I personally work from my couch, but I make a distinction between the couch that I work on and the couch that I relax and watch TV from. I know it sounds weird but it makes a difference.
You will be much more efficient and productive when you enter your workspace instead of trying to work from your bed.
This is possibly the hardest one for many people, which I personally don’t struggle as much with. When I used to work in an office I would take a million breaks a day.
I always made a point of going to the toilet furthest away from my desk, so I could get a few extra steps in and I’d walk past my friends desks on the way back so I could stop for a chat. Add to that a lunch break and multiple coffee breaks a day and that’s a lot of time out during your workday.
When you’re working from home there might be more distractions (Netflix and the fridge to name a couple) but you’re in a smaller space without other people around. I don’t really have that many toilets in my house that I can waste time walking to as a break.
Put all the distractions (TV remote, your phone etc) out of reach in a different room, so you don’t get tempted to check them while you’re working.
Don’t forget to exercise!
This one is super important and one that too many people overlook! You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym, exercising could be something as simple as going outside for a 30 minute walk or following a yoga tutorial on YouTube.
Not only is it good for you, but it will also ensure you sleep better at night. If you spend your whole day at home sat on your couch or at your desk, working away on your laptop, you are not going to be tired when it’s time to go to bed and you’ll find yourself restless and struggling to fall asleep.
Cook something healthy and eat well
I used to be massively guilty of this one so I know how it goes. You’re on a roll being super productive on a task, until you realise you’re getting hungry and it’s well past lunchtime. So you’re sat there thinking; “By the time I cook anything it will be even later and I’ll be famished, easier to just make a sandwich or order takeaway”.
Stop it with this thinking! Eating healthy is crucial not only to working from home productivity, but also in general to feel healthy and live better. Working from home is a wonderful opportunity to stop having sandwiches or canteen food for lunch.
You need to look at the whole meal process as a productive break. Cooking a healthy meal can be both fun and a nice distraction from work. Trust me, you’ll feel better and more productive in the long run.
Find a work buddy to keep you accountable
It’s easy to be productive when you’re in an office and surrounded by people all around you who are also working, it pressures you into doing the same. But when you’re at home alone it’s easy to drift from task to task (or from task to Netflix) and find yourself at the end of the day not having done much.
Having a work buddy that you can have daily catch-ups with is a great way to keep yourself accountable. Share with them your to-do list at the start of the day, and by the end of the day tell them if you’ve completed it or not.
Having to admit to someone that you spent the day watching Netflix instead of working can be the kick up the butt you need to make yourself productive.
Set a time by which you stop working
For most jobs once you leave the office, that’s the end of your working day. If you’re working from home it’s easy to let work drag on all evening, and sometimes into the night. While it may sometimes be essential if you’re on a tight deadline, the reality is that most of the times it isn’t.
I’m not saying you should work the standard 9-5 hours. Set your hours to whatever you think will be most effective for you, but make sure that once the workday is over, you switch off and enjoy a break.
The reality of working from home is very different from the glamorous expectations. In principle it sounds great but how to work efficiently from home is a skill, which it takes time to master.
In this post I’ve listed my top tips for home productivity, I hope you find them useful! Do you have any other suggestion on how to stay productive at home? Let us know in the comments below!