When I had a full-time job working at a marketing agency, I dreamt of working from home. Three years ago I made that dream a reality.
At first, I loved it. I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn; if I didn’t feel like showering and getting dressed, I didn’t have to; and I could make my own schedule. Those perks of having a home-based business are what I longed for.
But, as anyone who works from home will tell you, they lose their appeal quickly.
While I still enjoy making my own schedule, it’s not good practice to sleep in or bum around in pajamas all day. The problem with it – for me, at least – is that I don’t get as much done as I did when I adhered to a disciplined routine.
For the first year, I struggled to find balance; I wanted to enjoy my newfound freedom, but I also needed to earn enough money to pay the bills. Instead, I found myself getting caught up in household chores; finding other activities outside of my home to do, like running errands; or just being plain lazy.
Today is a different story. I’m back to a routine because it works. That doesn’t mean I have to give up all of those coveted perks (just some of them), but I have added more structure to my day to ensure that I’m making the most of my time in order to grow my business and earn more money.
If you’re struggling with productivity while working from home like I was, consider these helpful tips that have kept me motivated.
1. Wake Up Earlier
There are lots of articles on the Internet that link early risers to increased productivity. It just makes sense: The earlier you get up and get moving, the more time you’ll have in the day to get things done. Of course, this tip is great in theory, but if you don’t have any place to be besides your kitchen counter, it’s easy to roll over and go back to sleep. To avoid this habit, retrain yourself to think like someone who still has a boss to whom to answer. Waking up earlier will be more easily accomplished if you plan to go to bed earlier than normal and set an alarm for a specific time to wake. When the alarm goes off, get out of bed immediately; do not hit the snooze button and don’t lie there wishing that your responsibilities would disappear (they won’t, just so ya know). Next, expose yourself to sunlight; open the blinds or curtains and let the sun shine in. Sitting around in a dark room will only make you feel sad and sleepy. Try this for a week and see how it goes. Eventually you’ll find that each morning will be easier than the last and a healthy daily routine will be back in place.
2. Splash Your Face With Cold Water
When I think of this tip, I think of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in the opening scene of “Mommie Dearest.” You know the part – when she plunges her face into a bowl of ice water as part of her morning ritual. Of course, you don’t have to take this suggestion as seriously as Joan Crawford, but I’ve found that splashing my face with cold water helps wake me up so I can get going faster.
3. Eat a Balanced Breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal for a reason – it provides us the energy we need to face the day head on. You have to be smart about your breakfast choices, though. Coffee will help you perk up and eggs provide you protein, but donuts and other sugary pastries will only make you feel sluggish after an hour or two. Eat light and healthy in order to maintain your energy and keep those hunger pangs at bay until lunchtime.
4. Exercise Early
Yes, I know this is easier said than done, but if you work from home you definitely have the time to fit a brisk walk or run around the block before taking a shower. It doesn’t have to be a marathon, either. Even 10 minutes of moving your body consistently will help wake all your parts up so you can sit down at your desk and start cranking away.
5. Make a To-Do List
This is probably this single-most important part of my increased productivity. I keep a daily schedule of projects and deadlines and cross them off as I finish them. I make the schedule at the beginning of the month so I know what to expect ahead of time and modify it along the way. Having my work listed on a calendar keeps me on track, and I love the feeling that comes along with getting everything done that I intended to at the end of each day.
6. Leave the House
Working from home doesn’t mean that you actually have to work from home. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes I get caught up with household chores that take me away from my work so when I really need to concentrate I’ll leave my home and head to the bistro around the corner, a library, or a coffee shop in order to work without distractions. More recently, I found a co-working office that I visit several times a week that has helped increase my productivity so much that I’m crossing items off my to-do list several days in advance.
7. Host a Co-Working Party
If you don’t want to leave the house, think about hosting a co-working party where you invite other freelancers or home-based entrepreneurs to your home to work with you side by side. I find this tip to be helpful because watching someone else intently focusing on a project is a great motivator for me. It’s also nice to have someone around to bounce ideas off of or simply to have another human being with whom to interact.
8. Switch to Public Transportation
This tip isn’t for everyone since public transportation isn’t available everywhere, but if it is available in your area you should think about giving up your vehicle for running errands. How is this helpful? When you’re not driving yourself, you can work respond to e-mails or work on small projects en route. Whenever I take the subway, I spend the entire trip on my phone responding to e-mails, jotting down ideas, and starting articles (like this one) that need to be written. It’s a super-efficient use of your time – and it doesn’t hurt that you’re saving money on gas while you’re at it.
Do you have even more tips on how to be more productive when working from home? I’d love to hear about them. Tell me know your ideas in the comments below.