I’ve been working from home for the past 10+ years now. It’s one of the perks of having your own business.
You can roll out of bed in the morning and turn on your laptop – no need to dress up (or even change out of your pjs), get stuck in traffic for what seems like an eternity, and engage in small talk with annoying colleagues you’ll be happy never to see again.
I love it. And yet, I’d lie if I said that working from home isn’t without pitfalls.
Between annoying family members constantly asking you to run errands for them (you have so much “free” time), the full-to-the-brim laundry basket begging for your attention, and calls from friends who know you’re at home all the time, your home is full of distractions that threaten to derail your productivity.
How do you keep your focus on your work when there’s so much else you could do instead?
Here are my best productivity tips when working from home:
1. Have A Dedicated Workspace
This is often overlooked, and yet it’s the most important tip on this list. If you can only implement one thing, make it this. Why?
Your brain is used to see your home as your leisure space, the place where you hang out and relax when you’re not working.
So, when you start working from home, it doesn’t take work seriously. It’ll remind you of all the chores that need to be done and encourage you to take time off to watch your fave sitcom. You can always finish work later, right?
If you live with someone – anyone – else, things get worse. At home, people are used to interrupt each other all the time to ask if they want a cup of tea or organise plans for the weekend. They may also put on loud music or turn on the TV without warning.
All harmless things when home is your leisure place. All deadly distractions when you’re trying to get work done.
The solution? Get a dedicated workspace. It doesn’t even have to be an entire room. It could be just a desk in your living room (I don’t recommend picking the bedroom because your brain sees that as your sleeping environment).
Use that space – and that space only – to work from. Tell anyone else in the house that, when you’re in that space, it means you’re working and can’t be disturbed.
Don’t be discouraged if they won’t respect your workspace at first. It’ll take a while for everyone to get used to this new arrangement, but you’ll get there and up your productivity tenfold.
2. Have Regular Working Hours
As a business owner, you can work at any hour of the day or night – but that doesn’t mean you should.
Sure, there’ll be times, like a product launch or a tech emergency, that will require you to work till the wee hours of the morning. But make that the exception, not the rule.
Again, having regular working hours teaches your brain to treat your work hours as a time for work – not for doing the chores, chatting on the phone with friends, or watching cat videos on Youtube.
You can choose what time works best for you, but I recommend you choose the time when you have the most energy.
For me, that’s the morning. I sit down at my desk from 6:30 to 11:00. Then, have a couple hour’s break before going back to work till 4pm. After that, unless there’s an emergency or I’m doing a live training, I turn off my laptop for the day and enjoy my time off.
Struggling to get everything done? Download the Weekly Planner to plan your week like a boss. It features all my best productivity tips, so you can do everything that matters to you.
3. Take Regular Breaks
FYI, when I say I work from 6:30 to 11:00am, I don’t mean uninterruptedly. The human body isn’t designed to sit down for hours on end. It needs movement – and your brain a rest.
I use a longer version of the Pomodoro technique: I work without interruptions for 45 minutes and then take a 10 minute break to drink some water, stretch my legs, and recharge both my body and my mind.
When I return to work, I’m much more fresher and energised.
PRO TIP: Never eat at your desk. Your launch break is just that – a break. Use it to relax and recharge. You’ll be more productive afterwards.
Related: How To Achieve A Work-Life Balance
4. Eliminate Distractions
Chances are, you already know what your main distractions are. So plan for them in advance. Here a few ideas:
Do you live with someone who’s always playing loud music or making a lot of noise? Get some noise-cancelling headphones.
Do you interrupt your work because yesterday’s dirty dishes are staring at you from the sink, begging to be washed? Wash them the night before.
Are you easily distracted by social media and emails? Turn off notifications. Even better, delete these apps from your phone.
Your friends are calling you at any hour of the day because they know you work from home? Politely tell them you won’t be answering their calls during your working hours. But you’ll be happy to chat once you finish work.
You get the point. While you won’t be able to plan for every distraction, there’s a lot you can eliminate with a little planning.
5. Pretend Like You’re Going To The Office
I know I’ve started this post by saying you don’t have to change out of your pjs. But I do.
After I roll out of bed, I do my usual morning routine: I shower, put on a smart top and skirt or a day dress, have breakfast. On some days, I even put on makeup.
Why if no one is around to see it?
Because I’m around to see it.
There were times, at the start of my business, when I’d spend a week in the same pjs. I even went a couple of days without showering.
Let me tell you, I did NOT feel good about myself. When you don’t make an effort, it has a ripple effect on everything else you do.
Working in my pjs or that old pair of sweatpants with holes in it I should have thrown away two years ago makes me feel sluggish. It makes me want to work less. It makes me slack on the job.
But when I make the effort and put on a nice dress? My mood instantly lifts up. I’m more confident, more energised, more willing to do the best job I can.
You don’t need to put on your best clothes. Just wear something that makes you feel good. Because when you feel good, you do good.