As the novel coronavirus has spread across the globe, it has brought a massive, worldwide work-from-home experiment with it. Suddenly, people everywhere are converting their kitchen tables to work stations and trading water cooler catch-ups for Zoom calls with their coworkers.
Of course, there are a lot of things to love about working from home. There’s no hour-long commute, no coworkers to distract you (your cat doesn’t count), and no one is going to judge you for wearing sweatpants.
On the other hand, working from home does come with potential downsides. Can you trust yourself not to open up Netflix when you don’t have a manager looking over your shoulder? Are you able to stay productive when your dog, toddler, and partner all seem to need your attention every 5 minutes? When you work from home, especially if you’re not used to it, it often takes a bit more effort to remain focused and productive.
For those who have digital nomad jobs or that work for companies with fully distributed teams, this transition to remote work has been pretty seamless. For everyone else, it’s a strange, brand new situation that will take some getting used to.
To do our part in helping people adjust to the remote work lifestyle, we’ve compiled a list of our team’s best tips and tricks for staying productive while working from home.
1. Set a schedule and stick to it
Working without a schedule often leads to working too much or not enough. Especially when you’re working from home. When your day isn’t punctuated by your morning commute, office meetings, or scheduled lunch breaks, it’s easy to get lost in a project or to take too long making breakfast.
To avoid this, set a schedule for your workday just as you would in an office setting – and stick to it. If you need to start or finish an hour later than you normally would, that’s fine. That’s the flexibility you get when working from home. Just make sure that you schedule what you need to do and when you’ll do it. That includes dedicating time for exercise so that you can stay fit while working from home.
Some people like to set their daily schedule as part of their morning routine. But if you really want to maximize your productivity, set your schedule the night before. You’ll go to sleep with peace of mind and wake up motivated with a plan to take on the day.
2. Start your day the right way
When you wake up, treat your morning routine as if you were going to an office.
That doesn’t mean you need to rush out the door with wet hair and a half-eaten piece of toast in your mouth. Just do what you’d do to get ready for your office job. Take a shower. Set aside a few moments for meditation or prayer. Take your time to make or walk to grab your coffee. Cook yourself some breakfast.
Each of these things will make you feel more productive and remind you that you’re working from home, not simply sitting at home.
3. Ditch the pj’s for real clothes
It’s true, we live in the golden age of athleisure. But you should ditch your pajamas until after the workday. Putting on nicer clothes will put you in the right mindset and make you feel more productive when working from home. Plus, you won’t have to pray that the upcoming team Zoom meeting is a ‘microphone on, camera off’ affair.
You don’t need to wear a full suit or even go business casual. Just toss on something that makes you feel a bit more like your best self. Plus, changing into your loungewear at the end of your shift is a great way to signify to your brain that the workday is done.
4. Take regularly scheduled breaks
As a remote worker, it can be tempting to just power through a project and skip breaks altogether. But if you’re looking to be more productive when working from home, it actually makes more sense to step away every so often.
You should aim to take a break every hour or two, for about 15-30 minutes at a time. But that doesn’t mean mindlessly scrolling your Instagram feed. Take this time to get some fresh air and go for a walk. Or spend some time with your pet or someone else in your home.
5. Try out productivity hacks like the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique (named after the classic tomato kitchen timer) is a popular time management method. It involves working in 25-minute intervals separated by short 5 minute breaks. At the end of four of these cycles, you reward yourself with a longer break, usually 15-25 minutes.
For the days where you just really can’t seem to get going, experimenting with different time management methods like the Pomodoro Technique could provide the game-changing productivity boost that you’re looking for.
6. Choose a dedicated workspace
You may not have a dedicated home office, but you shouldn’t just work wherever you happen to kick your feet up. Create or designate a space that is solely dedicated to working from home. When you have a space that your mind associates with work, it’ll be easier to switch over into ‘work mode’.
Having a dedicated workspace also helps you separate your work life from your home life. This way, your other rooms are sacred places that are free of the stresses of work. Because no one wants to try to relax and unwind in the same place where they do their spreadsheets.
7. Try a site blocker extension or app
Have you ever reflexively typed in the address or opened the app of your favorite social media site without realizing it? And before you know it, 30 minutes have passed and you forget how you even got this far down your Facebook timeline? Yeah, thought so.
Site blockers are perfect for those times when you just need a little extra help with self-control. They can block entire sites or completely restrict access to all sites except the ones that you designate. And you can set the apps to only block certain sites during business hours so that once ‘quittin’ time’ comes, you can scroll through Instagram until your heart's content.
8. Stay connected with others
The freedom of working from home can be great for your ability to be productive and get things done. But it can also cause remote workers to feel lonely or disconnected from their colleagues. This is especially true for those who are extroverted or highly social at work.
Instead of isolating yourself from the team, be proactive about checking in with your coworkers to stay on the same page or just to catch up. Keeping your team up to date on your progress is also a great way to make sure that you’re being held accountable.
9. Set boundaries with the people around you
Even though you’re home, you’re still at work. Make it clear (politely) to the people in your space – children, partners, roommates – that you’re not available to hang out, play, run errands, help clean the house, or anything else.
Should you shoo everyone away like a grumpy boss? Of course not. But setting the expectation that you’re not to be disturbed during work hours will minimize distractions and help you stay productive.
10. Plan your schedule around your most productive times
Most of us don’t work with 100% focus and effectiveness for 8 hours straight. Instead, we have certain hours of the day when we feel our most energized, focused, and productive.
Take advantage of the freedom that comes with working from home. Save the work that really needs your full focus for when you feel most productive. Save the less mentally demanding tasks for the times of day when you’re not quite in your focus zone yet.
Do what works best for you
Everyone works differently. Working from home comes more naturally for some than others. And considering that, for most people, the switch to remote work wasn’t something they asked for, it’s normal to need some time to get adjusted to this new routine.
Try the tips mentioned above and experiment with the ones that make sense to you. In fact, feel free to come up with your own. Does putting on a full suit sound like it’ll get you in the right mindset? Do you think you’d like to start your day later and work into the night? Go ahead and try to come up with your own tips for staying productive while working from home.
After all, you’re the boss of your office now.
BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.