This is a collaborative post by Ellie Jo with productivity tips for working from home.
Time is money, as the old saying goes. And when you are working from home, this is certainly the case – particularly if you are running your own business or working as a freelancer. Everything starts by taking a closer look at your working environment. And this doesn’t only mean the physical things in your office – though these are important. It also means the general atmosphere, how comfortable you feel in the environment, and the number of distractions which you are facing. So, here are some of the best ways that you can optimize your productivity levels when you are working from home.
Working from Home Productivity Tips
How Do You Prefer to Work?
Some people prefer complete silence when they are working. Others like to listen to background music or have some activity surrounding them. Ultimately, it is worth experimenting with some different working environments until you discover what suits you the best. Perhaps you prefer a bit of both. So, you could have silence when you are working at home, and hustle and bustle when you head out to your local coffee shop to work. It is easier to make adjustments in your home office such as soundproofing your office if you prefer silence or investing in some wireless speakers if you like some background music.
Personalize Your Workspace
When you create a workspace, it is important that you feel a connection with it. The best way of doing this is by placing some familiar objects around you to increase the sense of connection that you get from your workspace. It could be a family picture on your desk or a souvenir from a particularly memorable holiday. And if you get bored of looking at the same thing day in, day out, you could always introduce something new into your working environment.
Cut Back on Clutter
A cluttered office is often the sign of a cluttered mind. Consider what you really need to work, and how many things in your office are surplus to requirements. Cleanliness and simplicity are two qualities which are worth aiming for in a working environment. Go through all of your papers, getting rid of the ones that you no longer need, and properly filing the ones that you do. A lot of things can be stored digitally these days, but you also need to ensure that all of these are properly filed as well. A cluttered work environment can leave you wasting time trying to find things, which is not going to help your productivity levels. If you change working environments on a regular basis, it is worth having a bag which includes everything that you need such as chargers, electronic devices, and other documents ready to go when you need it.
Make Your Working Environment More ‘Natural’
Even though you are working inside, there are plenty of ways to give your office a more natural feel. For example, you could introduce some plants into your working environment. Studies have shown that these can refresh the air and generally improve moods. Alternatively, a bouquet of flowers are both visually attractive, as well as providing a sweet and fresh smell. Too many fluorescent lights can leave you feeling trapped and depressed, whereas natural light has been shown to promote productivity levels, generally improve your health, and have a positive effect on your mood and behavior. If you can reposition your desk to get more natural light or change your window dressings to be lighter, this can help.
Don’t Suffer from Screen Burn
You should protect your eyes and the battery life of your laptop by dimming the brightness of the screen to a reduced level. Other changes that you can make to stop the burnout of constantly staring at a screen all day include changing the font size, style, color, and contrast. If you find yourself squinting and struggling to read what is in front of you, try changing the zoom on your monitor. A simple rule which is worth following is the 20-20-20 one, which suggests that you look away from your computer at least once every 20 minutes at an object at least 20 feet away for a period of at least 20 seconds.
Reduce Neck Strain and Back Pain
Most people who work from home find themselves sitting down for a big proportion of the day, which is why it is so important that you stay comfortable and maintain a good posture. A modern way of solving this problem is by investing in a standing desk, but if you don’t do this, you need to make sure that how you are sitting is correct for reducing neck strain and backache. If you do opt for a standing desk, you should also look into getting some Protalus shoe insoles in order to be as comfortable as possible while working. An ergonomic office chair gives you the maximum flexibility to adjust your sitting position. Try to position the top of your computer screen at eye level and allow your feet to rest comfortably on the floor. Take some short walks during the course of the day when you can stretch or walk around.
Fuel for Your Engine
What you put in your body can end up making a big difference when it comes to your productivity levels. You should be keeping hydrated throughout the day, and drinking water is always going to be the best way to do this. And you are not likely to feel particularly productive if you are feeling hungry, so make sure that you have easy access to some snacks. A combination of healthy snacks and guilty pleasures is a good idea. You could reserve the latter for when you have a particularly productive day or you hit one of your targets.
Keep Regular Checklists
One of the best ways of making sure that you stay on-task is by keeping checklists, and ticking off jobs as you complete them. Not only is this a good way of staying organized, but it also helps you to see how you are doing with your projects. A good habit of getting into is completing your least favorite task first so you don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day. Don’t forget to celebrate your successes as well as monitoring what you still have left to do. It can get disheartening if you only have one long to-do list in front of you. Keep a notepad or a digital copy depending on what you prefer.
Update Your Tech
If you have old-fashioned items of tech, this can be a major source of wasted time during the day. The very least that you need is a good WiFi connection. Even if you can’t afford to update everything, you can ensure that your digital devices run smoothly by clearing out the storage and installing any updates that you have been putting off. You should always be on the lookout for any software or devices which are going to make your life easier such as fax online. There are programs coming out all the time which are specifically designed for people working from their own home office.
What constitutes a pleasant temperature varies from person to person, but you don’t want any unnecessary distractions from being too hot or too cold. The modern way of doing this is with a smart thermostat and air conditioning unit, but there are other more affordable solutions like a portable heater and a desk fan.
Keep Your Applications Silent
One of the biggest sources of distraction is your smartphone. Even if you don’t want to turn it off or put it on silent as you use it to take work calls during the day, you can still silence certain applications which cause you to divert your focus away from the jobs in hand. Most studies find that multitasking is very difficult to do, and it is best to focus on one job at a time. If you find that there are certain apps which are always eating into your time, you could always take the step of removing them entirely from your phone.
Even if you are by yourself during the working day, it is important to maintain an active social life during other times. But you can also maintain social connections with the people you are working with, whether they are clients, suppliers or coworkers. It can be very easy to feel isolated unless you make a special effort to do something about this and make yourself feel more included.
In summary, the working environment that you create at home should be one that provides you with both comfort, but also one which encourages you to be productive. There are plenty of factors which you have control over, and you should aim to make little adjustments until you get everything right. Obviously, all of this comes down to personal preference, so you should experiment with what works for you until you stumble across the right combination of factors which help you to get your work done in the best way possible.
Rachel is an Austin blogger, educator, mom, wife, young breast cancer survivor writing about health, saving money, and living a happy life in Austin, Texas.
Rachel has written for HuffPost and Hometalk and has been featured on KXAN, Studio 512, Fox 7 Austin, and CBS Austin.