Working from home can be hugely flexible. In theory, you've gained a good amount of freedom to balance work and family life. In reality, it can throw up a lot of distractions. Before you know it, your productivity is pretty much non-existent.
When you're not productive, it can be extremely stressful. You may feel anxious if you have started falling behind, procrastination can be a huge challenge to overcome. When your 'office' is also your home, there's a lot of temptation to work round the clock.
Staying productive is important for a healthy work-life balance when you're working from home. Here's how to do it.
Have a Dedicated Workspace
Working from your couch or bed may be convenient but it's not always the smartest option.
When you're working from home, having a dedicated office space that's just for work is a huge must.
Being able to shut the door on work is an underrated mental shift. It's hard to do this when your workspace is also a leisure space.
Schedule Your Time
You're your own personal manager when you're working from home but this can quickly become a double-edged sword.
With no boss to keep you on track or tell you what to work on and when, it's all on you.
Scheduling blocks of time to work on specific projects is a smart thing to do.
Overestimating the block of time you'll need for each project gives you a lot of flexibility and means you're not scrambling to get things done if they take a while.
You can save time each morning by planning your schedule the night before. When you settle down to work, you can jump straight in. Splurge on a fancy diary, keep it on your desk and block out your working schedule.
Stick Close to an Office Routine
If you've been used to working in an office, you'll also be in a good routine for getting up and making it into work and how your working day is structured.
Since you don't need to commute and you have a lot of flexibility for meetings and projects, it's very easy for routine to go out the window.
Having breakfast and setting your alarm so you're ready to start work at a similar time to being in an office is key for getting a good routine up and running. Tempting as it is to work in your pj's, getting dressed also helps ease into work mode. The difference in how motivated you feel can be as simple as putting on a smart casual outfit.
Work Out When You're Most Productive
An office-esque routine won't work well for everyone and that's fine.
If you play around with different schedules, you may find you get more out of yourself if you start work earlier in the morning and finish earlier too.
Finding when you're naturally most productive and planning your schedule around it is a smart move. Depending on your responsibilities such as children, caregiver, you can usually schedule your work around these requirements.
You can save more complex tasks for your productive periods and schedule easier tasks for when your energy is naturally waning away. I am definitely an early bird. Especially during Summer in Queensland.
Take Regular Breaks
It can be tempting to power through your working day without taking breaks in the mistaken belief it'll make you more productive.
For most people, it has the opposite effect. Breaks are important for recharging and refreshing your energy. The end result is you actually get more done.
With no breaks, you can easily find yourself working for longer but not getting much done. Not the outcome you were anticipating.
How you spend your breaks matters too, especially if you immediately hop on social media.
Ditching social media can free up a lot of time. Scrolling social media for a quick break may seem harmless but it's a major time thief.
If you can't resist social media breaks, it's time to get ruthless. Look at tools that restrict or block your access to social media sites while you're working. One great tip is to remove social media apps from your phone. Allow a certain amount of time to browse, from your laptop only. Make sure you stick to the times you have allocated yourself. Even trying this for a few days, you will feel amazed at how present you are. The internet is a great invention, so much knowledge at your fingertips, but I feel very very lucky that I had my children pre-internet. I know I would have found it difficult to not constantly check my phone.
Prep Meals In Advance
On the surface, this one may not seem to go hand-in-hand with productivity but it's another secret weapon for giving it a boost.
Prepping and cooking meals and snacks can take a great deal of time if you're doing them from scratch. It's a major culprit for eating into the time you have to work. That is a major downfall when you are aiming for optimising your productivity.
Preparing meals in advance can free up a whole lot of time. Batch cooking and freezing meals that you can just heat up later on means you're not spending half of your workday in the kitchen - and you can enjoy nutritious meals that help make you more productive.
Set Boundaries With Other People
When you work from home, it's very common for other people to see you as being freely available if they want company or need errands running.
Ask other people to respect that you're working and aren't available during your office hours. I cannot stress this enough! How many times I have heard from WFH clients (and experienced it myself) that family and friends think you do not work, because you are working from home. Not only that, but all the household chores tend to be left to you as well. This is when having a designated space, and set work hours becomes vital.
This sets important boundaries and expectations, which can help avoid a major culprit for lack of productivity.
Improving your productivity when you're working from home is important for reducing stress and striking a good work-life balance. Taking charge of your routine, time and energy is a huge part of this and helps make working from home a benefit, rather than a stressor.