If you work from home, you probably know how challenging it is to stay productive, especially when that next load of laundry is calling your name, you’d rather watch your favorite Netflix series, and you can easily waste hours scrolling through your Facebook and Twitter feeds (or falling down a rabbit hole on a Quora forum).
I can certainly relate to this. As a telecommuting veteran with more than 20 years of experience, staying focused on work takes tremendous discipline. So, how can you get your job done, still hit deadlines and avoid distractions when you're working from home? Short of chaining yourself to your desk, here are five hacks for staying productive during your work day:
Schedule breaks throughout your day
Regardless of whether you run a small business at home or working remotely for a large company, when you lose your commute, you gain back hours of valuable time. The key takeaway here is not to waste this time on distractions. Instead, pour your energy into getting blocks of work done and take advantage of your extra time by taking short, scheduled breaks throughout your day. These breaks will energize you, boost your productivity and help prevent burnout.
Actually put these breaks into your calendar or you likely won’t make time for them. To break up my day, for example, I take my dog for a walk in the late morning and run out for coffee in the afternoon. I also hit the gym three times a week for scheduled Zumba classes, giving me a shot of energy to propel me through the rest of the day.
If you’re having trouble adhering to your own calendar, you may need a little extra help to remind you to take breaks. For this, you can turn to the Be Focused Pro app, which helps you break up tasks into intervals separated by short breaks. You might also want to check out Stand Up! The Work Break Timer. This app lets you set alarms and break reminders throughout your day.
Scheduling goes hand-in-hand with staying organized. Taking time to organize your work day and week will help you stay focused and efficiently complete tasks. In my case, I live by Google Calendar and I input all of my appointments, scheduled calls and deadlines onto my online calendar. Every morning, my calendar is the first thing I look at to give me a clear view of what I need to get accomplished during the day. I also use this tool to rein myself in. If I find myself distracted, for example, I call up my calendar from my computer or phone. Once I see how much I have left to get done, this usually puts me back to work without losing valuable time.
Rise and shine
It’s easy to sleep in and wear your pajamas all day when you work from home and you’re both the boss and sole employee. But I find that setting my alarm and getting up before 7 a.m. -- even when I don’t need to -- helps set the tone for a much more productive day. For starters, many people, including myself, concentrate better earlier in the day. Plus, without a morning commute ahead of you, you can use extra morning time to organize your day, have a relaxing cup of coffee or even go for a brisk walk. Besides, early risers are more proactive and better positioned for career success than their night-owl counterparts, according to one study.
Carve out dedicated work space
If you have a home office, this is an ideal situation. But, if you don’t have an extra room in your house, try carving out an area in your living room, dining room or even bedroom to use as your workspace. The most important factor is that you have a dedicated work area separate from the rest of your living space. This, in turn, will help cut down on your daily distractions. To create a space when you don’t have a home office, try putting up dividers or maybe use a bookcase as a partition. Another perk to your home office space: You can write off that work area on your tax return.
Invest in the desk
Even if you take five breaks a day, you will likely get achy sitting at your dining table or at a desk. This leads to less productivity - not to mention possible back injuries. In fact, even if you use an ergonomic chair, having a standing desk may the best bet when it comes to improving your health and productivity. A recent study by Texas A&M University showed that workers with desks that could be raised up to a standing position were 46% more productive than workers using traditional seated desk configurations. According to the same study, standing during the day can also improve your health. About 75% of those using standing desks experienced less body discomfort after using these types of workstations.
As I write this article, I just got up from my chair and pressed the button to raise my desk to the ideal standing height for me. Yup, just last month I ditched my old desk for a sitting/standing desk as I was experiencing back fatigue from sitting in one position for so many hours at a time. As standing desks can be expensive, I spent time researching different types and ended up spending $669 on a sit/stand desk from Ikea that can be electronically adjusted. This was money well spent, and my back pain disappeared. Because I’m more comfortable, I can also focus on working for much longer stretches at a time.
That’s what I call taking a stand on productivity.