So you’ve found yourself suddenly working from home … If you’re used to going into an office it can be a difficult transition. I spent 10 years working at a cubical before I started telecommuting, and am now self employed.
One of the toughest parts of working from home is forcing yourself to be productive. Yes, the need for money helps (must buy food, must pay rent, etc.), but with the many distractions of home it’s easy for one’s mind to wander. Especially if you have Shiny Object Syndrome, like me.
Even though I enjoy working from home, I still have to remind myself to focus. And it’s not easy! I’m not perfect and the struggle to keep myself focused is a daily thing. But I’ve learned my weaknesses and what I need to keep myself focused on work and not sucked into the many, many distractions of the Internet (so many kitten videos, so little time). If you’re struggling to complete tasks, whether it’s work or hobbies or cleaning or organizing or whatever, here are five productivity tips that work for me. Hopefully one or more will work for you, too.
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Tips for Working from Home
1. Make to-do lists. This is my #1 game changing, must-do tip. I am so easily distracted by my own brain. 30 seconds into one task, I’ll suddenly remember “Oooh, you forgot to do that one thing!” And then I’ll go do the new thing, and when that’s done I’ll think, “What was I doing before this?” And ultimately, very little actually gets completed. That’s why I keep a planner for my daily schedule. If it doesn’t get written down, it doesn’t happen!
Personally, I love Erin Condren Lifeplanners. They are cute, stylish, and highly customizable. I love their little sticker packs, too! My favorite layout is the Horizontal weekly planner, but they also have hourly planners available if you want to be uber-organized. Check out my review of my Erin Condren Lifeplanner here!
If you feel like you don’t need an entire planner, I highly recommend paper to-do checklists, like these on Amazon:
2. Set a timer. I’m not great with time management and often try to juggle multiple tasks at once which ultimately slows me down. Lately, when I sit down to work on a task, I’ll set a timer on my phone and vow to myself not to do ANYTHING ELSE until the timer goes off. And when the timer goes off, I’ll reward myself with a little bit of social media time or a piece of chocolate or a glass of wine, depending on the time of day or night. What can I say, the reward system has always worked for me. Know your strengths.
3. Hide your phone. I know this is counter intuitive to the whole “set a timer on your phone” thing I just mentioned. But if you’re constantly distracted by the dings and pop-ups on your phone, then put it somewhere else. This is a little tougher if you rely on your phone for work (like, using your phone for actual phone calls, which some people still do), so do what works for you. Maybe it’s putting your phone in the next room so you can’t see it but you can still hear if someone’s calling. For me, the siren song of Instagram is powerful, so I often will put my phone in another room for a couple hours at a time if I really need to focus.
4. Install News Feed Eradicator for Chrome. How many times have you gone to post something your Facebook blog page or search for something you read in a group, and as soon as Facebook loads you start scrolling through all your friends’ updates, and then someone is wrong about something and you have to correct them, blah blah blah. And then 40 minutes goes by and you can’t remember why you opened Facebook in the first place. The News Feed Eradicator is an amazing free browser extension for Chrome. Install it, and when you pull up Facebook it will block out your news feed and trending topics. You will still be able to post, go to groups or pages, or specific profiles. But it will keep you from getting sucked into the endless vortex of your news feed. I’ve been using it for a couple years now and my productivity has skyrocketed. Now I only check my Facebook feed on my phone, during my “social media time” reward from Tip #2.
5. Utilize voice-to-text on your phone. If you have a smart phone then you know you can use your voice to ask questions of Siri or Cortana, or dictate quick text messages. I did this all the time, and it took me months to realize I could actually dictate entire blog posts using the Notepad app. Duhhhhhhhhhhhh. Now I utilize it every day, not just for blog posts but for emails, Facebook Group posts, and social media captions. We all are aware of the dangers of sitting at our desks for too long, so I try to take breaks, go outside, and dictate to my phone. Sometimes it’s just brainstorming new ideas, sometimes I will speak out an entire article. Then I just email the notes to myself, go to my computer, copy and paste it into a new blog post, edit and add pictures, and I’m done. It’s not only a time saver, but it’s a wrist saver as well … when my CTS starts flaring, I’ll switch to phone dictation to give my wrists a break.
What are your productivity tips for working from home?
This article was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated.