Work from home? Here’s how to tackle your productivity problems

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September 2, 2014

work from homeSo you chose to work from home to maintain a work-life balance, but you’ve probably realised that it comes with its own set of drawbacks. A few are mentioned below.

Work from home = Procrastination

You tend to delay things until you’re close to the deadline. Suddenly you get why everyone loves Candy Crush Saga so much. Loneliness and boredom engulf you, and you wonder what it’d be like to have a few colleagues to chat with. Your client calls, they want their project finished by the end of the day and you haven’t started! Panic floods you and the stress levels are high as you scramble to finish your work, pushing all other projects aside. Procrastination leads to inefficiency, you need it like you need Candy Crush Saga. Delete it.

Endless disturbances

Let’s face it: you’re more easily distracted when you work from home. Your spouse wants “just 5 minutes” help to put together a bookcase, which turns into hours of your time while you try to decode the instructions. Your kid wants you to take them to the park and can’t understand that just because you’re at home you don’t have unlimited free time. Gradually the work piles up and that mountain looks too daunting to climb. So you go back to Candy Crush Saga.

The Long Break

You plan to take a quick 10-minute coffee break but you start daydreaming about your future success - piles of money in your bank account, and you floating on a yacht somewhere in the Carribean. When you come back to your senses your coffee is ice cold and two hours have passed. What?

Blurring personal and professional life

Since you don’t have fixed working hours and you take multiple breaks in between, you’re not able to finish your work on time, and your days stretch. So, you’re always on your laptop. Which means you’re always available, and your colleagues and clients may ask you to send over a document, or answer a quick email, at any time. You’re never really out of the office. Though work from home seems fun, without the right amount of motivation, it becomes unproductive. When we’re in an office and see our colleagues working, we feel like working. But at home, we can feel isolated and as time passes, we feel disconnected. ‘Working from home’ calls for a certain amount of self-discipline and a flexible approach. With the right approach and a right attitude, you can be super productive. Here are some top tips to help you stay productive:

1. Fixed working hours

Offices have fixed working hours and every employee makes their schedule within those hours. When working from home, you should try to commit to certain hours and finish your work within those hours. If you like working in the early mornings, start early and finish your day earlier. Finish your major tasks in your most productive hours.

2. Dress for success

Even when working from home, you have to mentally prepare yourself for a business environment. The best way to do this is to dress in work attire, and not lounge around in your pyjamas all day. You’ll be serious about your home office by looking serious. And let’s be honest, you wouldn’t crawl into bed with your suit on, would you?

3. Zone in

Designate a corner of your house as your office, if possible, chose a room with a door that closes. Pick an area which is away from the TV and any other disturbances, this is especially important if you need to have a video conference or a telephone call. Get a spacious desk and a comfortable chair. Spruce up the room with a couple of plants and pictures. Let your family know that this is your office area and it’s not be used for any other purpose.

4. Let family and friends know

4-5 interruptions during the working hours are enough to blow away the productivity of the day. So, keep distractions and interruptions at a minimum, even if that means switching off your mobile phone for several hours. Inform your friends and relatives about your working hours and request them not to call you during those hours unless it’s extremely urgent. This will help you focus.

5. Plan ahead

While working from home, you have to keep a track of your schedule and of your progress. You can do this by fixing a daily, weekly and monthly goal, this will keep you focused. While you are planning, keep your goals realistic and achievable. Unachievable targets will leave you feeling de-motivated. If you are planning to work 8 hours in a day, make plans only for 6-7 hours. Keep the remaining time as a buffer for emergencies. It will be a treat if you finish work within your allotted time.

6. Take a break

Schedule a time for a break. Breaks are a great way of refreshing your body and soul. Take a long break for lunch and 1-2 short breaks for tea. Look away from the computer screen, close your eyes for a couple of minutes or just stretch your body. Ideally, every hour you should get up from your chair and walk around for 1-2 minutes. It’s a great way to distress.

7. Communicate

One of the biggest drawbacks of working from home is being isolated. You can feel cut-off from the day-to-day happenings that people usually enjoy at offices. Communication is the only tool that can bridge this void. Communicate often with your colleagues, bosses and other business associates. Look for online forums for others who are working from home, so you can support each other, and share tips and stories. Make good agreements with your clients, about deadlines or expected availability. Write it in an email and make sure everyone gets a copy.

8. Whiteboard

A whiteboard near your workstation will help you to organise daily tasks. Start the day with a do-able ‘to do’ list and aim to cover as much as possible from this list. At the end of the day, note down what you didn’t get to and erase the board. Start with a fresh board the next day. Don’t get into the habit of sticking notes all over your workstation, because it’s going to clutter up fast. Keep the workstation clean and clutter free. It enhances productivity.

9. Be comfortable

A relaxed mind is the most powerful tool for a productive work day. Wherever your office is, make sure you feel comfortable and relaxed. If you feel best on the couch, sit there and work. If music peps you up, listen to light music while working. And above all, have a positive attitude about your job. Relax, but work.

10. Develop your network

The office is obviously the easiest way to develop your network, but because you work from home you have to put an effort in maintaining and making connections. Whenever possible, call people instead of shooting a mail, invite them for a coffee. Don’t forget to hang out with your colleagues who work from the office.

11. Upskill

Keep upskilling by taking courses and webinars that are industry related. Stay on top with latest newsletters and reading blogs from influencers. Know your industry in and out.

12. Be Kind to Yourself

There will be tough days when you just can’t sit in front of your laptop. There will be times where you partied into the wee hours of the morning and can’t face the world the next day. Be kind to yourself that day, but don’t give in. Have a shower, eat some breakfast and show up for your work day. This is really important for motivation. Then at the end of the day pat yourself on the back. You deserve it. Do you have any work from home tips? Feel free to share in the comments.

About Ewout Meyns

Ewout is our Founder and CEO, he is straight-forward and direct. He’s a friendly chap and never fails to motivate the team to perform at their best. He makes sure we keep moving forward.