Working from home efficiently, especially when you’re not used to it, can feel like an uphill battle that often ends in stress and a headache. Trust me, as someone who has been working from home for over a decade, sticking to a schedule and knowing what works for you isn’t easy right off the bat. In fact, it takes boundaries, willpower, and a certain mindset to pull it off day after day.
In my years of being self-employed and working from home, I’ve devised routines and processes to keep my mental game on point and my focus and motivation at their highest. It took time and determination but now, when I sit down to work, I have strategies up my sleeve to be as productive as possible.
So, if you find yourself working from home and can’t quite get into the groove, these top ten tips will help you work from home efficiently and keep your sanity in the process!
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Tips For Working From Home Efficiently (& How To Stay Sane!)
Get Ready For the Day
If you’re anything like me, then the mental association you make between getting ready for the day and feeling productive cannot be understated.
Even when I know I won’t need to leave my house to work, I go through the motions of getting myself ready for the day and into the work mindset.
When working from home, make sure you go through your routine as though you’re heading to the office. Set your alarm clock for the same time each morning, make yourself a cup of coffee and breakfast, have a shower, get dressed, and then, instead of going anywhere, get ready to work.
Structure Your Day
If you’re someone who has never worked from home before, then you might be feeling a little bit lost on how to structure your day.
For this, I recommend setting dedicated hours for work and using to-do lists. Use a calendar to time out your day, including when you’re going to work and take breaks, and then list out all the things that you plan to tackle in a day’s work.
Of course, you’ll add and subtract things from your to-do list as the day goes on, but there’s nothing as motivating as seeing the tasks you have to accomplish and then physically crossing them off as you go.
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Have a Dedicated Work Space
While I often find myself working in any area of my house I feel the most comfortable (it switches up almost daily), having a desk or dedicated workspace makes productivity and a work-mindset so much easier to achieve.
In my workspace, I have a desk, printer, files, and everything else I need as far as office supplies go. I also make sure that my workspace is clean, bright, and includes lots of mementos to keep me feeling at peace and motivated.
Use a Calendar
Along with what I said above about structuring your day, I also love to use a calendar or planner to structure my weeks and months (there are a ton of free calendars online these days). I set short and long-term goals for myself to help me stay on track with my work and so I don’t miss anything or fall behind.
If you’re not usually one to use calendars or day planners, I recommend you try it out for a bit and see what methods work best for you.
Stay Focused and Take Breaks
A tip that should be used whether you’re working from home or not, staying focused and taking designated breaks will do wonders for your productivity.
To do this, make sure you get rid of any external distractions — including social media and your phone — and work hard for a predetermined period of time. Then, at the end of that time, take a real break. Read a book, meditate, stretch, exercise, play with your kids, have lunch with your partner, whatever you like.
If self control is not your strong suit, there are website blockers and a StayFocused Chrome extension to help you! To keep myself on track, I also like to set timers throughout my day so I know when to start working and know when to stop.
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Use Music and Scents
If you’re finding it hard to stay focused on the task at hand while working from home, then I recommend trying out different styles of music and scents.
With music, I love putting on some instrumental songs that I’ve never heard before. It might sound strange, but whenever I really get into a song, my mind tends to drift in that direction, instead of the direction of work. With instrumental music, I can have background noise without getting too drawn into it.
With scents, studies have shown that they play a huge role in our moods, and we can absolutely use this to our advantage. For example, lavender is well-known to be a calming scent, while mint tends to help us stay focused and alert.
If you have any candles, incense, or oil-diffusers in your house, light them up as a way to keep you in the zone while working from home.
Communicate With Others in the Home
Chances are that if you find yourself working from home but usually work in your office, you don’t have clear cut boundaries with others in your house about your work schedule and commitments.
Whether it’s your partner, kids, friends, or roommates, let everyone in your house know your work schedule and when there needs to be quiet time or you need to be left alone.
Whether you’re at the office or working from home, keeping your blood flowing and muscles moving can be tough. We all know that sitting for long periods isn’t good for us, so keep this in mind when you’re working from home and take designated movement breaks.
To do this, get out your yoga mat and stretch, do a mid-day workout, or set a timer on your phone to walk around your house every hour or so. Also, if you have the option of using a standing desk while you’re at home, definitely take advantage — there are a lot of them at a range of prices, and they’ll greatly help with your circulation.
Get Social Time In
At the same time, working from home doesn’t have to be a lonely time. Try to see the other people living in your house while you’re taking work breaks or, if you live alone, make phone and video calls to your friends and loved ones.
Seeing and talking to other people during your day (whether it’s work-related or not) will give your brain a bit of a break and allow you to feel more focused and motivated when you get back to your tasks at hand.
Know When to Call it Quits
As any self-employed or work-from-home person will tell you, knowing how to turn your work brain off for the day is easier said than done. So, to do this, I have a few strategies.
First, set a specific time of the day that you promise yourself to be done work, and turn off your computer at that time. Of course, that sounds simple enough, but actually sticking to it takes a bit of willpower.
Secondly, stick to the daily to-do list that you created at the top of your day, and only work until you get all of those tasks done (granted you don’t overload yourself, that is).
Thirdly, schedule in some social time at the end of every day that will force you to get out of work mode.