My office allows us to work from home one day a week. It really helps me save money to work from home once a week and I enjoy skipping my crazy commute, but I’m always less productive when I take advantage of this policy. How can I buckle down and work successfully at home?
You have an easier time focusing on work at the office because that’s the only designed usage for the space—unlike your home, which you use for eating, socializing, hobbies, and sleeping. There are lots of fun, welcome distractions at home to tempt you. Since you still want to have a job, set these seven boundaries at home to create the same feel as an office. You’ll increase your focus and avoid getting fired!
- Make a designated space your work-from-home space to avoid getting distracted. Ideally, you want this area to be used only for work, so sitting on the couch isn’t going to cut it. The clearer the delineation between your personal life and your work life, the easier time you will have getting into your work mindset. Don’t forget to have access to necessary digital files, paperwork, software, and supplies to avoid running into roadblocks mid-workday.
- Get dressed and preserve any other work morning rituals you normally would perform before heading to the office. We’ve talked about habit loops before—essentially, if you perform certain actions in the same order regularly, you’re establishing a routine. Getting dressed in your office wardrobe signals to your brain, “It’s a workday!” even if your only coworker for the day is your labrador Fergus. Bonus: Less likely to fall asleep on the job when wearing real pants instead of pajama pants.
- Communicate clear expectations to family members and coworkers about your availability. Family members and friends need to understand you aren’t available to do chores, entertain, or have long conversations. Some people prefer to focus on in-depth projects while working from home to take advantage of the solitude, so keep your coworkers in the loop about your plans for the day if you won’t be available for impromptu phone meetings.
- Have a schedule that takes advantage of your peak productivity periods. If you don’t know when you are most productive, keep a log for a few weeks while in the office and translate your findings to your work-from-home schedule. Knowing your personal rhythm is especially helpful at home, where you’re more likely to get distracted and feel unmotivated. To remind you, set up a planner (like the Balanced Life Planner) and schedule your hardest work during your most productive moments.
- Take regular breaks to recharge and gamify your workday. The Pomodoro Technique calls for 25 minutes of intensely focused work, followed by a five-minute break. After repeating this step three times more, take a longer, 15-30 minute break. Another common break structure involves working for 52 minutes, then taking a 17 minute break. (Aka, the 52-17 Rule.) Short sprints of work allow you to get more done and dive deep into your task at hand, while the promise of an upcoming break acts as your carrot on a stick.
- Create deadlines to encourage progress and forward momentum. Freelancers and self-employed small business owners realize they need to set their own deadlines to ensure things get done. Take a leaf out of their book by setting deadlines to keep your work day at home on track. Pledge to finish the new spreadsheet by lunch, schedule a client call at 9am that you’ll need to be thoroughly prepped for, or plan to send your manager those ad mockups before calling it quits.
- Turn off social media or the Internet, depending on your work responsibilities. The constant updates of social media encourage endless scrolling, and its easy for a quick five-minute browse to become an hour-long binge session. Apps like Cold Turkey block online distractions for you and can be set to allow only specific websites, which is perfect if you need access to certain sites for work but keep getting tempted by Facebook. If you have the option to work offline completely, try going analog for a change. You might be surprised at what you can get done!
By making your home office more like your work office, you’ll be on your way to enjoying your day working from home without worrying about your productivity.