In many aspects, working from home anytime – especially around the holidays – can be a valuable experience. Your boss isn’t breathing down your neck, there’s no dress code and you don’t have to endure that annoying commute. On the flip side, it can be riddled with distractions, from the TV to the dirty laundry lying on the floor. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, freelancer or employee taking advantage of your company’s work-from-home policy, it can take a lot of discipline and self-motivation to telecommute from your apartment, condo or house.
With assistance from Johnny Hoy, a seasoned telecommuter and owner of Fulltime Nomad, here are six simple tips on how to work from home productively and efficiently.
Ditch the Jammies
It’s enticing to wear your faded band T-shirt and unbelievably comfy sweatpants all day, but when it’s time to “clock in,” make sure you hang up the PJs. Your brain associates pajamas with sleeping and relaxation, making it tougher for you to get in the right headspace for work. Does this mean you have to don a suit-and-tie ensemble in the comfort of your own apartment? Hoy doesn’t necessarily think so.
“I agree that getting out of your pajamas, having a shower, and getting ready as if you are going to the office is a good habit to get into," he said. "However, one of the best perks of working from home is not having to dress in office attire. So yes, get up and get dressed, but wear what's most comfortable.”
Try the Pomodoro Technique
If you procrastinate like nobody’s business or just don’t have the best work habits, there are multiple ways to boost your productivity. One method that Hoy said he wholeheartedly endorses is the Pomodoro Technique. "My number one productivity tip to stay focused is to use the Pomodoro Technique. Basically, I set a timer for 25 minutes, I focus on one task and don't leave my desk until that 25 minutes are up. I then take a five-minute break to get up and stretch. I repeat this process until I have finished my day.”
This time management system, which was created in the 1980s by developer and entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo, emphasizes the idea that frequent, brief breaks help improve focus and cognitive function. There’s even been studies, most notably from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, that back up this claim. The Pomodoro Technique may not work for everyone, but it’s worth giving a shot since it doesn’t cost a dime to try. Just use a timer on your computer and follow the program’s six steps.
Keep the Phone Out of Sight
Yes, it’s tough. We live in an era where you can get instant access to an endless stream of information, from breaking news to the latest cat memes. But once you visit Facebook, Instagram or any other social media channel or website you fancy, the next thing you know you’ve wasted a good five to 10 minutes of productivity. Hoy says: “I usually leave mine in the other room so there is no temptation to pick it up and mindlessly browse or check social media.”
If you need to have your phone by your side in case of family emergencies and such, there’s a trick to help you avoid eating the forbidden fruit. “There's a bunch of different apps like Cold Turkey or Freedom you can use that will block certain websites while you work,” Hoy said. “This can help curb those temptations.”
Stick with a Routine
Sure, routines can be, well, routine, but creating a structured schedule not only makes your telecommuting more productive, but it also keeps your work/life balance healthy because it establishes a definite start and end to your day. Hoy agrees. “Having a schedule, creating lists and being organized is extremely important when working from home. The temptation of sleeping in or finishing work early is real. Set your work expectations, write them down and commit to them.”
Hoy also recommends tracking your time. “Use a tool like Toggl to track the amount of hours you are actually working. Review to check that you are meeting your obligations.”
Experiment with your schedule to see what works best for you. If you’d rather get your workload done sooner than later, try waking up at the crack of dawn. For night owls, try getting your work day started around 10 a.m. and see how that fares.
Set Up a Dedicated Workspace
This can be tricky to maneuver, especially if you live in a studio apartment in New York City or another metropolis. However, Hoy knows from personal experience that having your own office or workspace is valuable in the long run. “I really don't like to mix my workspace with my downtime/leisure space. If I'm working on the couch or the dining table, I don't feel that focused or productive. If you don't have enough space for a separate office, even just a corner in your house where you can set up a small dedicated work desk will do the trick.”
A separate workspace not only benefits your productivity, but also your financials. If you run a small business out of your apartment, you would be remiss to not take advantage of the home office tax deduction.
Let the Sun Shine In
Working from home no doubt has its perks, but staring at a computer for eight hours is one of those necessary evils that come with the telecommuting experience. Whenever you take breaks, step away from the glowing white screen and use that time to reconnect with Mother Nature. Stepping outdoors boasts numerous benefits including increased function and stress reduction, making it a perfect way to refresh and recharge.
“Sometimes working from home can get a little claustrophobic,” Hoy says. “Take time out to get outside. Even if it’s just for a five-minute walk.”
Want to turn your apartment into the ultimate work-from-home environment? You should also check out our blog post about feng shui to restore balance and harmony in your humble abode.
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