10 Ways to Be More Productive When Working at Home

I've been working at home for a long time now, and every once in a while, it gets hard to focus. You have a ton of distractions, you can find yourself forgetting to leave (if you're single) during the workweek, and sometimes you can fall behind if you don't have a strategy or plan in place to stay on track. Here are 10 things I do that help me to not only get more work done, but also get ahead, stay organized, and more importantly, meet all of my deadlines.

1. Create a designated workspace.
Although this sounds obvious, having a space in your apartment where you sit and work doesn't cut it. I used to sit at the dining room table or on the couch and work with the TV in front of me, but that caused my "me time" and "work time" to blend, and sometimes I would lose focus. What I ended up doing was buying a desk and office chair and placing it against a window so I could look outside all day. By not seeing anything in my apartment, not having a TV within view, and not having anything to distract me to my right or left, I am able to concentrate and get all of my work done. After a while, this became my workspace, and everywhere else in my apartment feels like home.

2. Leave everything in your workspace.
Don't get tempted to bring your computer or notebook to the couch. Keep your workspace and home separate. This keeps you focused and helps you avoid breaking the line between them. Once you have your workspace enter your home again, you start to slip, and then you find yourself watching TV, working less, and taking breaks more regularly. This also means your projects will take a lot longer to do.

3. Get a mini fridge.
Instead of using my kitchen to make a meal during lunch, put a mini fridge in your workspace. When I had one, I kept sodas, water and other things in it. I would pack a lunch and place it in the fridge in the mornings. That way, I was able to avoid going back into my home and stay focused while working. By going into my kitchen and making food, I would become distracted and start to do other things. And if I sat in front of the TV while I ate, it got harder to get back into work mode. Now, on nice days, I'll take my lunch and go outside and eat, or find somewhere else with people who work in an office and eat with them.

4. Work out before you start your day.
When you work from home, commuting is not part of your routine, which means you may find yourself less motivated to leave the house to exercise. One thing that can be good is to go for a run or to the gym in the morning and shower there. If you can find a group class, it helps to break up your days and they stop blending together. After you work out, change into work clothes (which is my next point) and head to "the office." By making yourself have a commute to the gym, you get out of your house, get exercise and also get to fake a commute to clear your head. If you start each day without doing this, then you already have the feeling of being at home in your mind and can easily be less focused.

5. Dress up like you were working in an office.
One of the benefits of working from home is that you get to wear pajamas. Unfortunately, pajamas mean comfort and relaxing. This also means falling asleep and not staying focused. By changing out of your pajamas and putting on a dress shirt and dress pants, you can help yourself get focused and make sure all of your work gets done for the day.

6. Set up work play dates.
Sometimes not being around people, especially if you live by yourself, can cause you to lose focus. Find other people who work from home and set up a working play date once or twice a week. You'll get to have the social interaction with people as if you were in an office, and it can help you stay focused. Just make sure you all have your goals set up and don't lose track talking and hanging out. It is still work, and everyone still needs to get everything done.

7. Use browser blockers.
Unfortunately, they got rid of my favorite one, but I had a browser extension that would block certain websites after a certain amount of time. If you find yourself pinning, talking to friends on a chat, or even just reading a timeline on Facebook, set a timer or find a blocker that will only allow you to have access for a specific amount of time each day. Once your time limit is up, the browser shuts down access to these sites until the next day. This is a huge time saver to keep you focused, unless you do social media for a living and don't have tools to run your campaigns without having to be on the sites themselves.

8. Use calendar reminders to keep you on track.
I never did this much when I worked in an office, but now I set my entire day up on my Outlook calendar. The messages will pop up and let me know how far ahead or behind I am and where I am in my day. By having reminders to help schedule your day, you can improve personal productivity and work on hitting all of your deadlines.

9. Use noise-blocking headphones.
A lot of offices will use white noise generators or other things to help break up the sound in the room. Sometimes you'll hear people in the hallway of your building, pets running around or other distracting things, such as your phone ringing in another room. By wearing noise-cancelling headphones and looking out your window, you can further distance yourself from your home and focus more on work. This is something that I have to do when I have a lot of deadlines and has become one of the best ways for me to stay focused.

10. Go to happy hours and networking events.
One of the most important things to do is to make sure you leave your house. If you drink, go to happy hour once or twice a week (if it is OK with your doctor and you don't have health issues. You can also have non-alcoholic beverages). If you don't, find people in the same niche as you and see when they are doing networking events. These are great ways to not only build your business, but also get out of the house so you leave and come back. Leaving your house for an hour or two each day makes a huge difference in how well you can stay focused.

Staying focused can be tricky when you work from home. By separating work from home and making sure you leave your house, you can help build a barrier that helps you stay focused. If you can add social interaction with other people, you can also get the feeling of working in an office, taking short breaks that let your mind rest and help you focus again.

Adam Riemer is an entrepreneur, consultant and productivity contributor for Manilla.com, the leading, free and secure service that let consumers manage all of their bills and other personal accounts in one place using desktop, tablet or mobile devices. Adam has helped numerous companies increase their productivity and grow their sales through strategic marketing, operations and bringing the best talent out of teams.


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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2013, at 5:59 PM, stockdissector wrote:

    I need to remember these while blogging for the Fool.

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2013, at 10:33 AM, Tomohawk52 wrote:

    Having to get dressed up, unable to take a nap in the afternoon, not being able to do surf the web for a few hours during the day ... sorry, but I love these advantages of being self-employed and working at home. ;-)

  • Report this Comment On June 18, 2013, at 7:40 AM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    I've been working from home since 2003, with the exception of a few on-site consulting gigs that lasted several months each. I've been writing for the Fool from home since 2007.

    My take: Suggestions 1, 2, 4, 8, and 10 are part of what I do, the others not so much. The big takeaway is that it's very very beneficial to have some sort of ritual that tells your brain (and your family, if that's relevant to your situation), "I'm at work now." It can be as simple as sitting at your designated workspace, or it can be something more elaborate.

    Another idea that some might like: I know people who have two computers -- a work computer and a rest-of-the-time computer -- and switching from one to the other is how they start their work day. The work computer has work software and work bookmarks and work email, but not the personal/play stuff -- that's on the other machine.

    John Rosevear, Foolish auto geek

  • Report this Comment On June 18, 2013, at 2:11 PM, stockdissector wrote:

    That's good advice John.

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