I’ve been working from home for over a year now and the commute from my couch to the desk often gets me thinking about the things I need to do to stay on track and actually get work done, rather than spend the day watching Netflix and raiding the refrigerator.
Don’t get me wrong – I do find myself doing just that more often than I’d like to admit, but on my best, most productive days, I’ve found what works for me. It’s so easy to take an extended lunch break and get distracted with social media when there’s nobody standing over you to make sure you’re getting things done. It’s very easy to go stir crazy and become starved for human interaction when you are your own boss, coworker, and employee. Here are 5 tips that work for me when I need to break the cycle of procrastination that results from weeks of working from home:
- Relax. Yep, you read that right. The first step is to NOT do work when you wake up in the morning. Everyone is different, but for me, waking up only to immediately get to work is hard to swallow. I want to relax, watch a show, read a book, drink my coffee and enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then start my day happy and not rushed. I wake up earlier and do these things, so that by the time I start my actual work, I feel like I’ve also worked on taking care of myself.
- Organize. At the end of each work day, make a to-do list for the following morning and stick to it. Plan ahead which tasks you’ll do during which hours (and how long you anticipate them to take), and you’ll be more inclined to actually get them done. It’s also important to keep hours – it serves as a reminder that you’re still at work and gives you an end time. One of the toughest things about working from home is never leaving the office. Though I am guilty of that myself, it feels like I’m doing too much and not enough all at once when I do.
- Tidy up. This is a common piece of advice, but it bears repeating because you can’t sort the thoughts in your brain if you can’t sort through the crap in your workspace. Keep things neat and where you can find them, and going from task to task will be that much easier.
- Take breaks. Sometimes I stare at the computer for so long that when I finally snap back to life I realize that my vision is blurry, my back is slouched, and my muscles have contracted. If you’re in the zone and don’t want to stop, try to wiggle your toes and stretch in your chair until you can take a break. Keep a drink next to you so you stay hydrated and comfortable, and try to set an alarm for 5 minute breaks. I’ve started to use this time for squats, planks, and one-song dance breaks, which are much more motivating when I need to get back to work than snacks.
- Tackle small tasks. Finally, use times when you can simply can’t be productive for small tasks, such as answering and sending emails, organizing your calendar, or any other little thing that is of lesser importance but hangs over you daily. I have an issue answering emails right away for some odd reason, but when I fight the urge to delay, I feel like I’ve taken care of the small things that are bound to be forgotten, which works as a chain reaction and encourages me to continue working on my bigger projects.
As a small addition, I’d like to share a sixth tip that I recently adopted after reading an article called “Twice, Then Quit.” I love that this idea can be applied to any facet of work and life; if you have the urge to go on Facebook, resist it. Then resist it a second time. If you find that you simply cannot concentrate until you take the break, give in. I’ve applied this to my own social media and useless email checking tendencies and have found that it works like a charm. Chances are, it’s more habit then necessity that is making you feel like you absolutely must check social media, and once you allow yourself to stick to the task at hand, you probably won’t want to stop.
Working from home, while a blessing in so many ways, can also be very difficult. It’s not easy to resist taking half the day off, surfing the internet, and just giving up when there’s nobody there to tell us no. I often experience stir-craziness, cabin fever, and restlessness, so I’m always looking for ways to stay on track and be productive.
For those of you that also work from home, what have you found to be effective tools for staying focused? Please share!