No matter if you are working from home or you just want to be productive and get the meaningful things done at home, these tips are for you.
For people who work and operate from their homes, they need to make their home as a productive workplace and there is no one to supervise their work. It is an extreme challenge. I know this because I have been working from the comfort of my home as a blogger and internet marketer for more than 2 years now.
And for people who have plenty of free time at home, while it is good and comfortable, but if you’re not being aware, you may lose all your precious time by indulging yourself into long hour sleep, games, idling, excessive TV, going through your day mindlessly.
Hence, managing your time and learn to be productive at home is a necessary skill for everyone. Unless you only spend time at home to sleep for the night, you need to learn how to make good use of your time at home.
Over the years, I have discovered these 13 ways that help me become more productive and get things done at home. I bet these tips are going to be useful to you too.
1. Wake up an hour earlier
Choose to wake up early regardless of whether you are working from home or not. Even during the weekend, choose to get up an hour earlier so that you can have more time than most other people.
I believe that the fastest and easiest way to become more productive is to have more hours. And you can simply achieve this by getting up an hour earlier.
So why do you want to wake up early? The answer is pretty simple, really. There are no distractions early in the morning and that means you can use your morning hours to do your personal stuff and your side project.
If you always have a dream to want to build a successful blog and you don’t have the time for it, this is where you can find the time.
The same goes if you want to exercise but you can’t find the time, early morning can be the best hour because there are no distractions. Others are still sleeping and no one will text you or call you in the wee hours.
Usually, I spend my morning hour to read and do some simple stretching. I love reading and I find that I’m able to focus better when the rest of the world is still sleeping.
And for most weekends, I will still try my best to wake up early and to take a walk by the beach when I’m in my hometown.
2. Adopt the first-things-first principle
The second way to be productive at home is to follow the golden rule from Stephen Covey, the late best-selling author who wrote the book, First Thing First and also the ground-breaking book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
The principle is easy to understand, you just need to spend time on the most important work first.
No matter if you work from your home or if you are spending your days at home and are looking for ways to be more productive, you must follow this principle.
As a blogger, one of the key activities that I must do each day is to write content, like this one that you are reading right now. Thus, I scheduled and time-blocked my mornings for my writing work. I get the most important and high-impact work done first.
Mark Twain has a powerful quote to describe this principle:
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
If you have nothing to do at home and you plan to read a book or you want to organize your room, do so first. Don’t leave your plan until the evening only to decide to do it.
By then, you will have no more energy and lack of willpower to execute the tasks.
I know that writing requires a lot of my creative energy and willpower. And hence, I always do it the first thing in the morning.
Every time when I leave my writing work to the evening, guess what, I procrastinate. My willpower is low and I can’t find the focus to write, plus, there are a lot of distractions in the evening where my wife will turn on the TV and I’ll want to watch the news.
Thus, practice the first thing first principle. Do what is important to you first.
3. Recharge your mental energy by taking regular breaks
The idea of working from home sounds fun and exciting, but the truth is that it is extremely difficult to commit and make yourself accountable to work when you are comfortable, wearing your pajamas, and the couch is just right there waiting for you.
If you want to be productive at home, you must schedule a time to recharge your mental energy.
Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint. You want to incorporate activities that recharge your mental energy.
For me, I find that reading is a great way to boost my mental energy. Furthermore, taking short breaks and stay away from my workstation is another great method to improve my energy.
When you focus on your work, it drains a lot of your energy and it can turn your productive day unproductive. This is why we all need to take rests from time to time.
Use the Pomodoro Technique. Work on a task for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minutes break. Of course, you can always customize the time taken to work and to rest. The key is to schedule regular breaks to recharge your mental energy.
In my case, I will walk around my home, eat some snacks, and if longer rest time is allowed, I will choose to read books.
4. Exercise to boost your physical energy
Another key to staying productive at home is to incorporate exercise into your routine.
Many studies have been conducted and proved that exercise is one of the most important activities that help people stay productive, improve their focus, and also boost their physical energy.
When you work from home, you spend most of your time sitting on the chair and face the computer screen. This is not a healthy habit and this is why exercise becomes a must-practice routine.
As human beings, we’re created to move. Our bodies are not created to sit for long hours in front of the monitor. Imagine doing so for years, your health will deteriorate and it is bad for your eyesight too.
According to time management expert, Laura Vanderkam, the author who wrote the book, What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, says in her book that most highly successful people spend their time exercise in the morning.
In her book, she interviews and found that remarkable people like Barrack Obama, Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, “Shark Tank” investor Kevin O’Leary, and entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk start their day with workout sessions.
This is why I make it a habit to do some simple stretching each morning right after I read books.
Laura Vanderkam says in her book that the people she interviews and studies are extremely busy people, and if they make time to exercise, it must be important.
You can read the article by Vanderkam from BusinessInsider.
5. Plan and schedule your day
Since you’re going to spend most of your time at home, you must plan and schedule your day. Even if it is a weekend, you must plan for it too.
I know that some people may not like the idea of planning and scheduling their days, including weekends, but if you want to be productive and get meaningful things done, you must plan.
Now, there are many ways how you can plan your workdays and weekends. For me, my workdays are usually filled with work to do and most of the time when I finish my tasks on my list, it will be almost evening time.
As for weekends, I plan it differently. For weekends, I only include a few anchor events, such as dates with my wife, watch a movie, read for 2 hours in Starbucks, etc.
“Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution. This gives you a 1,000 percent return on energy.”
– Brian Tracy
One great method to schedule your anchor events is by splitting your weekend into 2 sessions, one for the daytime, and one for the evening time.
For example, you can plan to read at Starbucks on Saturday afternoon, watch a movie with your lover on Saturday night, bring your kids to the museum on Sunday morning, and tackle your personal project on Sunday night.
There are only 4 anchor events included. As for the rest of the time, you can be flexible and do whatever you think is suitable.
I sincerely believe that planning and scheduling is the key to being productive. Whatever gets scheduled gets done.
I plan my days and weeks, and I discovered that I’m more productive and are able to get more done than without doing any planning at all.
Of course, there will be days where things are not going according to my plan, but that is absolutely fine because I understand that when I plan, I’m being proactive rather than being reactive.
6. Get social and connect with the people you love
Another great way to stay productive at home is to make sure that you socialize with others and stay connected with people you care and love.
Come on, we can’t live alone on this planet. Try to avoid talking or interacting with other people for a month, and I bet you’ll go crazy.
Human beings are social animals and we need companions. This is why people take dogs and cats as their pets. This is also why people want to make friends and get around with others.
When you’re working at home or you spend most of your time at home, you may lose most of the opportunity to network and socialize with others. I mean face-to-face interaction and not just online communication.
Therefore, make time to socialize with others. Invite your friends out for a drink or join groups to talk to others.
When you spend long hours at home without interacting with others, you experience a lot of inner talks. Talking to yourself can be good if you’re in a positive state, but if when you’re feeling negative, self-talk can make the situation worse.
Talking to someone else out there makes you feel that you’re not alone. And it prevents you from feeling trapped in your own world.
When I first started as an internet marketer who works from home, I felt trapped and my thoughts in my head were not helping at all. Today, I spend some time to network with others, talk to other bloggers, and try my best to schedule a time to meet with people I care about too.
7. Build a productive workstation
If you want to be productive at home, you must declutter, organize, and build a productive workstation.
First, separate your workstation from your living spaces. For instance, never turn your bedroom into your workplace. Try to create a specific place as your workstation.
You want to train your mind to understand that bedroom is for sleeping and your workstation is meant for work only. When you mix them up, your productivity suffers.
Next, invest in beautiful and ergonomic furniture. I can’t tell you how important it is to get a comfortable chair. I work long hours facing my computer, and I really need a good chair so that I can sit straight and work comfortably.
It is common sense. Poor posture and ineffective ergonomics can lead to frustration and fatigue. When you don’t feel comfortable, you may not be able to perform at your best.
On the contrary, good ergonomics improve productivity. You’re able to work faster and more efficiently when you’re feeling comfortable.
Choose a great chair and a good table where they encourage you to work effectively. Invest some from Amazon or pay a visit to IKEA, like what I did.
Besides that, make sure the temperature of your workplace is right and allow some natural lighting to come into your room as well.
Include some green plants, posters, and wall paintings can boost your productivity at home too. These items are often called “visual triggers”. They motivate you into taking action.
Just like how a vision board works. When you see your vision boards, you remind yourself of your dreams and goals. And these images drive you into action.
More importantly, organize and declutter your workplace. Make it easy for you to focus on your work.
8. Learn to say “no”
If you want to be productive, no matter if it is at home or at work, you must learn to say “no”. This is extremely important because people will take away your time and attention if you don’t reject them.
I believe that you have faced this situation before, when you want to concentrate on your work, and suddenly, your friends, colleagues, or family members come to you and want you to do something else.
Saying “no” doesn’t mean that you’re rude. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about others. It simply means that you have something more important to do at that time.
Think about it, when you receive a cold call from someone who is trying to sell you something, if you think that you’re not going to buy, but you’re also not rejecting the salesman, and you simply allow him or her to continue to talk, at the end of the day you’re wasting both person’s time.
“It’s only by saying “No” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
– Steve Jobs
So learn to say “no” politely. People will understand. Of course, you don’t have to shout.
This is important when you’re working from home. When you work at home, people will think that your time is flexible and you are always free.
Hence, they will demand your time. They will ask you for favors. They will distract you.
So, don’t let this happen to you. Make sure you use your time to do the most important work first before you help others out.
9. Build a bunker to prevent distractions
Again, this is also about handling distractions. Whenever you’re at home, you must find a way to build your own bunker. It is a place where you can hide from all distractions.
If you have a room, great, turn it into your workstation so that whenever you need to fully concentrate on your work, you can lock yourself in the room and work.
If you have children, they will distract you. I know that it is hard to reject your lovely kids, but you have to use your time more wisely.
Schedule time to work and also plan your time to be with your family.
I learn a great success mindset from T. Harv Eker, the best-selling author of Secrets of The Millionaire Mind. Harv says in his book that poor people choose to think either/or, but the rich and successful think both.
You don’t have to choose between work or family. You can schedule time and plan to get your work done and also have time to enjoy with your family.
I know that this is easier said than done, but when there is a will, there is a way.
You just need to believe that it is possible and be creative to come up with a solution. As what I suggested, build a bunker.
Go into your bunker and focus on your work. When you focus, you can get more done in a shorter time frame. And hence, you’ll be able to enjoy the rest of your time with your family.
I live with my wife in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, but whenever I get back to my hometown in Melaka, I temporarily stay with my parents for a day or two.
And during these 2 days, it is extremely difficult for me to focus and work on my things. My niece will want to play with me. My mother will talk to me. I just can’t concentrate and write articles like this.
What I’ll do then is to go to my bunker, Starbucks. When I’m at Starbucks, I can concentrate and work faster and get more done.
Once I’m done with my work, then I can enjoy my time with my others.
Do you have a bunker like me?
10. Use the convenience-habit hack
This is another powerful way how you can make yourself productive at home. The trick is simple, you make the action you want to carry out, convenient.
For example, if you want to read a book, don’t keep the book on the bookshelves where you can’t see. Instead, put the book on your table where it is visible to you.
In other words, you make it convenient for you to reach the book and read.
A lot of people find it extremely difficult to workout in the gym because it is not convenient. They have to purposely drive to the gym, get changed, workout for an hour, and then take a shower, and finally, drive back home again.
Let’s not forget about the traffic condition and finding a parking spot.
So rather than creating all the inconveniences, make the process easy for you to act.
Choose a gym that is near your location or in between your workplace and your home. You can pack your clothes and put them in your car so that you go to the gym straight after work.
Want to get rid of the habit of smoking? Make it difficult to reach out for your cigarette. Keep your cigarette in the drawer, put it somewhere you can’t see, and make it inconvenient to smoke.
Want to spend less time watching TV? Make it inconvenient to do so. Turn your TV around, keep it in the storeroom, unplug its power, or keep the remote somewhere difficult to reach out.
Well, it depends on how you want to be productive at home; you can make good use of this convenient hack.
11. Plan and prepare your meals
Thinking about what to eat and filling your stomach can be a big headache if it is not deal with properly.
“What to eat?” seems like a question that is bothering most people a couple of times a day.
When you work from home, you have to consider what to eat in order to stay away from hunger. When you’re hungry, you can’t focus and can’t perform at your best.
Plus, it is not a healthy habit to skip lunch. You can eat something light for lunch, but you cannot totally skip it and let yourself suffer from hunger.
When you’re hungry, your productivity goes down.
And when you’re at home, you may find yourself lazy to cook. And sometimes, you find it inconvenient to drive out to take your lunch.
So what should you do? Simple, plan for it. Plan for your lunch.
“Planning your meals prevents poor decisions, saves you time, and makes you more effective.”
– Shawn Lim
For instance, you cook some simple lunches every Monday and Wednesday. And for Tuesday and Thursday, you eat outside. As for Friday, you invite a friend and lunch with him or her.
Planning and knowing what to eat solves the mental hurdles that you have in your head. You don’t have to struggle to answer the question, “What to eat?” when you have a plan.
It’s mind over matter, my friend.
When things have been planned, you will never have to worry about it anymore. You know that you already have a solution for it.
When you have planned for your meals, you don’t have to think about it anymore. You can then put down your mental baggage, which allows you to fully focus on other more important work.
12. Act like you are going to work
Find it difficult to work at home? Find it challenging to come up with willpower, motivation, and productivity to get things done at home? Don’t worry, just act like you’re going to work in the office.
What this means is that you can wear like how you get to work. Instead of wearing your pajamas, try to wear formal, even when you’re at home.
It makes a lot of differences. When you act like you’re working in the office, you won’t treat things lightly and you’ll be more serious about your work.
Now, I don’t wear formal at home because I’m able to work when I’m wearing casual.
Thus, this option is totally up to you.
If you are wearing casual but you find it hard to concentrate on your work at home, perhaps, you can try out to be a little formal next time.
The key is to treat it like you’re going to work in the office. Treat it like someone is watching you so that you’ll be more accountable and won’t waste your time on YouTube or Facebook.
So take a shower in the morning before you start your day. It is difficult to concentrate or to work in a half-asleep mode.
Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, and then dress properly, at least not in your pajamas. You have to kick-start your body and mind into thinking that it is time to work.
13. Create a stop time
It is good to be productive, but it is also important to know when to stop.
Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist has published an article on the studies of why we need to unplug.
There are many benefits to stop, take a break, and unplug yourself from work. It helps remove unhealthy feelings such as envy, jealousy, and loneliness. Besides, when you unplug, you allow yourself to really live and enjoy doing what you love.
It is absolutely alright to play computer games or to watch TV. When you know when to stop and you use those times to recharge yourself by doing things that you enjoy, it actually improves your productivity.
However, make sure you stop after you get your work done. If you choose to unplug and watch TV the first thing in the morning, you used up your energy for that and when you want to start work, you find it difficult to come up with the motivation.
Just like eating a meal. You should eat the proper meal before you eat the dessert. If you eat the dessert first, you will feel full and have no more space for the proper meal.
Therefore, understand when to stop. Take it as a reward for going through all the hard work.
Usually, I will stop working at night. I don’t write or type at night. I choose to do something light and simple. I will also read books not because I have to, but because I love to. Plus, I do play games from time to time.
When you know when to stop, you are telling yourself that something fun is waiting for you. You don’t have to be like Jack, who fills his life with all work and have no fun at all.
Studies have proved that having vacation actually increases productivity. Here’s the statistics found from ProjectTimeOff:
“The majority of HR managers agree (77%) that employees who take most or all of their vacation time are more productive in their jobs than those who do not. Further, HR managers believe that taking using vacation time leads to higher performance (75%) and increased job satisfaction (78%).”
When you planned a vacation, you know that there is something fun waiting for you. You’ll be looking forward to it. It boosts your motivation to get more done before you leave for your vacation.
The same principle applies when you know when to stop. You’re telling yourself that there are times for resting and relaxing.
It gives you peace of mind to focus, to do more, and to perform better.
So even when you’re working at home, try to create a stop time to unplug yourself from your work.
Understand when to stop improves your productivity.
If you spend a lot of your time at home, it is crucial to make yourself productive. You don’t want to be at home and feel like a useless person and waste all your time there. It makes you feel inferior.
So don’t let that happen to you. There are many ways how you can be productive at home, and I have shared 13 ways above.
I hope the tips above are going to be useful to you.
Do you work from home or do you spend most of your time at home? How do you keep yourself productive? Share with me in the comment section below.