When you’re working from home, productivity can be a real challenge–that’s why keeping a few productivity hacks in your back pocket is always a good idea.
If you live with other people, for example, they may not respect or understand your need for quiet isolation. If you have pets, you may be tempted to pet them or play with them (*slowly raises hand*). And then there are the chores! You could just do those dishes now, after all–you say you’ll just be away from your desk for 5 minutes and instead, you wind up cleaning the whole house.
But what’s even more challenging, at least for me, is resisting the temptation to get wrapped up in trivial tasks that make me feel productive, but are really just sucking time away from the big picture tasks I need to complete.
Productivity hacks can resolve all the most common issues remote workers face–the real trick is figuring out which ones work best for you.
My location independent lifestyle and self-employed status mean there’s no boss breathing down my neck to make sure I’m productive throughout the day, so I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to optimize my efforts and bring in that cash. And I love working from home for the myriad benefits it offers–and because offices usually require pants.
Since every work-at-home employee or business owner will find different productivity hacks to be effective, I talked to a few other location independent workers to see what helps them kick ass and crush their to-do list every single day.
If you struggle with productivity like I do, it might be worth giving these ideas a try.Try these #productivityhacks to get more done no matter where you work #workfromanywhere… Click To Tweet
Working from Home Productivity Hacks
Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Sweetest Way!
Productivity Hack #1: Create a Dedicated Workspace
And no, I DON’T mean the couch.
One of the best perks of working from home is that you get to be relatively comfortable because, hey, it’s your home! But being too comfortable can also be a slippery slope to procrastination-ville.
Creating a dedicated workspace in your home–one that’s not your bed, couch, or anywhere near the TV–means you’ll associate this space with getting work done and feel less like you’re just hanging out at home. Adding a dash of formality to the act of “going to work” will put you in the right mindset to dominate your tasks.
This will also allow you to take real, re-energizing breaks because as soon as you leave this space, you’ll know you can relax. Do the dishes if you absolutely must, but then head back to your home office and dive back into work mode.
Deck out your home office with things that put you in the right frame of mind, and make sure it fits the needs of the business you’ll be operating.
Sit in a chair that allows you to have excellent posture, make sure your desk is clutter-free, and add whatever accessories you need to do your job well. For me, that means a wall calendar where I can easily track my tasks, a notebook for jotting down ideas as they come up, and a desk lamp for that bit of extra light when I need it.
Other at-home workers might want to add plants to their workspace, keep all doors closed so roommates–whether human or of the four-legged variety–can’t just waltz in whenever they want, and add personal touches like turning on a work-conducive playlist or burning a nice scented candle.
Your home office should be your haven of productivity, so tailor it to your own needs and see how much more work you get done as a result of the diminished diversions and increased feel-good vibes.
Productivity Hack #2: Block Out Distractions with Noise-Cancelling Headphones
While some people can crank out work while listening to hard metal or without giving a second thought to the banging and clanging of the construction next door, I need absolute silence in order to operate at my very best.
Because silence can be hard to come by and noise is often outside of your control when you’re working from home (I don’t know about you, but my washing machine sounds a lot like a donkey in heat), I recommend investing in a decent pair of noise-reducing or noise-cancelling headphones.
Not only do they eliminate distractions from unexpected noises and droning sounds alike, but wearing headphones can send a visual signal to others that you do not wish to be disturbed. If you have a chatty roommate, a demanding pet, or repetitive noises simply drive you bonkers like they do me, you can’t go wrong with noise-cancelling headphones.
I own a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones that were worth every penny and then some. They comfortably cover my entire ear, drown out unwanted noise, and when I do want to listen to music, offer incredible sound quality to boot. I also wear them for all my important Skype calls because the last thing I want is to look distracted while chatting with a client.
Productivity Hack #3: Head to a Co-Working Space
The truth about working from home is, it’s not the best fit for everyone. If you feel you just can’t overcome the distractions of your home office, then it might be in your best interest to head to a co-working space or a shared office instead.
For some people, simply being around other remote workers who are massively productive can push them to work all the harder themselves. This is certainly true for Kim Andre Langholz, a marketing consultant from Denmark.
“I’ve tried so many methods to get things done and stay motivated but the only thing that has been really effective and also more fun is to rent an office space in a co-work environment.”
Kim and his wife prefer running their online business while surrounded by others with similar goals. This also provides networking opportunities that they wouldn’t have if they chose to work from home every day.
And co-working spaces are becoming more and more prevalent with the rise of remote work and the digital nomad lifestyle, so no matter where in the world you happen to be, there will undoubtedly be one in close proximity. Alternatively, if co-working spaces aren’t available in your area yet, you can try a WiFi-friendly cafe.
Check out the following resources to locate co-working spaces, shared offices, and WiFi cafes near you:
Productivity Hack #4: Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity hack developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo that uses short bursts of intense focus punctuated by frequent breaks.
The idea is to work on a single task for a period of 30 minutes without distractions. This means no checking your phone, no opening new tabs, no browsing Facebook or getting up to grab a snack. If the task you’re working on is answering emails, you answer emails until the timer runs out.
Pomodoro, meaning “tomato” in Italian, comes from the creator’s use of a tomato-shaped kitchen timer while developing the technique. Each work period of 3o minutes is considered one pomodoro, and breaks in between are 5 minutes each. After four pomodoros have passed, you take a break of longer duration–usually 15 or 20 minutes.
This method works well for people who feel like they constantly jump from one task to the next and make slow progress as a result. Consistent use of the Pomodoro Technique can help your productivity by managing your time more efficiently and focusing on just one thing at a time.
The longer you use it, the more familiar you will become with the number of pomodoros it takes you to finish various tasks. According to the Pomorodo website:
“True mastery of the technique takes from seven to twenty days of constant use.”
Of course, while some people swear by it, the Pomodoro Technique is one productivity hack with its fair share of critics, too. Learn more about the pros and cons to find out whether or not the Pomodoro Technique is right for you. It might even be useful to implement this technique for some tasks but not for others.
If you want to try it on for size, simply use any timer on your phone or computer or download one of the free Pomodoro apps to help you track your progress.
Productivity Hack #5: Motivate Yourself with Rewards
What better way to smash through your morning’s tasks than to incentivize completion of your to-do list with a reward? For Leah Shoup, a location independent freelance translator, this technique works wonders:
“As silly as this sounds, I have always been motivated by rewards. So, I set mini-goals for myself throughout the day. For example, if I get 1,000 words translated by noon, I can go have a pumpkin spice latte. If I pick up an extra translation, I can buy those shoes I really want. I’m not sure if this would work for everyone, but it definitely works for me! The rewards can be from anything as small as buying a cupcake to something big like booking a cheap flight.”
And rewards don’t have to involve a monetary investment, either. What motivates me is thinking of how I’ll spend my next break. I enjoy yoga as a meditative practice, so I tell myself I’ll get to do yoga once a specific task is done. Other days, I’ll use my break to listen to a podcast or read a few pages of a book I’ve been meaning to finish.
Knowing that something I’ve been looking forward to is just on the other side of a completed task provides me with the extra motivation I need to power through.
Celebrating small milestones throughout the day is a fantastic way to keep morale high, especially while working on things that you don’t enjoy. No task is too small to be rewarded, either–those little pats on the back give you a psychological boost and remind you that progress is indeed being made.
Keeping a written task list as a visual representation of your progress can be a huge motivator, too. The forward momentum I gain from crossing something off my list carries me right into my next task.
Productivity Hack #6: Set Your Own Office Hours & Stick To Them
Having a flexible work schedule means I can work at any time, any day of the week–and while it might seem counterintuitive, this is actually a huge detriment to my productivity.
If I can work on a Saturday, that means I can procrastinate on tasks that I should really just finish during the week. And if I can work on Sunday, too, I can put those tasks off even further.
What ends up happening is that my important-but-non-urgent tasks get put on the back-burner indefinitely, because as soon as Monday rolls around, the week’s most time-sensitive tasks are once again all I can think about. If I don’t set specific working hours during which all the week’s tasks need to be completed, some tasks simply won’t get done.
Alternatively, I’ll be cutting into time I could otherwise be spending with the people I care about. And who wouldn’t rather be out with friends on the weekend or hanging with family in the evenings?
The large majority of people I know have standard working hours, i.e. 9 to 5 with weekends off. When I put off tasks until Saturday, I run the risk of turning into a hermit because I’ll have to decline to socialize.
As a result, I’ve made a more conscious effort to work while my friends are working so I can be free when they are free. My day starts around 9 or 10 in the morning and concludes by 5 or 6 in the evening. This certainly hasn’t eliminated my need to work on the weekends or at night from time to time, but I know that I have a finite amount of hours to work with each day, and this motivates me to procrastinate less.
Productivity Hack #7: Keep a Tight To-Do List
The To-Do List: one of the most classic productivity hacks of all time.
We’ve already mentioned to-do lists a few times, and while I definitely think they’re necessary for staying productive whether you work at home or not, I also think there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it.
The Wrong Way: Writing down every possible thing you can think of that needs to get done, whether it’s in the next five minutes, today, this week, or “someday” and whether or not it’s relevant to your work.
Just thinking about a to-do list like the one above gives me a tight feeling in my chest–what’s that called again?–oh yeah…ANXIETY.
You can’t possibly do everything in a day, so there’s no need to include the stuff that’s won’t affect your life in any way, shape, or form if it doesn’t get done immediately. All this does is give you more to worry about while diluting your attention when it should be honed in on what needs to happen now.
The Right Way: Pare down your list to no more than 3-5 of your most important tasks for the day.
Every one of us will have different metrics for determining the relative importance of each task, but once you get used to categorizing things in this way, you’ll know exactly what to tackle first every day.
By finding the productivity hacks that are right for you, you’ll be working from home smarter, not harder, and taking back firm control of your schedule (and your life).
What are your favorite productivity hacks when working from home?