Working from home productivity hacks for the modern-day remote worker
Entrepreneurship, Freelancing, Location Independence, Productivity, Remote Work

Working From Home Productivity Hacks That Actually Work

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.Working from home productivity hacks for the modern-day remote worker, freelancer, entrepreneur or digital nomad!

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

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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.Working from home productivity hacks for the modern-day remote worker

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.Working from home productivity hacks for the modern-day remote worker

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.Working from home productivity hacks for the modern-day remote worker

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.Working from home productivity hacks for the modern-day remote worker

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.”

Working from home productivity hacks for the modern-day remote worker

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.Working from home productivity hacks for the modern-day remote worker

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.Working from home productivity hacks for the modern-day remote worker

The Right Way: Pare down your list to no more than 3-5 of your most important tasks for the day.

I prefer to have mine written down with pen and paper, but if you’re more technologically inclined, try one of the online project management apps like Asana or Todoist.

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?

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  • Reply Laura May 16, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    I’ve been using the Pomodoro technique for months – best thing I’ve done for my productivity. It’s amazing what a timer can do! haha

    I’ve been looking into some coworking spaces – I’d love to go one day a week just for a change of scenery and to be around other human beings, but I just can’t justify how expensive some of them are!

    • Reply Leah Davis May 16, 2017 at 4:19 pm

      I totally get that! Co-working spaces CAN be quite expensive. I like the idea of having one available to me once or twice a week, for those rare occasions when working at home just isn’t possible (like when hosting guests who don’t respect my need to work, for example).

  • Reply Kathi May 16, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Love these tips! I’m using Pomodoro to write my phd and just got a desk for my flat to work more focused on blog tasks. I really need to improve my time management though – sometimes I work for hours without the feeling of getting anything done and I also make myself available too much…

    • Reply Leah Davis May 16, 2017 at 4:25 pm

      I suffer from both of those problems too! If I don’t write down my most important tasks, I’m likely to while away HOURS on stuff that doesn’t matter.

  • Reply Kimberly Bryant May 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Great post! Do you have any recommendations for noise-cancelling headphones that are earbuds? (Preferably wireless…) Is this even a thing?

    • Reply Leah Davis May 16, 2017 at 4:05 pm

      Haha! Yes, I do believe that’s a thing. I have some in-ear headphones that form a pretty tight seal, which effectively makes them noise-cancelling. They are called Vasa Blå, made by Sudio Sweden…and they are Bluetooth as well!

  • Reply Mani @ A New Life Wandering May 17, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Nice list. I think that setting your own office hours seems obvious but one I wouldn’t think about. I seem to just work when I have nothing to do instead of the other way around! I work on my free time, unless there’s a deadline for client work. But if it’s just for my blog, I go full days without working on it because I think I’ll do some blogging if I get the chance. Terrible. I think dedicating time for it is a great idea. I also like the idea of rewarding yourself.

    • Reply Leah Davis May 17, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Having dedicated working hours didn’t matter as much when I was living or traveling abroad, but now that I’m home in Washington and surrounded by people with standard hours, it has become super important! When I’m solo traveling, I do what I want, when I want. Now I have other people to think about!

  • Reply Nick May 19, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Thanks for this article Leah – I’ve been finding it hard to stay productive as a freelancer/blogger who works from home. The couch is definitely my kryptonite! I have started to use my Passion Planner though which helps… I guess it’s kinda similar to the pomodoro technique as the day is broken down into 30 minute chunks, so it’s easier to set mini-goals throughout the day. I will definitely try out the dedicated work hours too… great recommendation 🙂

    • Reply Leah Davis May 19, 2017 at 9:38 am

      Hey Nick! I’ve never heard of a Passion Planner but now I’m so curious! I might have to check that out as well. Hope these tips help you stay on track! Good luck 🙂

  • Reply Jeric Danao June 4, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    What an informative piece. I really appreciate it, thank you so much! Especially about the co-working space you mentioned in able for poeple to adjust to a new experience and environment.

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