Updated July 10th 2018
Working remotely can be a dream.
That is, until you’re sitting at home and realize you’ve wasted your whole morning without getting anything done.
That’s the pitfall: You’re your own supervisor, but that doesn’t mean you’re qualified for it.
Or at least, not yet.
It’s surprisingly easy to make yourself more productive while you work from home, and if you follow the tips below, you’ll find out exactly why so many are choosing to do this kind of work.
Set a schedule and form a routine
Working from home gives you a great deal of freedom.
But that also means you’re free to do anything but work.
It may seem to run counter to the whole point of working remotely, but one of the first steps toward productivity is to give yourself some structure.
Make lists and set times by which you want to complete certain tasks. You might also try breaking your work into manageable, focused chunks by using the Pomodoro Technique or something similar.
Perhaps most importantly, tell yourself what your work day will be – 9-5, 11-7, 5-1? – and mentally clock yourself in and out just as you would do at an office.
On a related note…
Set clear (physical) boundaries
Your routine should make proper use of the physical space in your home.
That starts with not misusing the spaces you use for other things.
For instance, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t work in your bedroom, and plenty of these apply to other recreational spaces in your home.
So designate an entire room as your office if you can; if that’s not an option, a corner of a less-trafficked room could work.
All of this makes the schedule and “clocking out” I mentioned above that much more tangible – you’re stopping work at a specific time, but you’re also physically leaving your workspace.
Drawing lines around your schedule and your physical space is crucial to keeping your work and non-work lives from blurring together too much.
Take care of yourself
Your productivity depends heavily on your surroundings, but the most important factor may be your physical and mental well-being.
Chief among these is your sleep schedule, which is another big reason to set a regular workday and keep work separate from your bedroom.
You should also make sure you’re getting enough natural light. Working from home makes it easy to stay inside – sometimes for days on end – but your body needs light to regulate itself.
Make sure you’re exercising, whether that be with desk exercises or heading out to the local gym.
And since you’re at home, you’re free to make yourself something healthy for lunch rather than eating junk or breaking the bank at a restaurant every day.
Plenty of healthy behaviours can be combined, too; do exercises during your Pomodoro breaks, or get some light in the morning by going for a quick run around the neighbourhood.
However you do it, always keep in mind that a lack of focus or energy can often be traced back to your sleep, diet, or exercise habits.
Get the right equipment
In an office, you’re at the mercy of whatever your employer has provided for you.
But at home, you can and should maximise your comfort and well-being with better furniture.
Adjustable stands for your computer monitor and an ergonomic office chair will help your neck and back.
Get a desk that’s the proper size for you, or even consider an adjustable sit-stand desk if you’re feeling ambitious.
Remember, this is your space – make sure it works for you.
Make time for human interaction
One thing a lot of people don’t mention about working from home: It can get incredibly lonely.
You may not like all the co-workers in your office, but at least they’re there to talk to if need be.
At home, it’s a different story – it often seems like you should refuse socialising during times where you could be getting more work done.
And while that’s sometimes true, that socialisation is a lot more valuable than you think.
So grab coffee with a friend in the area if you can, chat up a co-worker online during a break, or phone a relative if it’s hard to see someone in person.
When all else fails, break from your routine
Your schedule is important for making your days as productive as they can be.
But the other great thing about a routine is that you can benefit from breaking it.
While this shouldn’t be taken overboard, it’s hard to beat the thrill of going out of town for the day in the middle of the week, or even doing something fun right in your own city.
Breaking routine can be productive, too; when I feel like a space isn’t helping me get work done anymore, I take a break from it and work from a local coffee shop for a day or three.
Be as creative as you like with this. You have all the freedom of working remotely, after all.
The freedom of working remotely is both a blessing and a curse.
But once you’re aware of the pitfalls and take steps to get past them, it could be the most enjoyable work you’ve ever done.