Monday, April 28, 2014

Working From Home is Hard Work: 8 Tips to Help You Be More Productive

What would you say you're trying to do here?

I've spent the better part of the past 5 years working from home as a freelance writer, editor, blogger and online content creator. I'm a self-motivated, no-nonsense, disciplined individual, and you would think that I'd be bustin' the productivity. Uh, not so much. At least, not always. 

In my experience, working from home is, well, hard work. I've spent countless hours unmotivated and distracted while cultivating the mindset of, “I’ll do that tomorrow.” It’s hard to stay focused and on track. But here are 8 secrets that I use to boost my productivity.

Get out of the house. Not every day, but maybe once or twice a week. You will be amazed at how a change of scenery can boost your productivity. From cranking out projects to brainstorming inspiration, you have fewer distractions (TV, snacks, laundry, household tasks), and a new perspective. Sometimes that's all it takes for me to get unstuck. Head to the local library, coffee shop, park, museum, wherever. In fact, I outlined this blog at the library and then shifted to Caribou Coffee for a Ho Ho Mint coffee and a hunk of warm monkey bread.

Go offline. When you leave the house, leave the devices (exception: cell phone). Bring paper, pen and your brain. Go old school. Some of my best ideas come from scritching and scratching around on a legal pad. Crossing out thoughts, drawing lines from one idea to another, cramming words in the margins. Trust me. It will get your juices flowing. Then, you can talk it all back to your home office and tap, tap, tap it out. Ka-Boom!

Set some office hours and respect them. This is where it gets tough. Because I’m home during the day, the underlying expectation is that I will do the laundry, cook some food, walk the dog, clean a toilet or two. Define your office hours, and stick to them. My hours tend to be traditional office hours because that's what works with my schedule. Find a block of time that works for you. 

Put your phone out of sight and out of mind. If you’re like me (and the rest of the smartphone world), every time your device rings, dings or sings, you jump. And if you’re like me, most of the time that e-mail or text message is scarily insignificant. Schedule time to check e-mail (every hour or so works for me), but remove the phone and turn it off if necessary. If it’s sitting in view, it’s too much of a distraction. It’s too easy to claim you need a mental break and before you know it, you’ve wasted an hour checking Facebook, rescuing pets, crushing candy or whooping up on a friend with a word.

Speaking of mental breaks, take one. After your butt’s been planted in a chair for an hour or two, give yourself a quick break. We’re talking 10-15 minutes. Walk the dog, do some yoga stretches (but not Camel, never ever do Camel), check Facebook, switch out some laundry. Then get back to it. You will feel mentally and physically refreshed and ready to roll.

Schedule a lunch break. I’m guilty of snacking through the day. I use it as a distraction – "Oh, look! A bag of pretzels. Those would go good with a dab of mustard. And now I’m thirsty." You get the picture. Any reason to get out of my chair when I should be working. At lunchtime, I’m not hungry, but by dinner I’m starving. Everything gets out of whack. I try to make myself take a 30 minute lunch around the same time each day. A real lunch. Sandwich, soup, leftovers. I read a book or check in on social media. When I get back to it, I’m refreshed.

Take a shower and get dressed in real clothes every day. Not a business suit or high heels, but not pajamas. 

Make yourself comfortable. By that I mean your environment. Too cold? Put on a sweater or turn up the heat a notch. Too hot? Open a window, turn down the AC. Go potty the instant you realize you  need to go potty. Taking care of those basic needs goes a long way toward productivity.

These are some tips and tricks that work for me. What works for you? 

Thanks for reading! Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

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