Work from Home: 12 Productivity Hacks

In this post, I talk about increasing productivity when working from home. While it’s not directly related to personal finance, we all know that time is money and losing focus could mean missing an important deadline, losing out on a new gig and extra funds. So study up!

I’ve been working from home for over four years now and every time I tell someone new about my situation I hear, “You’re so lucky” or “I wish I could work from home!” While it’s a blessing in many ways, it’s not always easy. It’s tough being home all day, every day. Luckily, I travel for media calls often. Whether it’s to LA for a day or NYC for a week, changing up my pace and space breaks the monotony. And, forget about focusing on a task when the house is a complete mess. If I sit down to write a story or finish a pitch knowing there’s an unfinished chore like a stack of dirty dishes in the sink, my mind wanders back to it. Not to mention all the distractions that pop up at the doorstep like the pest control guy who needs to chat about increasing our quarterly services to more frequent (and expensive!) monthly visits or the occasional charity looking for donations. There’s also the fact that I never truly leave my office when I’m done with work, it’s always luring me back after dinner and on the weekends.

Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of perks that come along with working from home for which I feel grateful for. I work around my most productive hours and utilize the time that I can’t concentrate to run errands or walk my dog. I can slip in a midday workout and not worry about returning to the office with sweat-soaked clothes. I can write off a portion of my utilities and other monthly expenses thanks to my home office deduction, and I don’t have to fumble through my closet every morning trying to find something “new” to wear. While that may sound like a dream come true, those who lack self motivation could end up in trouble or easily distracted.

At the end of the day, I would never give up my work-from-home life. I’ve just learned how to adjust and push distractions to the side even when the surroundings are challenging me to do otherwise. If you’re in a similar situation or about to embark on the work-from-home journey, consider my 12 tips for boosting productivity.

1. Designate a space just for work. If you’re working from your living room or kitchen or have a desk in your bedroom, there’s no barrier between your personal and work life. By creating a specific space just for work, you’ll be able to withdraw yourself from the rest of your surroundings while increasing your focus.

2. Get up and get dressed! When you don’t have to worry about appearances, you may be likely to roll out of bed, grab a cup of coffee and begin typing away for hours before realizing you are still in pajamas come 2pm. While that sounds like a dream to those who put on a suit everyday, it actually has a way of making you feel meaningless and sluggish. Dressing up as if you’re going to an office will motivate you and make you feel confident.

3. Start work at the same time everyday. Don’t fall into the trap of sleeping in late. Set a work schedule and an alarm so you can begin at the same time everyday. After a few weeks, it will become a habit and helps you establish a work schedule.

4. Set up lunch dates with professional friends. It’s hard to go from an office filled with colleagues whom you can catch up about the latest episode of Mad Men or complain about a client to sitting at home all alone. Meeting up with friends and their business associates for lunch during the week will break up the monotony of your day while giving you a chance to socialize.

5. Take advantage of your most productive hours. Once you find yourself watching Youtube videos, browsing online retail sites or distracted by social media, it’s time to clear your head. Go for a walk or run a few errands and then return when you are ready to focus again. After a few weeks of watching such habits, you can design a work schedule that fits around your most productive and creative hours. For me, early morning and late afternoon are when I get the most done!

6. Shut the office door. If you have a family who is always bugging you while you’re in your office, it’s important to set the understanding that when you are in your office you are off limits. Consider placing a sign that says “Busy” or “On a Conference Call” during important meetings.

7. Manage your mobile phone. From text messages to social media updates to SnapChats and celebrity gossip news updates, your smartphone is the biggest distraction around your home. Let personal calls go to voicemail and turn off  notifications on other apps so you don’t get tempted away from your task (unless of course you’re job is managing social media content!).

8. Leave chores for after work hours. Try to get any household chores done before you go to bed or wake up early to finish so it doesn’t distract you away from work during the day.

9. Pre-pay for an exercise class in the early morning. You are forced to get up early. The workout will give you an added boost of energy so you start your day feeling productive. This usually leads to a more active work day, too.

10. Keep a to-do list. Review your emails and calendar for upcoming deadlines every morning and write down your daily agenda. Complete the easiest tasks first like responding to an email or filing out a time sheet. Checking such items off your list will make you feel productive. The list also helps you prioritize.

11. Stay organized to reduce stress. Clutter makes you feel overwhelmed and anxious which will keep you from getting work done efficiently. If you don’t have one, get a filing cabinet and set up a filing system for all your bills, papers and other stuff laying around your office. Declutter on the same day every week so it becomes a habit.

12. Disconnect from WiFi. For those who find themselves surfing the Web and can’t focus on finishing an important writing assignment or another task that doesn’t require Internet connection, disconnect from WiFi. For those who get tempted to watch TV, lock your remote in the car or ask your spouse/children to hide it. Sometimes you have to take it that extra step to tame temptation but it works!

How do you stay focused and productive?

Andrea Woroch

Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who regularly contributes to leading national and regional news stories. She has appeared on NBC's Today Show, Dr. OZ, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, CNN, ABC News with Diane Sawyer, and been quoted in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Better Homes & Garden and many others. Andrea also enjoys writing articles for various personal finance and lifestyle websites and blogs. Andrea is passionate about sharing ideas and tips to help you live on less without having to sacrifice. She says making a few small tweaks to daily and monthly spending is all you need to do to achieve your dreams within your means. Follow Andrea on Facebook and Twitter for daily savings tips and check back for new videos, magazine stories and blog posts all about saving money!

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