I’m not going to lie: working from home is challenging in the digital age.
From online shopping deliveries to funny cat videos on social media, it’s so easy to get distracted when you’re supposed to be knuckling down. Right?
As a freelance writer who has been working from home full-time for the last three years, I realised early on that you have to be self-disciplined or you simply won’t get anything done. Even now, I struggle to stay motivated sometimes.
However, there are some things I’ve learned to do that will get me back on track. If you’re struggling to stay productive as a new home worker, not to worry — I’ve got you covered with these working from home tips for maximum efficiency.
1. Devise a Working Day
Working from home tips 101: set working hours.
Why? Well, it really helps to devise and stick to a routine so that you can distinguish between the times you’re at home in “work mode” and the times you’re at home in “chill mode.”
Whether it’s 9-3pm while your kids are at school or 12-8pm because you like a good lie-in, bring a little structure to your day and watch as your productivity levels soar.
2. Write a To-Do List Before You Tackle Anything
Buy a business diary, notebook or online calendar and work out exactly what you need to get done on a particular day ahead of time.
I’ve said it before on this blog and I’ll say it again: planning and preparation prevent p*ss poor performance. And writing a to-do list will make you absolutely clear on your goals for the day and what needs to be achieved.
3. Plan Out Your Day
Some people like to plan out their day to a T but others like to wing it to keep things interesting.
Personally, I find that I work most effectively when I know what I’m doing in the morning pre-lunch and what I’m doing in the afternoon post-lunch according to the amount of time that I have. And then I can just get on with it.
4. Do the Hard Tasks When You’re the Most Productive
The longer you work from home, the clearer it will become when it comes to which time of the day that you’re the most productive.
For instance, mine is in the morning.
When you figure out yours, make sure you’re doing all your most difficult tasks during this time to boss the cr*p out of them.
5. Consider Batch-Tasking
One of the best working from home tips I could give you is to batch-task.
This is where you group tasks according to their category. Then you book out a certain amount of time (or perhaps the whole day) to focus purely on that category.
Apparently, this works well because you wire your brain to deal with a specific task and consequently utilise the time that your brain is in this “mode” to help speed up the task.
Makes sense, right?
6. Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a famous time management method. It involves breaking down the time that you work into smaller intervals (25 minutes) and then having a short rest (5 minutes).
This can help significantly when you do something mentally exhausting for a living (like freelance writing).
7. Allocate a Time Limit for Each Task
A little trick that I’ve picked up over the years to ensure I’m working efficiently at home is to give myself a time limit for a specific task.
For example, if I have to write a client blog post, I’ll assign 60 minutes to get the words in the document — and not a minute longer.
For some reason, when I know I have to get something done in a certain time frame, it helps me to do it. I’m not sure why, but this technique really does work.
8. Get Dressed
One of the most effective working from home tips I could tell you is to get out of your pyjamas.
Sure, it’s super tempting to just roll out of bed at the last minute, throw on your dressing gown and fire up your laptop. However, do you know what will really help you get going in the morning? If you’re fully dressed for the day ahead.
Dress like you mean business and you will dominate your business. Fact.
9. Brush Your Teeth
Just like getting dressed will trick your body into thinking it’s going out to work, so will brushing your teeth.
And no one likes a stinky mouth when they’re trying to kick their work’s butt anyway, right?
10. Have a Designated Office Space
If you’re working at home temporarily, you’d be forgiven for thinking that your sofa “will do” as a makeshift office — or even your bed.
But I’m sorry to tell you that this isn’t going to help you get motivated to work. At all.
Instead, find a designated “work spot” in your house that will put you in “work mode” every time you’re there. (A physical office works best, but this could also be a desk in your bedroom or even the kitchen table).
This helps you to make the distinction between business and pleasure and consequently provides you with a healthier work-life balance.
11. Work On a Table
Speaking of work areas, it goes without saying that you need to work on a table.
After all, having a laptop sliding off your knee every time you’re trying to send an email will only prolong the time it takes to send it (i.e. fifteen minutes instead of five.
Trust me, I’ve been there.
12. Sit On a Comfy Chair
Similarly, sitting on a chair that supports your back is a must when you’re working from home.
As someone who has developed back problems from sitting on her fair share of wooden chairs, I cannot stress this enough.
Plus, when you’re uncomfortable, it’s a well-known fact that you lose productivity from constantly shuffling around.
13. Sit Properly
Speaking of sitting correctly, try not to slouch at your desk.
A good chair will help your posture stay intact, but only if you’re sat on it properly and not leaning into your laptop (like I typically do).
14. Keep Your Computer at Eye-Level
For that matter, keep your computer at eye-level to ensure that you’re sat up straight and sitting comfortably.
With laptops, you tend to look down if your desk isn’t very high and this can cause neck ache, headache and/or backache.
To solve this problem, try using a laptop stand like this affordable one from Amazon (*).
15. Make Sure You Have a Decent Computer
If you’re working from home for the foreseeable future, it’s worth investing in high-quality equipment for work purposes, i.e. a decent laptop or desktop.
Newsflash: the amount of stress that comes with trying to get something done on a time limit when your 2001 laptop is lagging and Norman from Company X wants his article yesterday just isn’t worth it.
16. Fully Charge Your Computer
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been in the middle of an extremely important task and then my laptop dies.
(Cue a lot of cursing that almost results in me throwing my laptop out of the window.)
Learn from my mistake and fully charge your computer before you even start your working day from home — and then you don’t have to deal with this later on when tensions might be running high.
17. Make Sure You Have Everything You Need On Your Desk
Likewise, make sure you have everything you need for your day of working from home around you before you even begin.
This will avoid you having to inevitably interrupt your concentration, grab different things from different rooms and disrupt your flow (which can sometimes be hard to get back).
18. Eliminate Unnecessary Noise
Make sure your home office space is in a quiet area. In other words, don’t set up shop at the front of your living room if your house is on the edge of a busy road.
This will ensure that you get as much done as possible without having to worry about distractions.
19. Listen to Background Music
Do you work better with background music rather than complete silence? Well, this makes sense given that putting some on while you’re hard at it is renowned for aiding concentration.
However, if you feel like background music isn’t your jam, no worries. You might prefer calming sounds or even a podcast that’s relevant to what you’re working on.
Just do whatever works best for you.
20. Put Your Phone on “Do Not Disturb”
Talking of noise, it’s important to leave your phone in another room or put it on “Do Not Disturb” mode.
This will allow you to be totally in the zone.
Expecting work-related calls? That’s okay — just have your phone charging nearby to avoid checking social media when you should be cracking on.
(We all do it.)
21. Tell Your Household Not to Disturb You
If you live with friends or family members who are likely to be home when you’re working, be sure to tell them not to disturb you.
I mean, it’s amazing how many times a roommate will wander into your office space and try to distract you with conversations about their friend’s latest love affair or what they’re planning to make for their dinner.
Three words though: don’t give in.
22. Keep Your Browser Tabs to a Minimum
When it comes to your computer, try not to have browser tabs open that aren’t relevant to your current task.
If you find this challenging (like many of us do), give yourself an allotted time to check out all the cool things on the web once you’ve finished what you’re doing.
This will serve as an incentive to spur you on.
23. Avoid Social Media
One of the most efficient working from home tips is to avoid social media like the plague.
Whether you need to temporarily disable your notifications or block the websites from your browser, do whatever it takes to stop getting stuck down an Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok hole.
I guarantee you won’t regret it.
24. Only Check Your Emails At Certain Times
I used to find that checking emails as soon as they came in – even if I was halfway through a task – really hindered my productivity levels.
It was like as soon as the notification popped up, I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. And it prevented me finishing what I was already doing.
Nowadays, I turn off my notifications or completely close down my email provider and dedicate some time for emails at specific points in the day — and this sure does help me to stay on-task.
25. Drink Plenty of Water
Make sure you have a glass of water on your desk at all times when you’re working from home.
Why? Well, your brain knows when your body is dehydrated and will start conserving its resources. This means that you’ll have less space and energy for the task you’re working on.
Fuel your brain by drinking plenty of water and this will help you stay alert and focused throughout your working day.
26. Have Other Liquids to Hand
In addition to water, you might want to have other drinks nearby that stimulate your energy levels, such as tea and coffee.
That said, if you’re not already a tea and coffee drinker, it’s best not to fall down the rabbit hole of needing caffeine to pick you up.
(Ah, the good old days…)
27. Eat a Healthy Lunch and Snacks
As well as consuming liquids, it’s a good idea to eat healthily while you’re working from home.
A hearty fibre-based breakfast (like oatmeal) will help you to sustain energy throughout the day when teamed with a decent lunch (consisting of protein, starchy carbohydrates and greens).
You could also throw in a couple of nutritious snacks that are good for your brain health, such as a handful of nuts, pumpkin seeds and blueberries.
28. Take a Lunch Break
Speaking of lunch, be sure to actually take a lunch break when you’re working from home.
(Even if it’s tempting to work straight through.)
Again, this will bring structure to your day and get you away from your desk, which is needed to create a good work-life balance.
29. Get Up Out of Your Chair Regularly
As well as leaving your desk for lunch, take regular breaks where you stretch and move around.
After all, your body starts to suffer when you’re sat for too long.
Get it moving and you’ll burn calories, increase your energy levels and stimulate your creative juices to be able to finish your task quicker.
30. Get Some Fresh Air
While you’re on a break from working at home, step outside and get some fresh air.
Whether you go for a short stroll or drive to your latest supermarket for some essentials, it’s good to change up your environment every now and again.
This really aids your mental health and wellbeing and allows you to be more efficient at work.
31. Do Some Exercise
If you’re struggling to get stuff done at home because you just can’t seem to concentrate (no matter how hard you try), take a break and do some exercise.
I’m talking about doing a bit of yoga, going for a run or even making up a home workout.
Trust me, it can clear your mind like nothing else — and mentally prepare you for the task ahead.
32. Check-In With Humans At Least Once
Some people (mainly extroverts) have a hard time following these working from home tips and being on their own when they’re so used to being around other people.
If this sounds like you, be sure to check in with another human being at least once throughout your working day.
Whether this is a colleague on Zoom or your partner who also works from home, social time is important for feeling connected to the world and ultimately curbing loneliness.
(And I’m sorry to say that your beloved pooch Alfred doesn’t count.)
33. Have an Accountability Partner
Talking of other humans, if the work still isn’t happening at home, ask a loved one or colleague to be your accountability partner.
This should be someone who you speak with every day to tell them about the tasks you have to do, so they can follow-up with you at a later time and check that you’ve done them.
With this, there’s a little bit more effort involved rather than just getting on with the work. But it is a life-saver for those who have a short attention span.
34. Work Towards a Reward
When you’re working from home, you should always have a reward in place that you can look forward to while you’re doing a certain task.
For instance, your lunchtime reward could be watching an episode of your favourite Netflix TV show while you’re eating. Or you could let yourself have a cheeky cup of tea and biscuit mid-afternoon if you manage to complete your financial spreadsheet in time.
Either way, this technique really encourages you to get your head down faster. I mean, the sooner you get your work done, the sooner you can have your reward. Aces.
35. Don’t Force It If It’s Just Not Happening
Finally, if you’ve done all of the above suggestions and you still can’t seem to get anything done at home, abandon work for now and do something else.
The holy grail of working from home tips is that you shouldn’t force it if it’s just not happening. This will only cause burnout, which can take you a long time to recover from.
Instead, try again later (if possible) when you’re feeling calmer and re-energised to get better results.
Things to Keep in Mind with These Working From Home Tips
Working from home sure does take some getting used to if you’ve never done it much before (or at all).
However, it’s important to keep in mind that distractions happen.
Don’t be too hard on yourself and remember you’re a human being who only has so many hours in the day.
Some days will be more productive and others won’t — and that’s just how the cookie crumbles.
How do you stay productive if you’re working from your house? Do you have any other working from home tips you can share? Let me know in the comments!