In its common usage, working from home is generally understood to be a euphemism for getting paid to clean my apartment and watch Netflix while periodically checking my email. And sometimes it is, which is great. But for those of us who work from home frequently or always, we’ve got to actually get things done. Here are some tips, as devised by yours truly, for maximizing your productivity from home.
1. Take a morning walk. You, working from home, have no commute. However, I’m a big believer in rituals, mind games, whatever you want to call it, that separate work time from general being at home time. Start every day off with a short brisk walk (20-30 min or more). It’ll clear your head, give you a bit of exercise, and create a transition into your workday.
2. Get dressed. Again, work time is when you work. Even if no one will see you, put some actual clothes on. I’m not saying you have to go full power suit, but even changing out of pajamas and into street clothes will remind you that you have a job to do.
3. Set regular work hours. Even – especially – if you don’t have to.
4. Keep your house or apartment clean. My apartment has what’s called an “open plan”: the kitchen, living room and home office nook are all connected to each other without full walls. (My mom, an HGTV aficionado, tells me that this is all the rage in home design.) As a result, I have an inviting open space – but if one part of it is untidy, the whole thing looks like a mess. I’m not a born neatfreak, but when my space is clean, I’m more calm and focused. Even if you have a home office with a door, seeing that big pile of dirty laundry every time you take a bathroom break is bound to split your focus between work and chores. Make it easy for yourself. Tidy up a little every night, and clean on the weekends.
5. Utilize the buddy system. (Sidebar: remember that 90’s cinematic classic Heavyweights, wherein the weird European lifeguard would periodically yell “Buhdday!”? Also, Ben Stiller with a mullet.) If you are lucky enough to have other friends working from home, meet somewhere every day and work side by side. If you don’t, make sure that you build a little social time into every day, even if it’s as simple as meeting a friend at the gym.
6. Don’t snack – cook. Again, that whole no commute thing is gold – and since your office is your home, you have full control over what’s in the snack pantry. Use your lunch hour to cook and enjoy an actual meal. Feel incredibly sanctimonious. Take pictures of your best creations and send them to your most patient friend. Or your mom (Why do u keep sending me this stuff? my mom finally replied.)
7. Set goals and reward yourself. This is applicable to those who work in an office, and non-work life generally. But for those of us whose works schedules are more amorphous (and who have a few big deadlines, as opposed to daily or even weekly ones), it’s even more crucial. Both parts are equally crucial. E.g.: When, not if, I reach my goal tonight, I can watch an episode of Unreal. When, not if, I reach my weekly goal by Friday, I can get a pedicure. Maybe you are less juvenile than I am and don’t need this, but without your boss literally breathing over my shoulder, I need to incentivize myself to stay motivated.
8. Take breaks. Ideally short ones that involve physical activity. Take a walk around the block (I’m big on walking). Or lie down on the floor and stretch. No one’s watching.
9. Close out your workday. In the email age, of course, we’re all reachable all the time, so ending your workday may be a technicality – yet a crucial one nonetheless. Close your computer. Change clothes. Find an excuse to leave your apartment. Again, ritual and mind games.
10. For the love of all that is holy, DO NOT work in bed. You’ll be less productive and you’ll screw with your sleep hygiene. Your laptop does not go past the doorway to your bedroom (or, if you live in a studio, the area of your apartment where your bed is). Period. And that includes using your laptop to watch TV.
11. Have cats. My love of cats is well documented here on this site, so clearly I’m not quite objective on this one. That said, if you have a cat or two, you might spend less time procrastinating by watching cat videos. Or not. Either way, you can procrastinate by making your furry friends sailor hats out of Post-Its. They just love that.