Man working on the floor with a laptop

The concept of working from home sounds great doesn’t it? If you didn’t actually have to get anything done then it really would be easy. Unfortunately this is not the case and even though you’re sitting comfortably at home, things still need to get done!

Years ago, I used to work from my home as a freelance graphic & web designer. I did this successfully for many years. During that time I learnt some valuable lessons about how to be productive and successfully run my small freelance business from home. In the very beginning I did struggle to focus. I got distracted easily and knew I was not being as productive as I could be.

It took me a couple of years to really get to grips with things, and figure out where I was going wrong. I’m writing this article to pass on what I’ve learned, and to let you know what works for me, in the hope that it may be of some use to you.

So, here are my 7 tips to help you stay productive when working from home.

1. Home life distractions

If you live with your partner, family, or kids, then you will probably have major distractions to deal with. Whatever work you are doing, you need to be able to concentrate if you want to keep your productivity levels high.

If you are doing work that requires a lot of concentration, then a 1 minute disturbance can actually cost you a lot than 1 minute. Meaning; when you are really ‘stuck-in’, or ‘on-a-roll’, you are in a certain frame of mind. A state of mind where everything else is out of your head and you are highly focused on the task at hand. When you get disturbed you cannot easily get back to this highly focussed state of mind. It could take another 30 minutes, or more.

To try and minimise the distractions it’s worth talking to those who you live with and explaining that, while you are working, you would like not to be disturbed. All home lives are different, sometimes this may be difficult, or even impossible. By letting those in your household know, hopefully it will have at least some effect.

One further point on this before we move on. At times it can be incredibly frustrating to be disturbed while you are trying to get something done. Just try to remember that whoever it is that is disturbing you doesn’t mean to frustrate you. Just try to stay calm and explain that you are currently working and will do what they are asking for at a later time. 

2. General distractions

If you want to be productive while working from home then you need to look at what distracts you and try to remove the distraction, or the temptation.

If you find yourself picking your phone up every 2 minutes, then put it in another room while you’re working. If you’re a phone junkie but need your phone for work, consider getting a separate phone for business purposes only. Or, you could put your sim card in an old, non-smart phone, during working hours. Good luck checking your lnsta on that!

For many people Social Media is a big problem. It’s all too easy to whip open a new browser tab and start the mindless scrolling. If you work on a computer then this could be a tricky one. You could try promising yourself not to use social media while you’re working. If that doesn’t work, you could take more extreme measures and block social media sites from your router during your work hours.

It’s all about being able to get yourself in the right frame of mind for work, which to begin with can be a very hard thing to do. If your weaknesses and potential distractions are readily to hand it’s easy to crack.

Everyone is different, what works for one person may not work for another. Ultimately, if you don’t have the willpower to resist your distractions then try to remove them from your environment. After doing this for a while your brain learns to focus. You will soon, easily, be able to resist any tempting distractions.

3. A work place

I think it’s important to have a dedicated place to work in your home. When you are sat there, mentally, you know you are working. Not only can this help you to get in the right frame of mind but it lets your family know that you are working. When you are sat there, they will know that you are trying to work, and will (hopefully) think twice before disturbing you.

I know that not everyone has the luxury of a spare room to set up an office in. Second best to your own home office, is a permanent place at a desk or table, for example the dining room table. For me, personally, I need to be sat at a desk. I can work on the sofa, on a laptop, at a push, but I’m at least 50% less productive.

4. Dress

I recently attended an on line seminar that was aimed at helping business owners to get their employees to be productive while they are working from home. One of the recommendations was to get employees to dress in work clothing while at home. With all due respect to him, he had some very valid points during his presentation, but this was not one of them. Personally, I completely disagree with that. Dress for comfort, if you want to sit there and work in your jogging bottoms and a hoody that’s absolutely fine. And why not? The last thing you want to be doing is wasting 30 minutes per day pulling your suit trousers out of your backside!

One of the benefits of working from home is that you can wear what you want, so why not take advantage of that and wear comfortable clothes? If you’re comfortable you can concentrate, and if you can concentrate then it’s much easier to get your work done.

Having said that, if you find that getting dressed up in your work clothes helps with your routine, or helps you to focus, then great, go for it! Obviously, if you have video conferences or meetings, you may want to dress in something a little more appropriate for them.

5. A decent chair

This is serious, I’m not joking here. I’d say this is one of the most important things to consider when you are working from home! If you are trying to work on a dining room chair, or some stool that was kicking about under the stairs, you’re going to have a bad time! I know from personal experience, that sitting all day, on an uncomfortable chair, eventually leads to all types of aches and pains. Not to mention the dreaded backache.

Apart from the aches and pains, an uncomfortable chair can really have an impact on your ability to concentrate. You don’t want to be squirming about on your chair all day trying to get comfortable. Once again, If you are comfortable you stand a much better chance of being able to actually concentrate on your work.

6. Routine

A routine is a good thing when it comes to working from home. During your set working hours your mind knows that you should be working, I find that this helps.

Not only does it help with your frame of mind, but other members of your household will also be more likely to understand that during this time you are working, and you shouldn’t be disturbed.

7. Take breaks

It’s important to take breaks throughout the day, not just for your sanity, but for other health reasons too. I know some people like to take a break much more regularly than me, I’m actually pretty bad for this, but that’s probably because of my line of work. When I’m stuck into designing something, or ‘on-a-roll’, I like to keep it going, but that’s just the way I work best. I usually work flat-out for many hours at a time. When I do take a break it might be for a bit longer than other people.

At the end of the day, you need to try and figure out what works best for you. Regular breaks are important, but not so regular that you don’t get anything done! You might find that if you get up every hour and go for a little walk around the house that it helps to keep your mind fresh. You may be more like me and prefer to work for longer periods, and then take a longer break. Or, you may be somewhere in the middle. However you take your breaks, just remember to look after yourself.

Good luck!

If you are currently working from home, whether because of Covid-19, or you already worked from home, then I wish you the best of luck. If you are currently struggling with it, then just remember it gets easier with time!