How to Improve Your Productivity When Working from Home

I am lucky in that my job affords me the ability to do most of my work from home. I am usually in the office only one day a week at most. Working from home is a benefit most people don’t have and I love it — but it definitely can be a challenge. I currently have a two year old and one child on the way, so it is great to have the extra time a commute would cost me.  In over a year of working from home I have first hand experience in some of the things you can do to improve your productivity when working from home.

Working From Home
Photo by Gordonflood via Flickr

6 Tips To Make Working From Home More Productive

Designate a space

While you may think it would be awesome to sit on your couch and work all day, you are wrong. For you to be productive you are going to need all of those things you would normally have in the office. This means you need to designate a specific location in your home as “The Office.”

Another problem of not having a designated space is that you will never be away from work. So designate a specific location for work, so when you take a break you can get out of “The Office”

Declutter

I am horrible at this, but a clean work surface will improve your productivity like you never thought it would. If you have let it slide then add clean off your desk to the list. The best thing to do is clean it off at the end of each day so when you come in (our down the stairs) you aren’t staring down a mess. Start your day organized so you can stay organized.

Your Kids Have Got to Go

Your kids are cute but they are not going to help you get your work done. When you are working, even at home, your kids need to be someplace else. Children know you are there and they don’t understand the difference between working and not working. They are still going to want your help to do things around the house so either get the to daycare or have someone watch them.

Plan your day: make a list of everything

This is kind of a “Getting Things Done” type tip. Make a list of everything you need to accomplish, write down everything you need to do and the work your way through your list. Whenever something comes up add it to the list, if you can do it immediately do it then, otherwise on the list it goes. Stay focused on completing your list and you will stay on track for the day. I use an old fashioned pen and paper but you could use something like Evernote or Remember the Milk if you want to.

Take regular breaks, time yourself

One of the luxuries of being in an office/cube farm is people are always coming by to say hello, talk about their dog, or ask for help. These little interruptions break up your day so you don’t get burnt out on the task at hand. When you are home you usually aren’t going to have those interruptions.

Personally, I frequently go entire days without contacting another human being and those are the worst days. To alleviate this, I like to time myself and allow my self to work from 1.5 to 2 hrs at a time then take a 15 minute break. This allows me to break up the grind as if people were dropping by.

Remove Distractions

Working at home biggest enemy is all the stuff you own. You are going to be tempted to play with things that are laying around, so get rid of them. Another distraction is your email. Don’t hover over your email all day waiting for something to come in. Periodically check your email but you are under no obligation to read everything right away.

Twitter is  great, but it is the devil when it comes to productivity. Axe twitter when you are working, if you want you can hop in there during your 15 minute breaks or lunch time but you aren’t going to get anything done with all this social media hanging around to distract you.

So there you have it, my list of ways to be more productive when you are working from home. This list is not all inclusive but should give you a great head start on improving your at home productivity. Leave a comment and let us know what you do to stay productive when working at home.

About the Author

By , on Jun 16, 2009
author
Kyle runs Suburban Dollar and has a passion for finance, saving, and debt reduction. He has a no true background in accounting, finance, or economics which allows him to bring an ordinary perspective to the world of finance. As he says on his blog it is where finance and reality meet. If you like what you have read here please subscribe to his blog for future free updates from Suburban Dollar.

Leave Your Comment (12 Comments)

  1. Mary Hall says:

    “do not hover over your email” – extremely applicable to me hehe

    Sort of related to that bit about designating work space: making sure that you work under similar, if not the same, conditions all the time can help you get to ‘work mode’ easier. I find that I am most productive if I’ve got soft music in the background, so I set up a specific playlist. Incidentally, everytime I hear songs from that playlist, I feel a wee bit more productive than usual.

  2. Craig Ford says:

    When you work from home with a family it is extremely important that everyone knows the expectations. When I am home working my family knows I am really not there unless there is a huge emergency. It took some getting used to but after working from home for three years now our family has found a rhythm.
    Thanks for the great post

  3. Bernz says:

    Sure is a great post. As far as I’m concern to declutter and removing distractions has been the toughest struggle so far. Getting better but not quite there yet. I guess NON-FOCUS is the real issue here.

  4. FrugalNYC says:

    Great Advice. Sometimes it may be better to not work “at home”. Perhaps take to a cafe or library :)

    I can attest to Twitter being a distraction, but then again so is the rest of the web. Just know when to cut it out and get work done. Once you get started, you’ll keep going.

  5. Your tips are very good. When working at home we have to still practice the self discipline that we have while in the office. My biggest distraction is the IM and so I keep it off in order to concentrate on my day’s activities.

  6. DDFD says:

    Great post! Scheduling “slack off” time as a reward is key for me. I don’t schedule it by time as much as by task– it is amazing how quickly you can complete tasks if you want to!

  7. Mikael says:

    The part about timing yourself has worked wonders for me. Have a task and then setting a timeframe of e.g. 1 hour and having an alarm go off once the hour has passed has really increased the speed at which I work. Everyone should definitely try that out at least once.

    Mikael

  8. Russell says:

    Good tips. I would add “employ someone to go to the shop for the chocolate peanuts (required to go with the black filter coffee) and buy those ever bigger clothes I require regularly”

  9. Kyle says:

    @craig

    I have a pretty nice setup at home, in fact it is a lot nicer than my office at work. I think having a designated area is a definite must. I am here alone during the day so I only have to contend with my own distractions. It will be interesting when my second child is born and my wife is home for 6 weeks with him, I may have to go in to the office every day then.

  10. Miranda says:

    Like Ray, my distraction is often the Internet. But I try to combat that by ignoring email, Twitter, etc. while working, and by relegating social media to specific points in my work day. Great tips, Kyle! Thanks for sharing them.

  11. craig says:

    I have tried to work at home before and it’s very difficult because it’s very distracting. It’s so easy not to do work. I have gone to the library because it helps me concentrate more. I think working at home helps if you have a designated work space like an office style.

  12. Ray says:

    Great tips…..my distraction is internet unfortunately I can not eliminate it since all my work is on the internet :)

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