In the Zone: How to Stay Productive When Working from Home


“Wow, you’re so lucky that you get to work in your pajamas!”

How many times have you heard this? If you’re a full-time freelancer, or if you work for a company with a liberal work from home policy, chances are that others are envious of your ability to live in comfy clothes or to attend Skype meetings in a nice button down shirt — and no pants.

While working from home has some definite perks (hello, raiding the fridge for lunch or indulging in a little procrastibaking!), it also comes with its share of challenges. One of the biggest disadvantages is that it can be hard to, well, actually get work done when your bed and/or your Netflix account are calling your name.

How to stay productive when your home and your office are one and the same? We’ve got some great tips, so read on!

How To Stay Productive When You Work from Home

One of the keys to a productive workday, when you’re not actually going to an office, is to act as if you were. There are a number of ways to do this.

1. Set Yourself a Schedule

A huge perk of working from home, for many people, is the flexibility it offers. Unless you must be constantly available during business hours, telecommuting gives you a lot of freedom and convenience. You can run errands, do household chores, pick the kids up from school, or visit doctors during the workday.

Of course, all that flexibility may mean that you simply don’t get as much done during a given day as you would if you worked in an office environment. To combat this phenomenon, set up a schedule for yourself.

This includes clock-in and clock-out times as well as scheduled breaks. It’s OK to choose throwing in a load of laundry or watching a half-hour sitcom on those breaks. Just be diligent about getting back to work when break time is over.

2. Designate a Workspace

The idea of curling up on the couch when taking calls or working on your laptop is an extremely tempting one. But unless you have really developed your sense of self-discipline, resist this temptation.

Having a space set aside as your “office” can really help you develop a productive mindset. It doesn’t have to be an entire room, but for best results make it a spot where you don’t otherwise spend time.

When you enter this space and sit down to get to work, the change of environment will signal to your brain that it’s business time.

3. Decorate That Workspace

If you are lucky enough to have a separate room or area to designate as your home office, use that to your advantage by creating an ideal ambiance.

Choose furnishings and accessories that you love, to make you want to spend time in this space. Get organized with a small filing cabinet or tote that holds hanging folders. Use natural lighting if it’s available, but task lighting in the form or floor or desk lamps is also good.

A supportive chair can make a world of difference, as well.

Consider investing in a few fidget toys for when you’re on phone calls, a couple of plants to make the room welcoming and homey, and the usual picture frames and pen cups.

No matter where you are working, try to minimize distractions. Close the curtains if looking out the window lulls you into a reverie. Keep the dirty laundry, the grocery list, and any other reminders of the chores that must be done out of sight and out of mind.

4. Set and Stick to Boundaries

Similarly, when the working day is done, log out of your professional email account, Slack workspace, or company CMS. Otherwise, you run the risk of responding like Pavlov’s dog to every new incoming message or notification.

By signing out, you are giving yourself permission to knock off for the day. That’s a healthy approach in today’s constantly connected environment. It’s also one that, somewhat counterintuitively, will make you more productive in the long run.

5. Dress for Success

In the same vein, it’s a good idea to wear separate “work clothes” instead of sliding right into the business day while still in your pajamas. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to put on a three-piece suit, pantyhose or high heels to be productive.

Instead, try a pair of comfortable joggers, yoga pants, or other athleisure clothing — as long as it’s something different than the duds you lounge around in. Make sure to put your shoes on, too.

6. There’s an App for That

Are you the kind of person who finds it motivating to write — and then check off — items on a to-do list? If so, then by all means write out your list each day. There are also a wealth of motivational, habit tracking, and productivity charting iPhone and Android apps.

Some of these let you connect to other users or post to your social media, which can he helpful if you struggle to stay accountable. For other users, just being able to tap that “done” button on each goal, or seeing a streak of good habits, is super rewarding.

7. Recognize that Working from Home Isn’t for Everyone

So you’ve given telecommuting or freelancing or flex time the ol’ college try, but you’re just not thriving? That’s OK too. There are some people who simply don’t do their best work when left to their own devices.

Very extroverted or collaborative people may miss the face-to-face interaction that an office atmosphere provides. They can find it hard to hit their stride when isolated at home. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing your own working style and adjusting your professional circumstances accordingly — in fact, it’s admirably self-aware.

Wrapping Up

It might take you some time and experimentation before you hit your work-from-home stride. Remember that this can be a big adjustment, especially if you’ve recently switched careers or are just starting out as a telecommuter. So give yourself some time, try a few different approaches, and if all else fails, you can always switch back to working from work!

We hope you’ve found this list of tips helpful, but we would also love to hear if you have any hints or hacks. Let us know if you’ve learned how to stay productive in the comment section below!

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