In March 2020, the whole world changed. All of a sudden millions of people were called in from the office and tasked with learning how to work from home.
Now years later, many people are still working from home, and still struggling to be productive while doing so.
It’s a big change!
You may not be used to the fine art of work-from-home attire.
You’re not used to being socially isolated day in and day out.
And you haven’t been training for years to avoid curling up in your bed, and you know, just crying in the middle of the day.
Never fear: I’ve got you.
I’ve been working from home (or the road) for the last decade, and it’s safe to say I’ve learned a thing or two.
The problem with most of the articles talking about how to work from home? They’re generic.
Yes, you need good wifi.
You should have a good Zoom background.
But what about the advice you might not think about? What do you need to know to actually be productive, while also retaining your sanity?
That’s where this post comes in.
Here are 11 tips for working from home, that may not be quite as obvious as “own a computer.”
How to Be Productive Working from Home: A Beginner’s Guide
1) Get Ready for Work Everyday
When you’re working from home, all of a sudden it can feel like a luxury to just roll out of bed in your sweats and get to work.
And sometimes, that’s just what you have to do.
But as much as possible, wake up, shower, get dressed, do your hair – pretend like you are actually going into work.
It’s amazing what this one small thing can do for energy, focus, and mindset.
If I’m not being productive in the morning, this is my first immediate action.
Go get ready for the day. More often than not, once I sit back down at my computer? I’m immediately more productive.
- 31 Things You Can Add to Your Morning Routine to Be More Productive – The title basically says it all!
2) Learn how to turn on “work mode”
I don’t mean this in the figurative sense. I mean, what literal switches can you flip to turn on “work” mode.
For me when I’m working at home it looks like this:
- Get a cup of black coffee
- Plug my laptop into my monitor
- Turn on my desk lamp
- Light a candle or incense
- Turn on a “Focus” playlist on Spotify. I like “Peaceful Piano” or “Low-Fi Beats”
When I do those things, in that order, my brain makes a transition into work mode.
Your routine could be any variation of this, but once the candle is lit, and the music is playing softly in the background, I almost automatically get down to work.
3) Always know what you’re going to do next.
When you’re working from home, there are distractions everywhere. In fact, a lot of this post is going to be about different strategies for minimizing those distractions.
But the biggest killer of productivity when you’re working remotely is simply not knowing what you’re going to do next.
Cool, you finished those emails. Now what?
Chances are if you don’t have a plan, you’ll pop over to something stupid like Tik Tok and spend the next hour feeling old.
Always know what’s next.
Then give yourself a timed break between tasks, and get back to work.
When you don’t have a plan or know what’s next, you’ll waste most of your day away.
4) Leverage momentum and build habits
When you’re working by yourself, you have to self-motivate. Sure you probably still have a boss to answer to long term, but in the short term, when you have to actually do the work that’s due next week, building momentum and habits is key.
What do I mean by that?
For me, momentum comes in the form of streaks.
Right now, I’m on an 8-day streak of writing 1,000 words each day with my daily writing habit.
I don’t want to break that streak.
This is momentum, and it’s slowly turning into a habit.
I just hit
40 102 weeks in a row on my Peloton.
I once hit 568 days in a row closing my move ring on my Apple Watch (then I forgot about it while moving to a new house and missed it by 5 points to reset the streak. Womp Womp)
By tracking these streaks, it makes me much more likely to get stuff done.
Figure out which ones work for you. Maybe it’s a writing goal like mine. Maybe it’s getting to inbox zero every day. Maybe it’s doing one creative thing a day.
Choose something, and do it today. Then do it tomorrow.
Now you’ve got a streak. And more importantly, momentum.
And with no on else around to help you? This can be game-changing.
- Atomic Habits Review – My favorite book on Habit Building
- Streaks App – My favorite app for building momentum
- How to Create Your Own 30 Day Challenge – Need help starting those streaks? Here you go.
5) Create a dedicated workspace
This one might creep into the “obvious” category, but it’s also super important.
I have a friend who literally bought a second laptop, so he could have a “work” laptop and a “personal” laptop.
When you first start working from home, you’ll probably find yourself working more hours. If you have a laptop and a phone, you’ll now be checking things 24/7, rather than just when you’re in the office.
When you create a dedicated workspace, and resolve to only work in that space, you can create the illusion of going into work.
Creating that separation between work and home is vital to maintaining your sanity and not letting all of the distractions at home get the best of you.
6) Be deliberate
By far, the biggest killer for me is when I stop being deliberate about my actions.
This usually takes the form of mindless scrolling through my phone or playing half a dozen games of Yahtzee on it.
I’m totally cool with playing video games, watching a Netflix show, or doing anything else throughout the day that doesn’t constitute “real work” – but it’s only ok when it’s deliberate.
“I’m going to play Call of Duty for 45 minutes right now, and then I’m going to shoot a video for our YouTube Channel.”
Awesome, deliberate actions.
But when I get a notification from Screen Time that says I spent an average 3 hours and 36 minutes on my phone this week – that shows I was not being as deliberate as I need to be.
7) Have different categories of work
Be real with yourself, you’re not going to crank out Pulitzer Prize-winning work for 12 hours out of a day.
We all only have so much focus, willpower, creative energy – whatever it is.
How’s your energy? How are you feeling? Are you motivated?
If you’re feeling fantastic and creative? Dive into a writing session.
Lethargic and unmotivated? Answer some emails, or schedule your social media posts.
Don’t fight that, recognize it and make a plan.
I have three categories of tasks:
- Deep Work – Long-term strategy and planning. Creating marketing funnels. Creating in-depth thought pieces or other writing and creative activities that take a lot of focus and motivation.
- Light Work – Standard blog posts, photo editing, and other activities that I’ve trained myself to do easily over the years, that don’t take quite as much brain power.
- Administrative – Emails, social media, customer service
Every hour or two when I finish a task, or find myself drifting I try and re-assess how I’m feeling. If I’m spent creatively, it’s not going to make sense to try and write out a nuanced marketing funnel. My time is better spent say, scheduling a week’s worth of social media posts.
When you’re at your job, constantly around people, and often getting pulled into meetings – these decisions can be made for you. But when you’re at home and need to make progress, creating these categories and paying attention to them each day can be very beneficial.
By its nature working from home or working remotely is pretty isolating and anti-social.
But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it shouldn’t be.
If you don’t make a plan for social interaction on some level each day, you’ll start to go crazy.
Our community manager Liz and I talk on a daily basis – usually about non-work stuff. It gives a sense of a virtual water cooler, and that communication can mimic what you might see in a real office.
A few times a week I make a point to catch up with a friend in real life or over the phone. If you don’t give yourself a reason to get out of the house, often, you won;t.
It takes effort to schedule this and to actually be social – especially if you’re already introverted. But make the effort, your work will thank you.
9) Give yourself something to look forward to
Over the years an odd productivity strategy that’s worked really well for me is to stop working at Noon every day.
To further motivate, I’ll plan something fun for 1pm, in order to help incentivize myself to get stuff done in the morning.
This still holds true when you’re working by yourself at home.
Maybe you plan for a good book and a glass of wine. Perhaps it’s video games or a movie. Or delivery from a restaurant you love.
Having something to look forward to every day can make the isolation of working for yourself much easier to handle.
10) Take time to learn every day
The reality is that it’s easier to waste time, get distracted, and not be productive when you’re at home vs when you’re at work.
So I have a rule: Every day, deliberately learn something.
It could be as simple as reading a few pages of a marketing blog.
It could be testing things in my own business and learning from the results.
Lately, I’ve been learning a lot more about hobbies and other interests through my Masterclass subscription.
But I always spend at least 10 minutes a day (usually more) learning.
You’ll feel better after you do it, and chances are that after a little break from dedicated work, you’ll be that much more energized to jump back in.
11) Don’t beat yourself up
Finally, you’re going to have good days and bad days when you’re working from home.
You’re going to have days where you feel like you got everything on your list done, and then some.
And others where you were a waste of space.
However your day goes, don’t beat yourself up.
There’s always tomorrow.
At the very least, even if you have a rough day, take 5 minutes and create a plan for tomorrow.
I do this by making my “top 5”.
Once you’ve done that, then move onto steps #7, 8, or 9 to help you salvage and feel better about the day.
When you’re on your own it’s even easier to get mad at yourself for not being productive.
Recognize the feeling, and let it go.
Tomorrow will be a better day.
Now that You Know How to Work From Home, What’s Next?
This post takes a little bit of a different approach on the theme of how to work from home, but following these is one of the things that’s allowed me to continue working from home 14 years after I left my last full-time job.
And if you want a few more ways to find work from home jobs, check out this post.
LOVE the idea of working from home, and want to do it indefinitely? Grab our free 6 day course on how to build a lifestyle business, that teaches you how to build a sustainable business you can run from anywhere on Earth.
Sean OgleSean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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