Sometimes, there’s nothing better than working from home. You can lounge in your favorite, most comfortable place — in your favorite, most comfortable clothes — while plugging away at your most pressing tasks. Sounds great, right?
Unfortunately, many people find working from home to be a bit more difficult than working in the office. Although it’s certainly convenient, working from home means you’re surrounded by all of the distractions that come with it, whether those are family members, pets or digital devices. Add the fact that no one can see you’re losing focus and voila: you’ve got a recipe for productivity disaster!
Fortunately, there are so many ways to fix this and ensure you’ll be productive, whether you’re in your cubicle or working from your cozy couch. Here are five of the best methods of doing so:
1. Write a To-Do List (And Stick to It)
In an office setting, you’d likely have your boss and colleagues coming to you directly with small tasks and assignments throughout the day. When you’re at home, though, it’s just you in charge of your schedule, so you have to be a bit more rigorous with it.
Write out a list of everything you have to do each day before getting to work. Number everything in order to prioritize it so you’re getting the most pressing tasks out of the way first. This will be especially helpful if you’re new to working from home and you’re learning how to maintain productivity miles away from the office.
2. Find a Good Spot to Work
Not every home has a designated office space, but you might want to consider making one if working from home is going to be a regular thing. Your office should be, at the very least, a desk in a quiet niche in your home where you can fit your computer, phone and files. You should also make sure your family members or roommates know that it’s your personal space: because it’s for work, it shouldn’t do double-duty as the family computer, for example.
Now, once you have a place, you need to make sure it’s clean, tidy and organized at all times, as many people find clutter to be a distraction when trying to concentrate. One easy way to de-clutter your desk is to digitize your files so they’re not sitting in a pile where you’re trying to work. The lack of visual clutter will allow you to focus on just about anything else.
3. Unplug, Even at Home
At work you’re not as tempted to text or scroll through Instagram because you’re in a professional setting, but a home office toes that line. Add TV and internet without the social media blockers lots of employers have and, well, you’re even more likely to get distracted.
Make it easier on yourself by silencing your phone, turning off the TV and leaving open only the internet browser tabs you need. It’d be unrealistic to say you won’t check your phone at all during the day, but put a timer on your metal breaks: after 50 minutes of work, for example, you can take 10 minutes to peruse your personal messages and alerts. Or, you can work through until lunch and spend your half-hour or hour watching your favorite TV show.
Just think of these types of breaks as a reward, rather than as the norm.
4. Prep the Night Before
The idea of working from home seems to imply that you can roll out of bed and instantly become productive. However, you need to make an effort to get yourself into that state of mind.
Think of how you prepared before a day at the office. Did you lay out your clothes? Did you clean out and set up the coffee maker so it’d brew your joe automatically? Do these things so you feel as though you’re heading to work, even if you’re just heading down the hallway.
5. Clock In and Out
Finally, working from home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have set hours, and setting these hours yourself can help ensure you’re productive. If you vow to work from 8 to 5, for example, everyone on your team will expect you to be present and productive during those times.
These parameters will help you to stay focused but also return to your regular life when work’s over. Just as there are distractions at home, there’s the likelihood that you’ll creep into the office at night and on weekends. It’s up to you to avoid this temptation and let yourself live — that’s where you’ll find the work-life balance you need, whether you work in an office or at home.
Anum Yoon is a personal finance writer who believes that financial literacy is the key – especially for women – to lead a more purposeful and inspired life. She is the founder and editor of millennial money blog, Current On Currency.