August 2017

8 Productivity Hacks for Working at Home

Author: Kent Thune

Working from home can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s not for everyone. There are wonderful days when everything is going so well that you’ll pinch yourself to be sure you’re not dreaming. But then there are other days when you’re on a teleconference about to land a big client and your dog starts frantically barking at the FedEx guy.

However, the biggest successes and the worst of failures in the realm of working from home all stem from one key element: productivity. If you don’t have a firm grasp on productivity habits, the dream of working from home can turn into a failing nightmare. But if you create the right environment and form the best work habits, working from home can actually be more productive than working in an office environment.

In the conventional office, you have coworkers who can pose a real threat to getting work done. They stop by your desk and talk for one minute about business then they proceed to talk for another 10 minutes about politics, reality TV shows and sports. Or you go to lunch with them, and they encourage you to take more time than is needed to eat a meal. And then there are the committee meetings that don’t seem to accomplish anything.

In the home office, you have the capacity to be more productive than in any other environment, but you can also be your own worst enemy. Your commute time is however long it takes you to step from the breakfast table to the next room where you’ve carved out your work space. There’s more time to get stuff done. However, there’s no pressure or obligation to get that stuff done, because no one’s watching, except maybe your dog or cat or preferred four-legged creature. You don’t even have to take a shower or wear pants.

So, we’ve underscored the importance and potential of applying productive habits to make the work at home as rewarding as possible, both in meaning and money, but we’ve also addressed the potential challenges of the home office.

If you’re thinking about making the jump from working the conventional office job or you’re already working from home and need a swift kick in the executive chair, you’ll learn a thing or two from these productivity hacks. (Note for people over 40: A hack is a millennial term that, in this context, means a clever solution to a tricky problem):

1.Get started early. This means you don’t sleep in like you’re on vacation. Even if you’re not a morning person, you will likely find that the morning hours can be your most productive. Try to make the time between waking up and working as short as possible. Get out of bed, get dressed, eat a decent breakfast, take your coffee to your desk and get started. Or you might try whatever routine works best. Some home office workers get out of bed, grab the coffee, and get to work immediately. They’ll eat breakfast when they hit a stopping point or get hungry.

2.Use your saved time wisely. Think of all the time you burned commuting to and from work, eating a long lunch, and getting distracted by coworkers in the conventional office job. Might that be two or three hours per day? When you don’t need to drive to work, and there’s no need to spend more than 20 minutes eating a meal, you suddenly have an extra few hours to work (and perhaps to clock out sooner at home).

3.Still do some things like you are going to the office. Although you want to be productive and get to work quickly, it’s not wise to jump right out of bed and go straight to your desk every day. If you look like a slob, you’ll feel like a slob, and you’ll probably work like a slob. You can give yourself a reward and occasionally wear the sweatpants and T-shirt, but be sure to dress professionally on most days. This will get you mentally prepared to do your best work.

4.Choose a dedicated work space. This sounds like common sense, but many home office workers find themselves taking their laptops, tablets, and cell phones to multiple locations in the home, including the porch, the couch, or even in front of the television. You don’t need an elaborate room behind closed doors in a remote corner of your home; you simply need a dedicated space that includes the work basics such as a desk and a side table with drawers, where you’ll place a printer/scanner and your essential paper documents and supplies. Remember to keep it structured and at least somewhat organized.

5.Don’t stay at home every day. Changing your environment from time to time can be stimulating and even necessary to increase productivity. Get out of the house and go to Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or your favorite Wi-Fi-enabled establishment. Just be sure it has real tables, chairs, and people that you don’t know. You need to interact with other humans. And having some background noise and people looking busy can be engaging for your mind. The environment outside the home will remove distractions, such as family members and undone chores that might pull you away from your desk.

6. Remove temptations to engage in social media. If your business computer also doubles as a personal computer, be sure to remove shortcuts to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and any other distractive sites that tend to create subconscious impulses to click on them when you experience downtime. It’s easy to get pulled away for more than a few minutes without intending to do it (or even without conscious realization of time at all).

7. Communicate clear expectations with the people who live with you. This is a difficult productivity habit to form and maintain. If you have small children and your home office doesn’t have doors and locks on it, telling your five-year-old that you can’t fix his broken toy for five hours isn’t easy to do. If you don’t have physical boundaries, certain signals can become visual signals. For example, you can say, “If daddy has his headphones on, it means he’s working.” And if your significant other needs to reach you for something other than an emergency, even if he or she is in the same house two doors down the hall, encourage communication by call or text with the understanding that you will respond as quickly as possible.

8. Take real breaks and set definitive stop times. Breaks, like making and eating lunch, can recharge the work battery so that you’ll return to your desk with a new and productive mindset. Don’t assume you need to be working 100 percent of the time while you’re home to be more productive. If you work from home full-time (or on a regular basis), it’s easy to let your work life bleed into your personal life.

Productivity requires more than learning new productivity habits; it also requires forming them, implementing them, maintaining them and, if necessary, making adjustments to them. Now stop reading and get back to work!

Kent Thune works from home as an investment advisor and owner of a Hilton Head Island investment advisory firm, Atlantic Capital Investments. You can follow his musings on mind, money and mastery of life at TheFinancialPhilosopher.com or on Twitter @ThinkersQuill.

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