That pile of laundry needs to be washed. The dog needs a walk. Those dirty dishes really should be cleaned. Working from home is tough, especially when there are so many distractions lurking around every corner and you’re convincing yourself they need to be done right this second. But you can shut these chores out of your brain and still get your real work done (you know, the stuff you actually get paid for) with a little help from your friends named concentration and delegation.
Whether you’re working from the comforts of your home every now and then or logging on every single day, these tips can help you be more productive. Here’s how to go forth and conquer it.
Set goals on Monday
Before you start your week, write down three or four goals you’d like to accomplish by Friday. This will help provide a focus and direction for the week. Plus, setting goals at the beginning of the week keeps you staying productive all the way until Friday afternoon, when all you want to do is kickoff your weekend.
Ignore email in the morning
A huge part about working from home is managing your time on your own terms. When you’re in an office, you have meetings to attend and calls to make, but that doesn’t happen until you’ve gotten ready for the day and made your commute in.
When you work at home, your desk is just down the hall, which can blur the lines between work and life. If you can’t pick up and move your office to another building, how can you really separate your time? Keren Eldad, a certified life and love coach, encourages those working at home not to check emails right away in the morning—or even for the first hour of the day. “If you jump on your email first thing, you are answering others’ needs before your own—before using the bathroom and even brushing your teeth,” she says. Ask yourself how that will set up the rest of the day. It could cause you to not take that afternoon break or stop your work until bed time. Set your priorities first, and that begins with logging into your email account.
Have a morning routine and get dressed
Creating structure can be one of the hardest things to do when working from home. Let’s be real, your bed looks way comfier than that desk chair. But setting an alarm, having a morning routine and getting to said desk at a specific time can help amp up production for tackling your day’s responsibilities, says Sharon F. Danzger, a productivity consultant. That goes for putting on real clothes, too (read: not your sweats or PJs). “It may seem silly, but getting dressed signals to your brain that it is no longer time to lounge around,” Danzger says. Most people get dressed to go to work, so having that same distinction will motivate you as well.
Schedule brain breaks
“Me” time is a thing. Use it! Make a point to schedule it in every couple of hours.This might mean taking a walk around the block, meditating or making a cup of coffee. Whatever it is, it’ll allow yourself to be more productive, stay focused and reset your mind as you shift gears from one task to the next. “The key to serving other people is to serve and manage yourself first,” says Eldad. “Don’t believe me? Try contacting me when it’s my naptime. There will be no answer.”
Create a workable space
What’s working from home without a designated area to get stuff done, right? Survey your space. Do you have an area that comfortably holds your computer, includes some space to write and do work that isn’t computer-based, plus provides storage for other office items? If you routinely squeeze into a corner of your living room, the end of the dining table or your bed, you are seriously impacting your productivity, says Maura Thomas, founder of Regain Your Time, and author of Work Without Walls: An Executive’s Guide to Attention Management, Productivity, and the Future of Work. Set aside a room for getting work done, or if you’re tight on space, a hard-working corner packed with a storage-centric desk or shelves and enough surface area to keep your computer, paper files and even a glass of water.
Hang a sign on your door
Working when others are home, like your roommates, kids or spouse, can mean a lot of distractions throughout the day. Marcey Rader, a productivity and health coach, suggests having a clear sign on your door to tell the people in your household that you are deep in work mode and can’t be disturbed.
Get up and move
Balance will help you keep your sanity. So set this goal for yourself: no sad desk lunch. Enjoy your food and permit yourself that space in the day to get your mind off work, says Zachary Painter, a career adviser and hiring manager. The same goes for leaving your home, too. Staying cooped up can impact your productivity and creativity, so get out for some fresh air. “Go to the gym for an hour, or have a cup of joe at a cafe. Do work at the cafe if you want, but be sure to catch some fresh air,” he says.
Transition from office hours
While you need to create a clear indicator when you’re starting work—getting dressed, making a cup of coffee, looking at email—the same goes for ending your day. It might be easy to continue long after the average 9 to 5 office workers have left the building, but don’t think you can’t do the same just because your office is also where you live. Set an end-of-day routine to tell yourself work time is done. Rader suggests writing a gratitude list for the day, taking a five-minute walk outside and completely shutting down your computer to make sure you don’t even think twice before checking email or starting another project.