4 Creative Ways to Be More Productive Working From Home
There have been a million lists made about how to get more out of yourself when you’re working from your home office. I’m not going to rehash any of those points – we all know that we need make it hard (or impossible) for ourselves to go on social media and to minimize distractions from other people.
Instead this is a list of some new and creative ways that I’ve learned to get the most out of my days. They might not work for everyone, but for those type A nuts out there who get a kick out of checking things off lists like me, they just might work.
1. Make a business to do list and a personal to do list
The first thing I do every morning when I sit down at my desk is make my to do lists for the day. I use this lovely daily planner from Rifle Paper Co, divide the two columns into business and personal, and write out everything that I want to get done that day. I try to think of absolutely everything that I’m working on, worried about, or think I might have time for at the end of my work day, and list that side-by-side with personal stuff that might distract me from being productive while I'm working.
I do this for two reasons. First, if I have my personal stuff written down on my to do list, I’m not going to be worried about forgetting to do it, and I can take it out of my brain (much like the way Dumbledore uses the Pensieve...sorry, had to) so that there is room to focus on the tasks at hand. [Also at night if I’m having trouble falling asleep because I’m worrying about XYZ, I also find that starting this list the night before helps immensely.]
Second, it’s awesome when I need to take a break from sitting at the computer, to be able to use those five or ten minutes to get something done like doing the dishes, booking a flight, or writing back to a personal message. This is part of my larger theory of productive procrastination – keep on reading.
2. Practice productive procrastination
Everybody procrastinates at least sometimes – it’s a part of being human I think. I obviously love to do lists, but I too procrastinate when I just don’t want to do something or hit a wall where I just can’t. The trick I’ve found is to procrastinate by being productive in some other fashion.
For example, if I am feeling stuck on how to make a design come together, I’ll let myself procrastinate by doing some bookkeeping, sending out invoices, or updating my portfolio. That way I’m still doing something that needs to get done, but I feel like I’m getting out of what I really didn’t want to be working on. It’s a great way to trick your brain into thinking it’s getting a break by just distracting it with something else. Brains are silly.
I let my personal to do list cross over into this as well. If I need to clear my head or just can’t make myself keep working, sometimes I’ll vacuum, or run out to the bank. I swear it has the same effect as wasting time on Facebook or turning on the TV, but you’ll feel much better afterward, and your to do list will be that much shorter.
3. Make your home office somewhere you actually want to spend time
If your home office is disorganized, dull, and uninspiring, it’s no wonder you don’t want to work there! Do yourself a favor and make it a place that you can’t wait to sit down at in the morning. Fill it with inspiring quotes, beautiful artwork, and lots of natural light. Buy a calendar that you love – be it funny cats, the FDNY, or a fancy letterpress one from Etsy – and hang it at eye level.
Make everything you need to use easily accessible from your chair, and for goodness sake, keep the clutter to a bare minimum. I could go on about organization, but that’s for another day. The less physical stuff you have in your eyesight, the more focussed you’ll be able to be while you’re working.
If you don’t have a full room for your office (I don’t; I’ve taken over the formal dining room area in our new apartment), the same suggestions still apply. I made sure to put my desk next to a window and put some plants on the window sill. It’s only day three at the new place, but when I’ve got it all up and running I’ll post photos of where I’m working.
[PS: If you’re wondering how moving the cat went, here’s a great picture from his first hour in the new place. But it only took him about 24 hours to adjust! And no, I didn’t rub his smell all over or any of that craziness. I just made sure he knew he was safe here with us.]
4. Have two (or more) workspaces
Sometimes a change of space can really work wonders for swinging you back into a productive mood. I put a lot of time into making my home office somewhere I want to go in the morning, but around 3:00 I am sick of it and do not want to be there anymore, regardless of how pretty or inspiring it is. When that feeling sets in, I either take myself out to a coffee shop down the block, or I move to another spot in my apartment for a fresh view and outlook on the rest of the day.
At home, my second workspace is just my dining room table, or sometimes the couch (that’s when having a MacBook Air comes in handy). It doesn’t need to be much, but just moving to another spot usually gives me a second wind to keep on going through the end of the day. I often change spots when I’m transitioning between one task and another to give myself that feeling of starting totally fresh again.
These are just a few of the ways I’ve found to help myself get work done. What about you guys? What are some of the creative ways you coerce yourself into being productive at home?
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