Go from “I never accomplish anything!” to “I conquered today like a boss!” with these productivity tips for working at home.
I sit in our recliner at the end of each day and take a deep breath. A glass of wine sounds amazing, but I just sat down and have zero interest in getting up. Lily is squealing and tugging at my shirt because she’s protesting bedtime for the 10th day in a row. Sookie is staring at me, waiting for me to cover her up with a blanket for the 57th time that day because she’s a weird dog. Nathan is generously working on the house because I’m just too tired to wash the overflowing pile of dishes or the never-ending pile of laundry.
Eventually, the tugging ends. But only because I spent an hour rocking and singing and reading so Lily finally is fast asleep. And so is Sookie, even though we’re on the 61st time of the blanket cover up escapade. Nathan is working out in our shop and silence fills our household.
I realize in this moment that I didn’t accomplish even half of what I wanted to that day. I also realize I need about ten more hours to get it done that day, but I only have three. I try to figure out where my time went and draw a blank. I know I did something – multiple somethings – but what those somethings are is lost forever in the abyss of “busyness.”
So I plunge forward, working until my eyelids are heavy and typos are rampant. The computer closes and I go to bed, knowing that my to-do list is unfinished and will just continue to grow like a weed tomorrow.
And the next day.
And the next day.
And the next day.
Does this sound familiar? Please tell me I’m not alone. Please tell me I’m not the only one that feels like they need at least 48 hours in a day. (72 is more realistic though.)
Luckily, I have found some help. Don’t put all your eggs in my basket though – I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have zero answers. My nights still look like that way more often than I would like them to and that glass of wine is still calling my name. But I have found some productivity tips for working at home that make me feel a little saner.
Productivity Tips for Working at Home
Always, always, always start here. Here’s why: when you finally close that computer after your typo fiesta, you’re going to bed, right? Sometimes you lay down and drift off, peacefully falling into a deep slumber. But sometimes, your head hits the pillow and your brain doesn’t immediately turn off.
Then you know you’re screwed. You know that the thought vomit is about to start. You can’t stop it – you can only hope to contain it. You just have to wait for your brain to stop dumping its entire contents. Wait for it to stop filling you with dread and anxiety before you can drift off to sleep – just when it’s nearly time to get up.
Or you could just do a braindump earlier in the day and assure your brain you’ve got it covered. If you’re not sure what a braindump is, it’s pretty simple.
Grab your phone or computer or a writing utensil and a notebook
Set a timer for 10-15 minutes.
And… write. Seriously just write. Write about whatever comes to mind. Bills you need to pay. Calls you need to make. What your Aunt Sally said that pissed you off. Things that made today awesome. It really does not matter what you write as long as you keep writing.
Your goal here is to empty your brain so it’s free to do fun things. So you can be present with your kids. So you can read a book without thinking about that email you never sent. So you can go to bed at night and actually sleep. Novel concept, right?
Clear your head and know that when you feel like you’re getting overwhelmed because “OH MY GOD, I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO ALWAYS AND FOREVER!” – you’ve got it all written down somewhere so you really don’t have to remember everything.
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Create a To-Do List
Ahh, so simple. Just create a to-do list, they say. Just check things off, they say. You’ll accomplish so many things, they say.
But this? This is what they don’t say. For every five things you cross off, you’ll add ten more. And if you fall behind for even 30 minutes of your day, you’ll forever be stuck in a not as fun to watch Dr. Strange time loop with your to-do list. And if you decide to not do something in order to do something fun like have a date night or read a book to your children, you’ll be consumed with guilt and frustration and a lack of motivation.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Here’s how you can skip the unproductive Dr. Strange time loop with your to-do list.” quote=”Here’s how you can skip the unproductive Dr. Strange time loop with your to-do list.”]
So to write this to-do list and use it correctly, you need to do a few things:
Take that braindump list and write down what you think needs to get done today. Get rid of the non-essentials and make sure it actually needs to be done. If not, then keep it on your braindump list and get back to it some other time.
Make sure it’s actually important. I used to put “check in on Facebook” as a task on my to-do list. Super important, right? Obviously checking that off my list reaped so many rewards.
Do the hard shit. Seriously. Stop doing the 5-10 minute tasks so you can cross stuff off and work on the big things. Otherwise, your goals will sit and collect dust and your new year’s resolutions will already be written for you because they’ve been the same for the past five years. Go read Eat That Frog if this is something you struggle with. Life changing.
Repeat these steps for the rest of your braindump list and the rest of your week/month, making sure that the tasks are essential towards your main goals/purpose.
Consider the Getting Things Done method for help with this if this is your main struggle. It’s amazing what a system like this can do!
Use a separate workspace
This one is on here because I know it helps. And I’m all about helping everyone but myself apparently. Because I’ll be honest: I really suck at this one. Working from the comfort of my bed or living room is so much easier cozier than using that nice desk we have that’s similar to this desk.
But it’s also so much more distracting. And I am so much more likely to be interrupted. And it’s also harder to actually get my stuff done because desks are actually set up for work and my couch is set up for sleep or Netflix binge watching. (FYI: I’m not allowed to watch new shows on Netflix anymore. The last time I found one, all I did for three days was “work” and binge watch 13 Reasons Why. What I accomplished those days is a mystery.)
You don’t have to have a whole room. Or even a whole desk. Just a separate work area that doesn’t get filled with pre-chewed, but discarded Cheerios or the groceries that still need to be put away.
Know your productive work times
And maybe even more important is knowing your unproductive work times. You may not be able to fully choose your schedule, but there’s a good chance that if you’re working at home, you’ve got some flexibility.
How do I know when my unproductive times are? I check Facebook a lot. Or I scroll IG a lot. Or I stare at a blank screen, thinking I’ll write something of value, but it’s just a bunch of nonsense. Or I find a reason to go to YouTube and try to justify it as work related when I end up just watching dog and baby videos.
So what are your personal time wasters? When do you normally do these things? For me, mid-afternoon is when I hit a brick wall of laziness. So, I try to do one of two things for this time:
Schedule non-work related stuff so I waste less time
Schedule fun work so I’m more engaged
The time that I’m most productive – when I actually work without distraction – is first thing in the morning. During this time, I try to work on the hard/important tasks on my to-do list for the day so I can make a good dent in them.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Idly scrolling through Twitter right now? Your productivity is suffering. Fix it with these tips” quote=”Idly scrolling through Twitter right now? Your productivity is suffering. Fix it with these tips”]
Maybe this should be changed to “get rid of all the things” because this does not mean stacks. My husband and I are Master Builders of our stuff. And no, everything is not awesome. We build stacks and piles and things that make it look like our house isn’t an overflowing with stuff.
And when you live and work in the same place, it’s 1000 times worse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked surrounded by toys and magazines and mail and the contents of the emptied out junk drawer just because we have too much junk. Super motivating and inspiring, right?
Don’t just move stuff out of the way. Decide if you really need it. If you do, find a place for it in your home. A true place. One where it isn’t going to fall out at your feet when you open the door. No place to be found? Its place is in the garbage or donate pile.
What does this have to do with being productive? Only everything. It sounds a little wellness coachish, but I assure you – I have sat around enough for the both of us and my productivity (or lack thereof) proved it wasn’t a smart choice.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Get off your butt! You’ll be more productive.” quote=”Get off your butt! You’ll be more productive.”]
I’m bringing this one in from before my pre-Lily days because it helped me tremendously then. Lily doesn’t understand that I need to finish a Pomodoro to properly utilize said technique (pfft – one year olds!) – but when she’s napping and when she’s older, this is a must.
Not sure what the Pomodoro Technique is? Check out this primer to the Pomodoro Technique. In simple terms: you break work up into smaller, timed intervals (referred to as Pomodoros) that are followed by a break.
It’s an awesome way to push yourself to get work done and then reward yourself with a short break before repeating the process. This timer is a great tool, too!
Batch working makes my world go round. It is one of the biggest things that helps me actually accomplish the big picture things.
I’ve used two different methods and both work equally for me. It all depends on how flexible your schedule is and how you prefer to work.
Dedicated Days. Every day of the week has a different theme. Maybe Monday is copy writing, Tuesday is social media, Wednesday is meetings, Thursday is image creation and Friday is catch-up. It doesn’t matter what your days are – just group similar tasks together and see if you can find four to five different themes. You’ll never be left wondering “what should I be doing today?”
[clickToTweet tweet=”Dedicated days and time blocks. Here’s how batch working makes life SO much easier >>” quote=”Dedicated days and time blocks. Here’s how batch working makes life SO much easier >>”]
Time Blocks. Time blocks are similar to the Pomodoro Technique in a sense of you have a dedicated block of time for work. But in this instance, it’s usually longer (an hour+) and it’s 100% dedicated to one task.
For instance, blog post writing. For two hours, I will strictly write blog posts. This means that for those two hours, everything but what I need for writing blog posts is closed. No shiny objects are near and all trigger refresh sites are closed. I’m looking at you Facebook and email. And sometimes – if I’m feeling extra adventurous – I even turn off the WiFi on my computer. So ballsy, I know.
But seriously – no other distractions. Just me and my thoughts along with my pre-planned posts so I know what I’m supposed to be writing about for those two hours. It’s crazy how much you can do in such little time when you’re dedicating yourself to it.
PHEW! You made it. Over 2k+ words later and you’re now a productivity Jedi. I know it’s wordy, but productivity is a beast that needed to be slain with words.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Work from home? You NEED these productivity tips.” quote=”Work from home? You NEED these productivity tips.”]
I’d love to know what productivity tips for working at home that you have, too!