Great tips for staying productive and motivated when working from home. 

make a list when you work from home

As part of the FlowReader team, we’re lucky to have the option to work remotely part of the time. Working from home is an awesome perk on so many levels and something that I believe makes us happier as a team.

But it’s not without its challenges. How do you stay focused and get things done when you’re surrounded by distractions that are probably more appealing than your work?

Here’s 9 tips to help you maximize your productivity when working from home!

1) Get dressed

One of the best things about remote work is that no one actually sees you during the day. If you want to stay in your favorite footie pajamas – you can. No one’s holding you back.

That being said, I find getting dressed and doing my normal morning routine helps me remember that it’s a normal day of work. I like to be comfortable on my home office days, so my only rule is to change out of whatever I slept in. It’s amazing what a difference a fresh change of clothes makes in the morning, even if you’re just putting on a new pair of sweatpants.

2) Set your schedule (but don’t restrict yourself)

Although I like to use my days at home to break out of my daily routine, I still have regular office hours that I follow. Flexibility is a huge benefit of working from home, but you should still set hours for yourself (and keep them!) to help get in the zone.

Instead of sticking to the standard 9 to 5, allow yourself some freedom and try tweaking your hours to fit the times you’re most productive. When you work remotely, it’s an opportunity to choose times that work best for you as an individual. Are you a morning person? Plan to do the majority of your work right of the bat first thing in the a.m., or leave yourself the morning free before you buckle down in the afternoon.

Alternatively, you can give yourself more breaks (long or short) as long as you commit to your working hours.  For example, I like to start around the same time as a normal office day, but I build different breaks into my day. Generally, I work for about 2-3 hours straight at a time, and then, I like to take a half an hour to make coffee, take my dogs for a walk, or put in a load of laundry.

This pushes me to be productive, but helps me balance some of the natural distractions I often struggle with at home. 

3) Stay connected and communicate

Checking in with the rest of your team becomes even more crucial when you’re not physically present in the same office. The FlowReader team (along with everyone at Wikidi) uses Jabber through our personal chat clients to stay connected during office hours. Another project team uses the collaboration tool Confluence to organize discussions,  share product ideas, and track progress. Putting easy communication workflows in place ensures everyone stays in the loop about tasks or issues, even if someone is out of the office that day.

At the same time, don’t get app happy. Apps are great, but there’s no need to try out every new web program that comes out. Speaking from experience, it’s way too easy to go overboard.

I once work in a team that used 4 or 5 different tools to track discussions and progress (plus email). It got way out of hand and eventually, decisions started getting lost in translation and tasks were being overlooked (or simply forgotten). In the end, we had to cut down to one and basically start from scratch.

4) Know what you need to get done

Making a to-do list is a great way to combat procrastination at home, as well at the office. I’ve found a list and a plan of action make it easier to get everything done, regardless of distractions or interruptions (and there’s even some science that supports the effectiveness of lists).

I use a to-do list manager (Wunderlist) where I record all the tasks I need to complete and their due dates. Todoist and WorkFlowy are also popular tools used by the FlowReader team.

I usually work from that list on my desktop app when I’m in the office, but on remote working days, I like to give myself a second layer of motivation.

In the morning, I go over my list on the app and then, create a handwritten task list for the day. Once I’ve finished all the items on my paper list, I’ll update my progress on my computer. The same technique has also helped me when I’ve got a lot of my plate at the office.

5) Understand how you work best

Honesty is very important when you’re working from home. It’s important to do a little self-evaluation and figure out what helps you do your best work.

Here’s a few questions to ask yourself:

  • When am I most motivated?
  • Where do I do my best work?
  • What’s my ideal working environment look like?
  • What are my biggest distractions?

Remote work gives you the opportunity to experiment with different conditions to increase your productivity, so be honest about the kind of work you do, how much you complete, and what approaches work well for you.

6) Eliminate or embrace distractions

As I mentioned earlier, working outside the office comes with a host of distractions. The friend who stops by in the middle of the day. An endless amount of chores you’ve been meaning to get finished. Your kids and pets. The television. A good book.

The best way to deal with these temptations is to set clear boundaries for yourself (and others). Try to avoid social distractions during the day by letting friends and family know you can’t hang out when you’re working.  Designate a work area and keep everything you need nearby. The more you have to keep leaving your work, the more likely you are to lose focus.

Another way to deal with distractions is to incorporate them into your schedule. I like to work for longer periods of time and then, give myself a break to do something else. This strategy helps me keep my concentration because I know there’s a scheduled time in my day that I can step away from my work.

7) Create a comfortable workspace

A comfortable working space makes a huge difference to your overall motivation and productivity. Whether it’s your kitchen table or a completely separate room, make sure to spend some time creating an area that encourages you to work. Experiment with your working environment – invest in a comfortable chair, decorate with something that inspires you, or try out a standing desk.

The point is to add some personal touches you know will boost your performance.

Personally, I’ve always worked well in coffee shops (apparently there’s even a scientific connection between the buzz of ambient noise and creativity). Sometimes, I’ll go and work at a cafe, but this habit can get a little pricey. I usually order a few times while I’m there and usually get a snack – hey, don’t be that person. So instead spending a small fortune on pastries and espresso, I use a free app called Coffitivity that simulates the background murmur of a coffee shop.

The perfect work area naturally varies based on preference, so know what’s most effective for you and your space.  For example,  my college roommate used to study best in the middle of her bed with the TV on quietly for background noise.

8) Get out during the day

One of the pitfalls of working remotely is that you can end up never leaving the house. You don’t spend the whole day at your office desk, do you? At some point, you get a change of scenery. You probably grab a coffee in the kitchen a couple times a day, leave the office for a lunch break, or attend meetings in another room.

Before I worked at FlowReader, I used to work for another startup where I had a full-time remote working arrangement. In many ways it was great, but one of the things I noticed after a few months was that I was feeling a little stir-crazy. I no longer had to commute anywhere, my lunches were all home-made, and before long, I was only leaving my desk to walk my dogs when I was working.

Not good. So, how do you avoid this?

Try to simulate the same environment changes throughout your day. Grab a coffee in the morning somewhere in your neighborhood or run some errands during a break. At least, go for a short walk in the afternoon to stretch your legs.

9) Enjoy the flexibility

Whether you’re working from home every day or just once in awhile, enjoy it. The best policy is to find a healthy balance for producing quality work, while taking advantage of some of the freedoms remote work allows.

Feel your focus slipping? Take a break and do something else. Head to the park with your dog, go for a run, or even call it quits a little early. Sometimes stepping away is important and if you have a schedule that allows you to do this – take advantage.

And anyways, enjoying life for a bit usually helps you work better!

Do you have any good tips for working remotely or from home?

Share with us here or on Facebook. You can also tweet to us directly, @flow_reader.