We all know that feeling of being unproductive and not getting anything done. We get distracted and procrastinate, or we just don’t know where to start. It’s especially bad when you work from home.
I will share some tips and tricks that will help you boost your productivity and accomplish your goals while working from home. Some of this may seem basic, but sometimes going back to basic makes a big difference.
Set Your Priority Tasks and Goals for Your Week & Day to Boost Your Productivity
The best way to get things done is to make a list of tasks for your week and day and set priorities. I really advocate taking 15 minutes each day to figure out what you’re going to do. Why 15 minutes? Well, that’s approximately 1% of 24 hours. You can take 1% of your day to control the other 99%. You can also do this on Sunday to look at your entire week to determine what matters.
When you have a list of tasks, you can start with the one that needs the least amount of effort and work your way up to the ones that need more attention. Many people prefer this method because it helps them rev up for the most important tasks. Me? I prefer to eat the frog.
Eat the frog is a priority method that means you tackle your hardest (or one of your hardest) projects first. Why? Because then no matter what else you do two things happen:
- You don’t have to worry about boosting productivity or accomplishing goals because you’ve done both by taking on at least part of the hardest thing (even if you don’t finish the whole thing).
- No matter what else you do, you feel like you’ve won the day.
So, what’s the true importance of prioritizing your tasks? When you work from home, prioritizing tasks will help you stay on track and complete all your tasks on time. Although there’s this belief that we can work “whenever we want,” this mentality often leads to trouble. You can end up working some shitty hours, not having time to do your work, or turning in a terrible project and getting fired.
It is possible to complete all your tasks on time, even if you have kids in the home (I’ve done this from home for eight years…and starting out, I had three kids in the home – two are grown now), if you plan ahead and schedule your tasks for the day. Allocate time slots for each task, set a deadline, and prioritize your most important tasks at the top. You will be able to achieve your goals in less time and, if you learn self-discipline, with more focus. And, yes, self-discipline is a skill.
Use a Task Management System to Boost Productivity
A task management system is a great way to keep track of tasks. It doesn’t matter if they are personal tasks or business tasks. You can organize tasks and even set reminders or deadlines for the completion of a task.
By task management system, you can use something like your Google Calendar (I’ve done that), OneNote (I’ve done that, too), Evernote (there are templates), or ClickUp.
Here are some basic tips:
- Make a list of tasks that need to be done
- Set reminders for tasks that need to be completed
- Set deadlines for when the task needs to be completed by (I use a lot of self-imposed deadlines)
- Create categories for the different types of tasks (ClickUp is great for this)
- Create sub-categories within each category
Declutter Your Work Area (Yes, Really)
Clutter can be distracting, so it’s important to declutter your work area. And I realize that not everyone has a designated home office. I have one, but I don’t always use it. Sometimes, it’s a flat wreck. Often, I work in the living room. The day I wrote this (3/19/22), it was 70 degrees so I sat outside in the backyard.
This might seem like a simple task (or a daunting one…I’ve seen my own desk lately), but there are many ways you can declutter your workspace. You can start by getting rid of things that you don’t need and then look for ways to organize what’s left. Just start by tossing the trash. Sometimes even doing one little thing can go a long way. And I realize that some of us are “organized messies” in the sense of piles. Just do what you need to do to get the area you use picked up enough to organize your mental space. And, yes, this is science.
And maybe consider decluttering. No, I’m not talking about books. I wouldn’t do that to my fellow book lovers (unless you’re into Little Libraries – go nuts because it’s for a good cause. I need to clear out a few myself, but my decline in mobility makes it a little difficult to get to some shelves that are higher than others. My friend Edna recently started a Little Library. I have books and books and books I need to clear out to donate…so many that she may not have room.)
But think about what’s really in that space that could really go. You know? Even if your work area isn’t a designated office. I’m sitting in my backyard and we plan to put in a no-dig garden but there are a few things back here that I want to get rid of. Unfortunately, our gate is wonky so getting rid of things will be an adventure (there’s not much back here that needs to go). I love sitting back here to work in nice weather. We call it my “outside office.”
Oh, and sometimes a change of scenery really boosts productivity, too. I know that if I can’t focus in my office, if I move to another room or put on headphones or just change something, boom. Brand new. That takes me to #4…
Keep Yourself Focused By Blocking Out Distractions
Distractions impact your daily goals. If you don’t meet your daily goals, kiss your weekly goals goodbye. If you don’t meet your weekly goals, you can wave goodbye to your monthly goals. And say goodbye to your motivation (most likely).
Let me say this before anything else: I am not talking about children. Children need attention. And sometimes with kids, shit happens. I know. I’m a mom. And sometimes as a parent, we work weird hours to compensate for that fact…and sometimes we don’t because we know we wouldn’t be our absolute best (but sometimes we do because we know we need to make some kind of progress – and sometimes we work in the moments we can with the screaming kids, sick kids, etc., because if we’re self-employed and not working…guess what? We don’t get paid.).
When I’m talking about distractions, I’m talking about the things that keep you (and me) from working on the things that matter. These are the things that are either paid projects for clients or get us out there in front of potential clients.
- Social media (I don’t mean working as a social media manager, social media research, or engaging in areas where your ideal clients hang out…I do all of these)
- Constantly checking your email
- Phone calls that don’t matter
- Text messages that aren’t work related
- Looonnnnnggggg assssssssss meetings
Those are just a few of the distractions.
Social media. Put it down. Nothing will change. It will still be there in a few hours. So unless you’re managing client pages or returning prospective client messages (not tire kickers), schedule specific time twice a day to check it. I can be just as bad about this with Twitter and IG. That’s because I get a lot of potential client action there. And I socialize on Twitter. Do not lie to yourself about how much time you do or don’t spend on social media, either. We all waste an incredible amount of time scrolling on there. You could get so much more done if you just get away from it for even an hour. And I do know how hard it is. Our brains are addicted to it. Uninstall FB (keep messenger – I have messenger but I took FB off my phone). I check FB twice a day (my notifications).
Don’t live in your inbox. This one is hard for me for my gmail. I like to be super responsive to my clients. It’s one thing that sets me apart from other agency owners (apart from COVID, but all my clients were made aware that I was REALLY sick, worked when I could, and knew I’d respond when I could). If your notifications are on (make noise), SHUT THAT SHIT OFF. If you get notifications in your browser, SHUT THAT SHIT OFF. I do my best to NOT check my email more than three times per day (sometimes four). Jami is CCd on my client emails so that if people cannot get a hold of me and they need a response, they can contact her right away or they can call my office number. If they get my voicemail, it transcribes it and goes to the email that shakes my phone. I get back to them immediately. In 2019, a study found that people spend 209 minutes (that’s three hours and 29 minutes) in their work email every fucking day. So if you work eight hours a day, that’s almost half your work day. Like…how do you get anything done?
Phone use. I have diagnosed OCD. I hate using the phone. Do you know what I do, though? I tend to pick it up, turn on the screen, and look at the time. Then, I turn off the screen and turn it over. My phone is on vibrate, by the way. I don’t need to do this. I’m on a laptop. I know what time it is. But my “brand” of OCD is a time obsession. I do my best to control this. I’m on medication. The busier I am, the easier it is for me to NOT do this. Since I started writing this blog, I haven’t looked at my phone a single time. I’m also outside which helps a lot. I know a lot of you freak out at the thought of the phone thing. But my kid is in school/daycare. But what if someone calls me? But…but…but…
Uriel has autism and he is nonverbal. I now have a physical disability. But let me tell you, my phone is on vibrate. His school is…two blocks if I could cut through the grass in the back of the school (can’t) or a mile if I go the long way which I’d need to do…and if they were to call and Danny wasn’t home, I would do what I need to do to get to him. I don’t give a flying fuck if I would have to crawl over broken glass and alcohol to get to my baby, okay? I had this issue years ago and it wasn’t this bad. Jacob needed me (Jami can attest to this…she remembers) and I drove to where he was and practically kicked in a door to get to him. Mothers, regardless of disability, do what they need to do.
So, I understand it is scary to consider putting your phone on vibrate. I am not asking you to put it on silent. I am saying put it on vibrate. Okay? Then put it behind your monitor. Place it somewhere you can feel/hear it vibrate. If you are hard of hearing, please just place it out of arm’s reach so that you can still see the screen when it lights up. That’s it. For me, it’s out of line of sight, out of mind.
Here’s my second point about the phone: it is meant to be a tool of ease for you. It is meant to be something to make your life easier. It was never meant to become something that made you its slave. And now most of us can’t do anything, not even go to the john, without it. I mean, I get that…how many times can we read the back of the shampoo bottle? We’ve been liberated from that. The phone is not your master. Take back your freedom from it.
Rinse and repeat what I just said about texting. Who texted you? Work related? No? Respond later. Sometimes if I have friends that I work with they know I won’t answer it because I’ll forget. Brain inflammation is real. If I leave it marked unread, it’s easier for me to find it when I am ready to work with the info. Otherwise, I need to immediately move it to ClickUp or deal with it…and I can’t always do that.
Fucking meetings. Depending on your clients, you might not always be able to get out of meetings. I am on #TeamBlessed because I am very stingy with my virtual time with the exception of Jami. Sometimes I virtual call her just to bug her. (She knows I do it…but sometimes I virtual call her just to quickly tell her something – either way she answers because she isn’t sure which it is, lol!) The problem with meetings is that most people (even experienced and successful business owners) don’t know how to run an efficient meeting. They become a giant waste of time. So, I rarely say yes. If you choose to accept meetings, keep them short, know the agenda, and bow out early.
Take Care of Your Health by Sitting Less and Taking More Breaks
Sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for us. It’s important for each of us to be as active as possible. I know that this can be hard when we’re self-employed because we think we need to go, go, go…especially when we get super busy with client stuff and have a family. And then we think OMFG we need a break. So, what can we do?
Here are a few ways in which you can take care of your health by sitting less and taking more breaks:
- Reduce the amount of time you spend in a seated position by using an exercise ball or standing desk. I have two different standing desks. There are some really good inexpensive ones on Amazon. I also have a yoga ball that I never sit on. My husband bought it for himself. I think I tried it once for my desk…but I’m too short for that shit!
- Take a break from your work every 50 minutes to stretch, walk around, or do some jumping jacks, yoga, or something. Even a short vinyasa flow is great. Brendon Burchard swears by qigong. I try for the 50 minutes. If I get into a longer flow state, I usually roll with it. I’ve also used the 90 minutes on, 30 minutes off. That works well for me. There are a lot of different ways to make it work. Just don’t think so much about work-life “balance.”
- Schedule your meetings so that you can walk instead of sitting down to talk with people. If you live close to some other people who are self-employed or just have some friends, get together and walk. Yes, I know…pandemic. Mask up. Danny, Uriel, E1, and I went to the zoo. I can’t walk that far so I used a wheelchair. It was still wonderful to get out. Jami and I do what we can to just get together. Walking meetings are a thing. You can even talk on the phone with clients while you take a walk. You can do it however you want. Nothing stops you from creating your work from home life the way you want.
What’s Your Best Productivity Tip?
Help out others who read this by leaving your productivity tip in the comments!