6 Productivity Tips For Those Who Work From Home

I thrive when I’m doing many things at once. I’m currently helping design Mozilla’s Firefox Operating System and working as a freelance illustrator/Art Director/designer. I also blog and have taken up a few new hobbies such as knitting, weaving, making jewelry, sewing home goods etc.

But I still get everything done in a day that I need to because I’ve learned the art of discipline over the years. I took karate for half a decade, so I’m sure that helped too, but being productive working from home takes a bit more than a few hard punches.

Here are my fail-safe tips to increase your productivity when you work from home:

1. Get Dressed and Ready As If You Were Going Into a Public Office

Quit using the “less laundry” excuse. It’s not even true. It just means more embarrassing things on the clothesline over real clothes. While staying in your PJs and not showering seems like a conservative, Eco-friendly lifestyle, it doesn’t lend itself well to getting shit done. Getting dressed and prepared for the day just as if you were going to an office puts you in the mental space of working. And if you happen to have a client request a Skype meeting or real meeting in-person last-minute, you’re good to go. If you’re looking for clothes that are just as comfortable as pajamas that are also flattering, read this post.

2. Designate a WORK ONLY Space

Do nothing but work in this environment. Don’t nap in it, don’t watch TV. This is your office and should be treated like a factory–a nice one. In the winter when I bought my home, I had work shoes I wore in my office. It sounds silly, but in what other office could you go socked or barefoot? Starting habits that get you in the zone work. Since summer same and we don’t have AC, I ditched this rule, but now with fall around the corner, I’m starting the habit back up.

3. Get Out There (Literally & Figuratively)

It’s easy to live in a bubble and become a hobbit, but isolation doesn’t look good on anyone. Find opportunities to get out there; take classes, go to coffee shops, take walks, attend industry-related conferences, events, shows, or even walk to work: I know of people who physically leave the house in the morning, walk and get coffee, walk the dog, or just walk around the block, coming home as if arriving at an office. I don’t do this myself in the morning, but I do go for walks right after my work sessions and come “home”, ending work. It helps signify the end to your work.

(To any bloggers reading, I’ll be at Blog Podium next Saturday! See you there? Comment so I can meet up with ya’s!)

4. Stay Organized

Both mentally and in your physical work space. Working from home means saving on gas, transit, eating out etc., so put some of that money back into your business and invest in things like cork-boards, white boards, post-it notes–don’t forget you can write if off as a business expense! I also have a email rule that’s done wonders for my organization. That rule is: If you open it, there’s not going back–Reply or delete, right then and there. I’ve been guilty of sitting on emails, crafting a response, but a quick response is better than none. Sure, some emails warrant a read-over, but in general, the reply or delete rule works for me.

Organized also means looking at the due dates of tasks you need to get done and working back from there. If the due date for a project is on a Friday following a Monday, schedule your time, working backwards from Friday: Friday: Hand in Final. Thursday night: Ensure final is ready to send and exported according to the brief. Wednesday: Project should be nearing completion. Tuesday: Project should be realized and roughed in for working on. Monday: Brainstorming and working out the kinks.

Jessica Hische also has some good tips on organizing and scheduling her week. Her “Ultra-Schedule” can be seen here. Overall, it’s about finding what works for you. My schedule won’t necessarily work for you, nor will hers. Find your own darn schedule!

5. Track Your Time and Make a Schedule

I’ve read a lot of productivity articles that talk about designating hours, like 9-5 or 11-7, but I simply cannot work this way. I work in three 3-hour blocks throughout the day. Once again, it’s about finding what works for you. If you’re better off pounding through a 8-hour day, do it. I simply found that I’m most productive when I space my work out within a 16 hour day. Typically, my days go as such, being as honest as possible. Work time is in bold:

  • 8:30 am: Wake up naturally
  • 8:30 – 8:45: Check emails in bed. I know it’s not the best; I’ve been trying to even move to the couch to check my phone, but I’m just being honest!
  • 9:00 am: Get dressed and make coffee.
  • 9:30 am: Blog, read blogs, browse the internet, Buffer my social media for the week, get inspired.
  • 10 – 12 noon: Work on real jobs (Mozilla and freelance projects I have on the go). I work on them interchangeably to be transparent. This job for 30 mins, back to that work for 40, back to this job for 15 etc.
  • 12 – 2:00pm: Break. I take a leisurely lunch, go for a walk, run errands, dink around the house, prime one wall at a time, play the game of “15 things” where I clean up just 15 things (thrilling, I am.) ADD, yes. But I get ‘er done!
  • 2 – 5pm: Work again on real jobs.
  • 5 – 8pm: On days my better half and I don’t go to yoga, we eat around 5:30-6 followed by an after-dinner walk around town. On days we do go to yoga, we prepare a simply dinner to finish making when we get home, then we leave around 6:45 for the 7pm class and eat when we get home around 8:30.
  • 8 – 11pm: Work on personal projects. This includes blogging, illustrating for myself etc. The dream-job stuff.
  • 11 – 12: We typically re-convene and watch a Wife Swap. If I’m being completely honest. No judgy.
  • 12 midnight: Bedtime!

It also helps to track what you did each hour or half hour so you can see patterns and work around them; if you find you have a pattern of slacking off from 10-11am, take your lunch break earlier during this slump! If you find you’re mind’s spinning from 10-11pm, minus an hour from your work day and make up for that time during this productive, get-sh!t-done hour.

6. Break It Up. Take Time For You.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the monotony of life, especially when you’re working a few meters from your bedroom or from within your bedroom. Treating yourself to you-time is important. Sometimes this will mean exercise, sometimes it’ll mean going for ice-cream. Sometimes it’ll be exploring a new hobby, sometimes it’ll be lazing around on the couch browsing Instagram. Break it up and be good to yourself. With no boss to recognize your accomplishments or colleagues to celebrate with, make sure you’re giving yourself credit and celebrating your achievements in your own way or with loved ones.

Comments (5)

  • I love how honest you were in your breakdown of your day. Inspirational! I probably don’t pay attention to how much I procrastinate.

    – Christina http://www.cityloveee.blogspot.com

  • Nice Post Sabrina.

    I am an art director/designer working mainly for clients but I’ve been trying to organize my time to launch my own side projects.
    This is a great help for me.

  • Sabrina – this is just what I needed to read today … I have been trying to balance blogging and getting my lifestyle coaching business going …add in personal time and the day does not seem to have enough hours. Great post!! Hoping to connect at BlogPodium. Cheers, Celia M. (HHL)

  • Sabrina Smelko

    Hey Pablo! Thanks, that’s fantastic! Glad I can help and best of luck with your projects 🙂

  • Sabrina Smelko

    It’s a tough balance to strike, but it’s totally worth it, isn’t it? Glad I’m of help, and best of luck doing more of what you love and continuing to blog, blog, blog!

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