How to stay productive when working from home

Do you struggle to get a full day’s work accomplished when working at home? Read three tips to help you stay productive.

With working from home becoming ever more popular, the fight to stay productive in the face of potential distractions and lack of structure has taken centre stage.

And if your decision to work from home stems from the desire to remain closely involved with your children and family, productivity can become a real challenge.

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How to stay productive when working from home

With these three tips, you should be able to develop a strategy that will allow you to get more work done, while still having time to improve your quality of life.

1) Set boundaries

One of the most important things you can do when you work from home is establish boundaries that will help maintain your productivity.

Just because you are at home, doesn’t mean you’re available for family and friends. Interrupting work to answer phone calls from your mother who is looking to chat, for example, is one of the fastest ways to zap your focus and by extension, your productivity. Friends and family may not realise that that quick five minute chat can cost you more than an hour of your time, when you consider how long it can take to regain your focus and creativity.

Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine has discovered that it takes an average of 25 minutes for a worker to return to a task once they’ve been interrupted. Mark’s study, however, did not take into account how long it takes for the worker to attain the same level of focus they had before the interruption or how long afterward the quality of work suffers.

So tell family and friends you are working and not available. During work hours, you may want to let all calls go to voicemail and return them once you’ve finished your work for the day.

With email, you want to control the interruptions as much as possible. Try limiting yourself to checking email once or twice a day and return all emails in one go, rather than putting it off.

2) Have a designated area for your work

Most people working from home have a home office where they can go to do their work. If you are one of those people, congratulations! Just remember to shut your door if your family is also home. Otherwise, the open door will invite interruptions as your partner or children will assume you’re available.

If you don’t have a dedicated home office, it’s still important to carve out an area in your home where you do your work-related tasks. Try to keep your personal life from spilling over into this area as much as possible. It’s important to have a place to go that serves as a mental signal that anytime you are there, you’re working

For this same reason, you will feel more serious about your work — which will translate into higher productivity — if you shower and dress before hitting the desk. Treat your work attire as you would if you commuted to an outside office. That means no pyjamas and activewear.

Define when you start and finish work – having a clear start and end to your work day will give you the ability to mentally disconnect from work so you can devote your off hours to your family or your hobbies instead of trying to think about both.

3) Take regular breaks

Breaks help highly productive people maintain their focus. It may sound counter-intuitive, but your brain cannot maintain the same level of focus throughout the day if it doesn’t get the occasional opportunity to recharge.

So make it a point to get up and walk around every hour or so. Build it into your routine. Take an short walk around the block or do a mini-workout. Put a load of washing on or fill your water glass. Short naps can also be invaluable to helping you stay actively engaged in work throughout the afternoon, too.

Or you can structure your work around super-productive 90-minute focus blocks, and plan well-deserved breaks in between.

And don’t forget to get out of your home office once in a while. Coffee shops and cafes offer you the chance for some human interaction while giving you a much needed change of scenery.

Jayne Blake works as a Communications Manager at Prospa, Australia’s largest online business lender. She is interested in new marketing strategies and leadership trends.