Working from home can be a dream come true ... but not everyone is cut out for it (at least not without a little help). Yes, you really can work in your pajamas, write on the couch and even leave the TV on (muted), for a little company.
Everyone is different, but there's no hard-and-fast rule that says you need an office separate from your leisure space to be a top-notch worker. Some people even work better in boxer shorts and a T-shirt while slumped in their bean bag chair.
If you're worried about productivity in an impending telecommuting position or you'd like to squeeze in more contracts as a freelancer, there are a few tricks. They won't necessarily work for everyone, but they just might give you the push you need to work a little harder.
1. There's an app for that. There are apps designed just for telecommuters, so start browsing your mobile store today. Work+ helps you find locations besides your home with Wi-Fi so you can take your laptop to a different bistro every day for a change of pace.
The Free Wi-Fi app lets you do a generic search for free Wi-Fi anywhere -- "working from home" doesn't necessarily mean you have to be at home. The Coverage? app lets you figure out just how far you can get away from it all while still being connected. Perhaps working from a campsite might appeal to you on occasion.
2. Breaks: Make 'em happen. Breaks are important. You no longer "have" to go to the gym before clocking in at 8 a.m. or drag yourself to Zumba right after a meeting that runs late.
Get up, run in your neighborhood, drive to that class at 10 a.m. and generally improve your movement levels. It increases brain productivity.
3. Get things done in the morning. Study after study has shown that the most successful, productive people dive right in when they wake up. You don't have to get dressed, put on a suit and commute. Take care of the bulk of your work well before lunch and you'll be off to a better start.
4. Be comfortable. Comfort naturally equals more productivity. There are only two reasons you should have a separate office space: If you can really benefit from that home office tax credit and if you truly work better in that setup.
Otherwise, why aren't you working day in and out in gym clothes -- making it that much easier to head for a quick run between projects?
5. Drink your water. Productivity involves mental, emotional and physical well-being. Hydration is a key part of full functioning; if you're not hydrated, you simply can't be your best, focused self.
Keep a 32 oz. bottle by your side. Keep track of how much you drink (hint: it should be at least two bottles per day).
6. Don't multi-task. Somehow, multi-tasking acquired a desirable value in recent years, but it shouldn't have happened. Very few people can truly multi-task well. Usually, people just end up getting stretched too thin, not doing their best on any project and getting stressed out. Jumping back and forth won't get the job done faster, it will just slow you down.
Related: The Art of Efficiency: How to Do One Thing at a Time
7. Don't go to bed busy. There will be times when you'll have to work late, just as if you had gone to the office. However, for the most part, you should have your work completed at the end of the workday.
If you're in bed worrying about those reports which weren't finished or stressing over that report that's still not written, you either need to reassess your workload or admit you weren't focused during the day. Clean your work plate every day; it's the best way to stay on track.
8. Don't leave the house without a mission. Yes, you can go to the gym, do the weekly grocery shopping and pick up the kids from soccer practice. You shouldn't go shopping for fun, head to the bookstore or go out to eat every day just because you feel like it.
Distractions can eat away your time and focus. When you leave the house, make sure it's for a necessary purpose.
9. Know how you operate. Some people need frequent mini breaks to be their best. Others thrive on longer stretches of uninterrupted work time. Know yourself and how you operate, then optimize your schedule.
If you work best doing a set of lunges in between assignments, do that. If you need a quiet room with no TV, make it happen.
10. Have deliverables. Your deliverables let you know how you're doing, how much you've done, and where you need to improve. This varies dramatically depending on your job. Keep track of your deliverables daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. This gives you a tangible piece of evidence to work from.
Remember, "staying focused" doesn't always mean buckling down. Sometimes it means taking care of yourself so you can take care of business.
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