Working from home seems like a dream arrangement.
You can trade the stressful morning commute for a leisurely breakfast. Swap the stuffy office attire for comfy loungewear. And replace the distractions of the workplace with a calm and focused home environment.
But the reality is that working from home presents its own challenges, especially when it comes to being productive.
There’s the challenge of trying to adapt to a flexible and undefined schedule. Or setting physical boundaries with your roommates or loved ones. Or attempting to work in a space that also happens to be cluttered with your personal belongings.
And let’s not forget the temptation to watch TV all day and zone out on the couch.
But, there are countless freelancers, self–employed folks, and remote workers who can attest to the myriad advantages of working from home. And for these work-from-homers, a home office has been a game changer for their productivity and well-being, and they can never go back to a traditional 9-to-5 again.
So how can you make working from home more productive?
The idea isn’t to make your WFH arrangement an exact replica of the traditional office experience, but rather, making your home office space work best for you and your needs. And a great way to achieve that is to have a solid internal and external set-up in place.
- Internal: A big part of productivity is understanding your internal set-up or systems. These are your everyday habits, routines, and preferences. For example, if you’re a morning person, then you’re going to want to maximize that time for productivity. Or if you tend to hit an afternoon slump, then you’ll want to avoid scheduling important tasks during that time. Knowing yourself and what makes you tick can boost your productivity at home.
- External: Your external set-up is your physical working environment. This is your desk, office supplies, tools, etc. An office space that is clean, organized, and furnished with the tools you need, will be much more conducive to productivity.
When your internal and external set-up are in harmony, you’ll be more focused, efficient, and motivated. Here are some tips to help you improve your home office set up, both internal and external, to enhance your productivity.
1. Create a work-from-home schedule that works for you
The flexibility of a work from home schedule can be both liberating and paralyzing. Some people love to make their own hours. While others feel guilty if they’re not working for 8 straight hours everyday.
At a traditional office job, you probably wouldn’t be working for 8 hours straight anyway. So instead of trying to force yourself to be productive for the entire day, try to identify the parts of the day in which you work best.
- Do you get the most done in the morning, afternoon, or evening?
- When do you hit a wall and feel low energy?
- Do you ever get a second wind of energy? If so, when?
So let’s say your peak energy levels are in the morning. Instead of sticking to a typical 9-5, maybe your ideal work schedule is working from 8-11 and doing tasks that require concentration and big thinking around then. Afterwards, you can take a break, and use the rest of the day to take on meetings, socialize, do admin work, or other tasks that don’t require too much brain power.
By understanding your internal needs, you’ll be able to create a schedule that is productive and works for you.
2. Hold yourself accountable
The great thing about working from home is that no one’s breathing down your neck to finish x or y.
Without anyone to report to, however, it’s up to you to define what you need to get done each and every day.
So each morning, create a specific to-do list with deadlines.Then check-in with yourself at the end of the day to see what you accomplished. Add any pending items to tomorrow’s to-do list.
By making a crystal clear to-do list, you can hold yourself accountable for your work and get things done in a timely manner.
3. Keep your workspace organized
Whether you have a separate room for your home office or you’re using a side table as a desk, an organized workspace will alleviate work distractions and improve productivity. Here are ways to keep your home office space well-organized and optimized for work.
4. Keep paper under control
When you work from home, paper clutter seems to materialize out of nowhere. Not only do you have work documents to deal with, but you’re also trying to manage personal documents and mail. So you’ll definitely want to make a concerted effort to manage your paper clutter.
- Put away paper every day. Whether it’s recycling, shredding, or filing, you’ll want to put away documents at the end of each work day.
- Have an inbox. Have an inbox tray for “active documents.” These could be pending documents that require your approval or review; documents that you need to reference for work; and other paperwork that will help you get work done.
- Keep folders. For important documents that don’t necessarily need your attention or action, put them away in hanging file folders or binders.
- Have a regular decluttering day. At the end of the week, cull your paperwork and shred any mail or documents with sensitive information. Put away documents in their appropriate folders or binders. By having a designated day for paper organization, you’ll be able to keep clutter at bay.
5. Have a home for your office supplies
Another way to keep a tidy workspace is to have a “home” for your office supplies. No more desk drawers overflowing with junk!
- Store office supplies and save space with a stackable desk organizer.
- Use a catch-all tray for office items and desk accessories.
- Manage your cords and chargers with this ribbon.
- File away paperwork with an under the desk cabinet.
6. Identify your office essentials
If you’re working from home, you probably don’t have tons of office real estate. To minimize clutter and distractions, you’ll want to reserve your desk space for the essentials.
Think about the tools that you’ll need that will set you up for a successful day.
Some ideas for essential office supplies include:
- Laptop and mouse
- Your favorite pen and highlighter
- Planner, notebook, and sticky notes
- Binder with documents you’ll need for the week
- Noise blocking headphones
For even more ideas on how to improve productivity in your home office, check out our guide here.
Written by JiJi Lee.