6 ways to stay productive while working from home

Aug 21, 2014

Emily Kate Pope is a content producer at General Assembly, an educational institution dedicated to creating a global community of individuals empowered to pursue work they love. GA offers full and part-time courses and workshops on the most relevant skills of the 21st century – from web development and user experience design, to business fundamentals, data science, product management, and digital marketing.

Working from the comfort of your own home (or favorite coffee shop) is just one of the many benefits of being a freelancer. Not having to commute every day saves both time and money and can actually make you happier; not to mention, studies have shown that working in an office can stifle creativity.

This isn’t to say that working from home doesn’t come with its fair share of complications. Isolation, distraction, and setting boundaries between your work and personal life are just a few of the many challenges a person can encounter when they opt out of traditional office life.

Here are a few simple tips to combat common pitfalls and increase productivity while working from home.

1. Set a schedule

Freeing yourself from the conventional 9-5 workday is one of the most obvious benefits of freelancing. However, operating without any sort of schedule can lead to a disorganized approach to your work, and have a negative effect on productivity.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, entrepreneurs and authors of Remote: Office Not Required, suggest breaking up your day into three sections to arrange as you see fit. These sections include a “catch up” time to answer emails, organize your tasks, and read industry news, a “collaboration” period to meet with clients or partners, and a “serious work” time when you tackle the most challenging tasks of your day. Doing this will allow you to organize your workflow and reduce time wasted.

2. Get dressed for work

While working in your pajamas is perhaps the most stereotypical advantage to working from home, a recent study suggests that there is a psychological advantage to getting dressed for work.

The study found that, “The influence of clothes…depends on wearing them and their symbolic meaning.” So while staying in your pajamas may suggest, “It’s time to check Facebook,” a pair of slacks signals that your workday has started.

3. Keep your work and personal communications separated

An easy way to get distracted while working from home is to have your personal and work messages jumbled together. If your job necessitates a lot of phone conversations (and you can afford it) it’s beneficial to have a dedicated work phone, and at the very least a separate email account to keep your work and personal communications where they belong.

4. Design your own workspace

Having a functional workspace is an essential part of staying productive both in and out of the office. While sitting on your couch may be comfortable, it’s probably not the most effective place to get your work done. One of the luxuries of working from home is the ability to design your own workspace (goodbye cubical), so make sure you find a desk solution that works for you, and organize it for optimal productivity.

5. Take breaks

Studies have shown that taking regular breaks increases productivity and creative thinking, while thwarting stress and exhaustion. If you can’t seem to concentrate, or find yourself stuck on a specific task, the solution may be as simple as taking a walk.

A recent study from Stanford University found that, “Across the board, creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting.”

Similarly, if your couch is calling your name, it may be time to head over to your local coffee shop. According to Fried and Heinemeier, being around other people may “fool your mind into thinking that being productive is the only proper thing to do."

**6. Stay in the know **

Working from home may keep you removed from subtle changes in your industry, making it hard for you to level up in your career. Stay in the know by networking (online and in person) with other professionals in your field. Try joining a Meetup group, regularly attending industry happy hours, or taking a related course to stay up-to-date on the most relevant skills in your industry.

Tell us, how do you stay productive while working from home?

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