Wednesday 31 August 2022

How to stay productive when you're working from home - my top 5 tips

Ah, that old chestnut - I've been in this game for a few years now, so I'm a bit of an expert. You won't find me getting distracted by the contents of the world wide web, or the dog/cat, or household chores, or my phone... No. Noooo. Not me. Ahem.

OK, so you may be surprised to hear I'm not super-human when it comes to knuckling down - although I do think I'm not all that bad really. Of course, doing a job you enjoy helps, but even then there's still a lot of things you don't want to do/can't be bothered with that leads to all sorts of prevarication and distraction. And sometimes, even knowing it's something you HAVE to do RIGHT NOW doesn't even help give the proverbial kick up the bum you need to get productive.

So, what to do, what to do? Here's a few little tips I've found work for me over the years - hopefully they might prove useful to you too.

The sound of silence...

I hate it, can't work in silence, never have. You may not be the same, but if you find quiet distracting then my tip is to put on the radio (not the TV, never ever the TV!). Personally I listen to Radio 4 all day long while I'm working, plus occasional podcasts when I know I can listen (because most of the time I'm not actually listening, it's there just rumbling in the background in a comforting kind of way). It reminds me there are other people working out there in the world too. Which leads me onto...


If you find working at home completely on your own is hard, and background noise from a radio for example doesn’t work, sometimes just having another person present in the room is enough to spur you on. So maybe work in a coffee shop or library for a couple of hours a day.

It's all about timing...

When are you most productive? If you're sitting down at your desk at 9am on the dot and expecting to find the creative juices flowing when you don't actually hit your creative sweet spot until after lunch, then you're on a road to nowhere. Plan your day around when your brain is feeling it. Use the non-creative time to do the mundane stuff. I personally find I can't knuckle down until I've sorted out my emails and done the admin stuff. It frees my mind, knowing that it's all organised and now I can relax and do the productive, creative things I need to do.

Finding your place…

Make sure that the area you work in is comfy, well lit, and YOURS (at the very least, for the time you need to be working at it). And make your area attractive: a nice plant or a fancy pot to put your pens in is sometimes enough - but don’t try to work amongst clutter or housework that needs doing, it messes with your head, your creativity, and it’s super-distracting (as in: “I’ll just tidy up before I get onto to those emails..”)! Get those urgent chores done before you even sit down to start your work day. Equally, unplugging from social media can help you to keep productive - we all know how much of a glorious timewaster it can be! Turn off the notifications so there are no pop-ups trying to lure you back in.

Plan your day…

I find having a scatter-gun approach to work can be really distracting; where you simply react to things as they happen. I know I work much more productively if I can allot sections of my day to certain tasks. As I’ve said, I start my day by going through emails because it also gives me an idea of what needs to be done that day so that I can prioritise. I try to tackle any jobs that I don’t want to do first rather than leave them to later in the day - this includes anything that’s boring, difficult (because I know it will play on my mind all day if I don’t do it early on), or annoying. Take regular breaks during the day, making sure you actually get up off your chair and move. I don’t have set times for this because it’s not always possible to do, but even just getting up to make a cuppa and stare out of the window while the kettle boils is enough to give your brain some downtime and be able to go back refreshed.

It can often feel as if productive, efficient people must be some kind of robot - but they’re just people that have found their workflow: and you can too!

Sarah x

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