Deliveries, pets, last night’s dishes, or attention-seeking kids — Being productive when you work from home can be a challenge with ever-present distractions. Establishing a space that limits distractions means you set yourself up for success. Likewise, if your home office is cluttered and messy, it can be a challenge to stay productive. Maximize your time with these tips:
1. Get a (Quiet) Room
Working from the dining room table might be convenient, but it’s not easy to stay organized when you have to clear away your “desk” each night to eat dinner. Commandeer the quietest spot in your home instead: a basement room, the guest bedroom, or a spot in the garage. You could even convert the shed in your backyard into an office. Carving out this space is essential to limiting distractions and promoting your work-life balance. Having a dedicated spot that you associate with work can help you focus on your tasks.
2. Organize Your Space
Creating a well-oiled (office) machine in your home begins with looking at the work you will do there. It’s important to develop an organizational system and find tools that make that system efficient for your daily responsibilities.
The best thing to purchase and keep updated is a filing cabinet, organized beautifully, and ready for you to use. An inbox/outbox keeps papers contained and allow you to see at a glance what you need to do (inbox) and what you need to mail, file, or trash (outbox). Speaking of trash, having a wastebasket, shredder, and recycling bin nearby means less clutter on your desk. Lastly, use a file rack to hold your current projects in one place, so you know where they are.
One of the best ways to stay organized is to assign every item a home, and to put things back in their place when you aren’t using them. If you don’t know where something should go, ask yourself where you would look for it. Once you figure that out, put the item there, and keep it there.
Another tip is to relocate anything that is not directly related to your work, which will limit further distraction.
3. Tackle Digital Clutter
While your digital files aren’t taking up any physical space, it’s just as important to keep them organized. A standardized system, with naming rules for folders and files, lets you quickly and easily find what you need when you need it. Don’t forget to backup your files to an external hard drive or upload them to a cloud-based service.
Now is also a good time to get your email under control. While you may not ever get to “Inbox Zero,” you can set up a filing system for the emails you need to keep and get them out of your inbox. If you find emails that you still need to respond to, flag them and set aside time to deal with them later. Finish by unsubscribing or blocking newsletters and promotions you no longer want to receive.
4. Limit (Online) Distractions
Endless cat videos and quizzes. Opinions galore and hilarious memes. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with killing time online, surfing during your work day will hurt your productivity. When you need to buckle down and focus, there are several ways to beat your internet addiction.
KeepMeOut works in any browser with a customized set of bookmarks. You can set limits to how often you visit a website, and when you follow the KeepMeOut link, your willpower doesn’t have to be strong, since this tool will block you based on your pre-set preferences. Extremely customizable, Stayfocusd allows you to specify the sites that are off limits on Chrome. LeechBlock for Firefox lets you block time-sucking sites at specific times and has a full lockout mode when you need to get serious.
5. Set (and Keep) Office Hours
A healthy work-life balance is the ultimate goal for most people in professional positions. Working remotely means the line can become blurry if you’re not careful. Organize your time so that you’re giving both your work and your home life adequate attention.
Start by setting specific work hours. This allows you to maintain boundaries around your free time. Figure out a schedule that works best for you and stick with it.
You can also try scheduling breaks into your day and working in shorter bursts. This suggestion comes from the Pomodoro Technique, which helps train you to have better concentration over short periods. Giving your body and brain time to relax during your day is a good way to deal with distractions, too. Stick to your time limits, and you’re golden.
Keeping your home office organized can be a challenge, but the value of being productive in your own space far outweighs the issues. With a bit of practice, a sprinkle of organization, and a dab of willpower, remote work can be very enjoyable and rewarding.
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