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How To Actually Be Productive Working from Home

Work-life balance is hard when they're in the same place.

Slowly but surely, a lot of jobs are moving to the "remote" world. This not only saves companies on office space costs but also allows for more flexibility in where their staff are located. With the technology these days, it's easy to still communicate with colleagues and clients on a regular and professional basis.

Hi, I'm Alex and I work for an animal health technology company from home! I answer calls, send emails, video conference, troubleshoot client issues, and generally go about my typical work day - all while in slippers.

This can make it difficult to stay motivated and productive a lot of the time, when it's easy to just roll out of bed and onto your desk chair and work the whole day in your pjs. I have a few tips though, that will hopefully help you stay on track when you have no one to be accountable to but yourself.

Look at Your To-Do Lists and Calendar First Thing

When you start your work day, make sure the first thing you do is look at your lists and calendar. Map out what your day is going to look like in terms of meetings and due dates, as well as what you want to accomplish by the end of that day. This will start your day off right and might actually mean you log into your work email before jumping onto Instagram scrolling through your feed for twenty minutes before getting down to work*.

*Definitely not pulled from personal experience—cough.

A great tool I actually use in place of a to-do list is a task manager. It depends on your occupation if a task management tool would work for you, but I find it does. I personally use Capsule Customer Relationship Management. This manager lets me track what I need to do in terms of my own tasks, as well as tasks and issues related to specific clients. It also lets me label (eg. email, follow-up, data) and set due dates for tasks. It keeps me on track throughout my week as well as lets me easily look back and identify any clients who I may not have been in touch with recently enough. But again, this type of tool is for a specific type of work, so finding that one system that works best for you is key. I had to go through a few different programs before I found one I liked.

Find a Local Coffee Shop

This is key. Even if you're not a coffee drinker! Ideally, you live close enough to one to walk to, but if not a short bike, bus, or car ride. It's something you can use as an excuse to get dressed, get out of the house, get out of your head space—just GET OUT. Sometimes you just need to have that ambient human noise around you. If I'm feeling cooped up, I either just go grab a coffee (in my reusable mug, let's keep things eco-friendly, kids) or I pack up my laptop, notebook, etc and go work at said coffee shop for the afternoon, or all day if I need it.

This coffee shop requires some ideal criteria though. You may need to do some scouting (ugh, trying out new, adorable coffee shops all day, what a hard life). It needs good music, none of that elevator swing music, more of that "But First Coffee" Spotify mixtape gold. It needs good people, if it's all stuck-up silent hipsters with earbuds in or all loud grannies complaining about their Book Club drama, you won't get any work done. I love places that are local and tend to attract chill, happy local-loving folk. The kind of people who will smile and chat with you but also let you be if you need to get things done. It needs a good noise level, people need to be interacting and not in the kind of mood where if you get an unexpected phone call from a client, you're going to get the death stare. And finally (or is this too obvious?), it needs good coffee (and/or tea, or whatever hot beverage you're into).

Be Active

It's so easy to be stagnant and not move throughout your entire day when you work from your own home. I'm not going to lie, I have finished my day with less than 3000 steps on my FitBit. That's ridiculous. Taking active breaks is good for any desk job but especially one where you don't even have a commute to be active in. Again, going to get that coffee (in your reusable mug!!) is one way to get up and stretch. But also, just walking around the block or simply standing up and stretching every hour. It can be hard especially when it's winter. It's freezing cold out, the sidewalks are covered in ice, why put yourself in a death trap unnecessarily? Find a way to be active indoors too. I have started doing lunchtime yoga in my living room and it has helped me a great deal! As we all know, an active body helps your mind be active and engaged as well... Yes, we all know this but we don't always act on it. Make an effort to act on it and you will feel better physically and mentally.

Have a Routine

Now set all of the suggestions above into a routine. Get up, get dressed, have breakfast, make your coffee (or other hot beverage of choice), then sit down to work by checking your to-do lists or task manager, and calendar. Take an actual lunch break, don't just eat at your desk. And make sure to do something active while you're on your break. Get back to work in the afternoon but check in with yourself and make sure you're being productive. If you need a quick break—take it. Walk around the block. You don't have a commute, so I personally feel that a bit of extra time you take for yourself in your work day, to get a new view of the world for a minute is completely validated. Feeling caged in is the opposite of what you want. You're at home! You're not at an office in tight work attire with a boss breathing down your neck making sure you're working at your desk. Don't feel like you need to be glued to it in your own home. Use this freedom to your motivational advantage! I personally am much more productive overall throughout a day when I can get breaths of fresh air or just move my body. Finally, make sure you give yourself an "end of day." Tidy up (a fresh desk is the morning is always helpful!) and shut down. Just because your desk is still there when you're free at 8:00pm doesn't mean you should jump onto your email quickly to see what's happened since you quit for the day at 5:00pm. Work-life basis is necessary. You're done for the day, you're done. Your "office" is closed, the "janitor" (sadly also you, but that's a whole other story) locked up for the night.

These are my personal tricks I use to say motivated but please, find your own as well. Remember to not feel caged in and live your life as well as work. The fact that they're in the same location shouldn't change the separation you should keep between the two to stay sane.

Read next: I Am the Boss
Alex Robinson
Alex Robinson

I work as a client manager for an animal health technology company but I have a huge creative side of me that I like to express in writing, photography, sketching, and painting. I hope you enjoy my writing side of things.

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How To Actually Be Productive Working from Home
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