While there are many things to love about working from home (bye bye, rush hour!), it can be tough to remain productive in an environment where your coworkers are not surrounding you, and distractions are all around. The lines between work and home tend to blur, and getting things done in a timely manner suddenly becomes much harder.
To discover the key to working from home with maximum productivity, we surveyed a group of 1,000 people to find out their best tips and tricks. And we’ve broken down the biggest trends so you can learn just how the pros do it!
1. Have a dedicated workspace
While a full-blown home office may not be feasible for some people, it’s important to create an area in your home that’s dedicated to just work. When working out of your home, it can be especially challenging to maintain work-life balance when your office is staring you in the face. And while it’s ideal to have a separate room allotted for that purpose, there are ways to carve out a workspace in other areas of your home. If space is an issue, consider spots like:
- Nooks, corners, or alcoves in less frequented rooms
- Rooms that don’t get much use, like guest rooms or formal living and dining areas
- Under a staircase
- An empty (or partially empty) closet
- A sunroom or enclosed patio
- A backyard shed
Bear in mind that the one place you’ll want to avoid having your office in is the bedroom. Adding an office to the place where you sleep will make it difficult to draw hard lines between work and downtime. In fact, 23% of the people in our survey who work out of their bedrooms rated their quality of sleep as below average. If your bedroom is the only option for a workspace, consider separating it off with a room divider, curtain, or bookshelf when it’s not in use so you can “shut the door” at the end of the workday.
2. Have a pre-work routine
Of our survey group, 92% of people told us they keep a consistent pre-work or morning routine that they use to kickstart the day. And doing so can help you maximize your productivity during the workday. Those who rated themselves highly productive shared some of the most common activities they like to include in their routines, such as:
- Taking a shower
- Having coffee or breakfast outdoors
- Exercising or taking a walk
- Meditating or doing relaxing yoga
- Getting fully dressed as if leaving the house
Taking time before work to prioritize self-care, get outside, and fuel up will help you be your most productive self.
3. Use a proven productivity method
A large majority of our most productive survey respondents told us they use specific types of productivity methods to stay organized and on track. And we’ve broken down the most popular ones so you can try them out for yourself.
In our survey, a whopping 80% of those who use the Pomodoro method rated themselves highly productive on a daily basis. This technique consists of setting a timer and working in shorter bursts of deep focus until a task is complete. It goes something like this:
- Specific – What is the exact end result you’re trying to achieve? How will you know when the project is complete?
- Measurable – How will you track and measure your progress? What metrics will determine that you’re on schedule?
- Attainable – Is this goal reasonable to accomplish within the timeframe given? Do you have the tools and resources needed to achieve it?
- Relevant – Does this goal align with your larger objectives? Why is the end result important?
- Timebound – What is the deadline for achieving this goal (and is it realistic)?
- Choose a task from your to-do list
- Set a 25-minute timer and work on only that task, distraction free
- When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break from that task
- Repeat steps 1–3 three more times, for a total of four cycles over a 2-hour period
- At the end of your 4th cycle, take a longer 15–30 minute break
By using limited, 25-minute segments to work in, you can stay hyper-focused on the task at hand. And the breaks in between are meant to help you recharge and continue to maintain focus in the next cycle.
A method preferred by 82% of highly productive survey respondents, the SMART goals technique is designed to help you think strategically about your to-do's. This method of setting goals is particularly helpful for larger projects with many moving parts, as it will help you clarify the desired end result and how you will get there.
To format your task into a SMART goal, answer the questions below as they relate to your project:
Also known as the urgent-important matrix, an Eisenhower Matrix can help you quickly distinguish which tasks should come first, second, and third on your to-do list. And 84% of highly productive survey participants stated they use this method to help themselves stay on track.
To create this matrix, you’ll draw up four quadrants and put your tasks in them based on how urgent and how important each one is.
You can then use these rules of thumb to determine how to proceed within each section:
- Urgent + important tasks – prioritize these first
- Not urgent + important tasks – schedule realistic time and deadlines for these
- Urgent + not important tasks – see about delegating these elsewhere, as they likely don’t require your specific skillset
- Not urgent + not important tasks – These are likely unnecessary or just distracting, so eliminate them if you can
4. Keep set working hours and break times
A predictable work schedule is a must, especially when you work from home. In our survey, 79% of highly productive participants stated that they keep regular and consistent working hours that their colleagues are aware of. In fact, establishing a schedule that everyone in your household understands helps set a clear boundary between work time and home time. While the ability to physically close the door on your office space is important too, the schedule you set holds you accountable to powering on and off at predictable times. So, if you haven’t already, establish these hours with your boss and your family, and communicate closely with them if you need to occasionally change the schedule.
It’s also important to avoid burnout by taking regular breaks from work during the day. In our survey, 77% of highly productive respondents stated they make regular breaks a priority. Mental sharpness and focus tend to diminish after about two hours of working on one task, so it’s best to give yourself a break every 2–3 hours. Take this time to step away from your desk if you can. And don’t forget to eat! A grumbling stomach will not wait for you to finish that expense report or urgent email.
5. Turn off personal notifications
Blocking out the rest of your home with a dedicated office area is one thing, but be aware of distractions that can also follow you into your workspace. Your phone or other personal devices can easily kill your productivity if you’re not careful. That’s why 77% of the most productive survey participants said that turning off personal notifications like email and social media is their #1 tactic to help reduce distractions.
6. Prioritize good sleep
We all know that the quality of our sleep can affect many aspects of our lives, and work is no exception. In our survey, 59% of those who rated their sleep quality as above average also rated themselves highly productive on a daily basis. The average adult needs between 7–9 hours of quality sleep each night. If you tend to struggle with catching enough zzz’s, there are many steps you can take to improve the way you sleep—and as a result, start maximizing your work-from-home game!