Routines + Schedules

Six Top Ways to Increase Productivity When You Work from Home

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Have you ever wondered how some people just seem to get it all done easily?  Are you curious about how their houses are immaculate, their children are clean, fed and well-mannered, and their businesses are wildly successful?  Maybe you’re wondering about how to increase productivity for yourself and set boundaries when working from home.  Now that I have finally achieved my own goal of working from home, I realize it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.  Sadly.

The first truth I realized when setting up shop in my den (which, by the way, did NOT have a door), is that when you say you work from home, most people automatically assume the following:

That “work” is a euphemism for eating your weight in chocolate cake and watching daytime television.

That your schedule is so flexible that it can be bent to suit their every need.

You’re only saying “work from home” to mask the fact that you can’t get a “real job”.

I’m pleased to report that since I started working from home, we’ve relocated to our hometown and bought a house.  And in that house, I have my own dedicated office!  With a door!




So back to the original question.  How do you increase productivity?  You need to start by getting other people to respect your time and your work schedule.  And how do you do that?  You need to respect your own time! 

While one of the biggest advantages of being self-employed is its flexibility, it can be difficult to be at your most productive when faced with a constant stream of interruptions.  It’s very easy to be derailed when you hear a request that starts with the following phrases:

“Hey, since you aren’t working right now, can you help me out with …”

“Can you do me a favour – I know you can work whenever you want …”

And – my favourite – any sentence starting with “Mom, where / how / when …”

Sound familiar?  I thought so.


Here are my top six tips to keep focused, increase productivity and set boundaries when working from home.


Productivity Tip #1: Get dressed EVERY DAY

It sounds so simple, and yet the temptation to work in pyjamas is strong.  For me, the flannel plaid pants simply don’t inspire a lot of hard work, they gently beckon me to my favourite reading chair, and suddenly – poof – three hours have gone.  Trust me, get dressed.

It doesn’t need to be a three-piece suit unless that’s your thing, but it should be something you wouldn’t go to bed in.  I personally prefer a very casual wardrobe of well-worn jeans and t-shirts, but you do you.


Productivity Tip #2: Keep regular “office” hours

This doesn’t necessarily mean 9-5 since that’s what most of us were working on getting away from.  Your schedule can be individual to you, to suit your needs and what works best for your situation.  But the goal is to be consistent.

In the past, I would spend two to three hours every morning working on the computer, a few hours each day working on projects and reading, and at least 30 minutes cleaning and maintaining our home.  Now that I’m running multiple blogs and businesses, not just one, that schedule has shifted.  I spend five to six hours at my desk, and projects get their own monthly allotment of time.  Rather than breaking down items on a daily basis, I don’t look any deeper than weekly.

This schedule also works well in maintaining our home.  I have tasks that I do daily, weekly and monthly.  I follow my handy Laundry Schedule to make sure we never run out of clothes and do my 5-minute chores to keep our home tidy.  Deeper cleans happen on weekends.

This may not work for you, but you need to set your own routine.  Having a schedule allows you to look ahead when those requests for favours come in and determine if they fit into what works for you.

A super simple way to set yourself up for success is to use a printable daily/weekly planner!



Productivity Tip #3: Minimize distractions

This includes emails, telephone, children, husbands, neighbours, television – the list goes on.  If your situation allows, why not look into daycare options if you have small children, even one or two mornings/afternoons a week?  Perhaps that neighbour or relative who needs the favours would be willing to return them in the form of childcare?  You won’t know until you ask.

When it comes to electronics (phone, tablet, television, etc.), schedule time for each of those.  I like to check my emails twice during the morning, generally when I first sit down at my desk, and about two hours after that.  I will check it again mid-afternoon, and that’s enough.  Rarely do I receive an email that is so urgent that it cannot wait a few hours, or until the next morning.  Television in our house is reserved for evenings, or days that we are sick.  We generally only watch two shows and hockey, so daytime TV really isn’t an issue.  I keep my phone on silent when working unless I am expecting a particularly important call.  Again, callers can leave a message, and I’ll get back to them.


Productivity Tip #4: Expect the unexpected and let your schedule flow

I know, I know, above I said REGULAR office hours.  However, there are exceptions to every rule.  If I sit down to write and I’m really on a roll, I’m not going to just look at my clock, say “Well, I only scheduled two hours for this today” and stop.  Likewise, if I’m working through decluttering an area that really needs it, I won’t stop halfway through if I’m making great progress!

We all know that feeling when you’re creating something really, really good.  I will continue to work until that feeling goes away.  I’ll make up the time later, since my projects will still be there, and the bathrooms will still need cleaning.


Productivity Tip #5: Learn to say NO

It’s okay.  They won’t stop loving you, but they may stop asking you.  Just as you respect others’ time and space, you need to ensure they are respecting yours.  You are worth it.




Productivity Tip #6: Take breaks

You can’t work all the time.  As exciting and tempting as it is (believe me, I know), you need to take time away.  Make sure you schedule lunch breaks and coffee breaks.  Take time to exercise and take care of yourself.  You don’t want to burn out and lose the passion that created this opportunity in the first place.  Consider starting your day with a strong morning routine.

When you do take your breaks and you find it a little difficult to get back at it, try to remember what your motivation is.  What is your why?  Keeping our reasons in front of us can help us keep any distractions at bay and set the boundaries we need.

Above all else, be kind to yourself.  You are creating a life you want to live.  You can increase productivity and still take time to enjoy the fact that you work from home.  After all, it’s just one piece of the bigger puzzle.



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