Working from home and working in an office are two different things! Both can be pretty challenging for different reasons. But we’re definitely more used to work away from home, in an environment that encourage focus, productivity and well… Work. 

Wether you’re working as a freelancer or just need to work remotely from home for a few days / weeks, here are a few basic tips on how you can stay focused, motivated and productive when working from home.

I’ve been working from home, full time, for 2 years before I could afford to rent an office. So let’s say that even though I’m definitely not the best at working from home, I have developed some kind of an expertise there. And here are my top tips to create the best environment & habits possible for you to work from home.

How to work from home efficiently
Tip #1: Rethink your schedule and set boundaries

What is the point of having a schedule when you work from home? Boundaries.

Think of your ideal working-from-home day and create a schedule:
– At what time do you aim to start working?
– What does lunch break will look like and how long should it be?
– At what time do you plan to stop working?

To give you an example: my ideal day starts at 8am when I sit at my desk with my cup of tea and my planner to organize my day. I then take a break from 12.30pm until 2pm (that break include lunch, nap, and social media before I get back to work). My day ends around 6pm and I do not answer emails or any phone calls past that time.

Having an ideal schedule – even though you don’t strictly stick to it every day – will help you create new habits and get better at being organized and focused.

It will also help you set boundaries between work and personal life. Boundaries that should work both ways: 

  • What are the time slots during which you allow yourself to do some small personal tasks around the house (meal prep, load a laundry, pick up the mail…)? Is it before you start working, during lunch break…?
  • What is the latest acceptable time to start a new task, to check your emails?

When you’re done with your ideal schedule, change settings on your devices according to what you decided: allow work apps only when you’re supposed to work, and entertaining ones only when you’re supposed to be doing something else.

PRO TIP: you can do the same exercice with kids, to help them understand working and leisure times. Create their ideal schedule with them and plan activities for when you’ll be busy with work.

How to work from home efficiently
Tip #2: Make a to-do list

What if working from home was an opportunity to try new ways to get organized, and new ways to manage your time?

When it comes to work, nothing beats an old-fashioned task list to have a clear goal for the day and make it productive.

👉🏻 Take 5 minutes at the beginning of the day to make a list of what you want to achieve today. Just throw everything coming to mind on paper
👉🏻 Narrow the list down to 3 big tasks to tackle. You can add 3 small ones as “bonuses”. No need to be too optimistic on what you can do. You would end up frustrated and unhappy with what you achieved. So cut your to-do list, make it realistic. You will be able to adjust if needed.
Ideally, start with the biggest, or most difficult task on your list

A solid to-do list and some time blocking are basics to work efficiently from home.

If you’re not sure how much you can put on your daily task list, you can try the time blocking technique. It should help you visualize how much you can do during your day.

If you’re struggling with organization, give the PROJO planner a try: it will help you set clear goals and take action to achieve them on both personal and professional sides.

How to work from home efficiently
Tip #3: Take breaks

Even though you’re not in the office, take some short breaks through the day. Make yourself a cup of tea / coffee, check on your to-do list, take a walk outside if you can (even a few steps count), stretch, meditate… 

Take breaks to breathe, reconnect with yourself and your energy before you start working on something new.

How to work from home efficiently
Tip #4: Try new productivity hacks

Staying focused can be a challenge when you work from home.

Try some new productivity hacks and techniques to better manage your time and keep being productive: 

  • Use time blocking: create a daily schedule with a time block for each one on your tasks. It’s just as if you would book a meeting with someone. In the time blocking technique, the “someone” is yourself and the agenda the task you need to handle
  • Try the Pomodoro technique: it’s a tried and true for a lot of people. Break your big task into smaller bits, set you timer for 25 minutes of deep work and take a 5 minutes break after you’re done.
    Good news is that it can also work with kids: make a deal with them: they spend 25 minutes of quiet time on an activity. You can use a timer, or even better, a sandglass to make it visual and fun.
  • Tackle the biggest / most difficult task first thing: it will give you a feeling of accomplishment and encourage you to keep going
  • Use organization tools to keep your mind clear and focused: it can be an online tool such as Trello or Asana for instance, but a paper planner like the PROJO planner is probably the best option to unplug and give all your attention to your projects and tasks.

Your most valuable resource is your time. Even when you work from home.

How to work from home efficiently
Tip #5: Create a clean and minimal workspace

If you have the chance to have a space big enough to set-up a home office area, that should probably be your priority. Having an area dedicated to work, no matter how small it is, is REALLY helping to avoid distractions, stay focused and be productive. 

It’s also a good way to keep boundaries: use your living space for living, and your work space for work.
Make this area as simple and minimal as possible: 

  • Keep just the essentials on your desk: your computer / laptop, pens and your planner of course
  • Organize small items in drawers or boxes to have them on hands but still out of your way
  • Put your phone away. Seriously. You probably don’t need it most of the time anyway

If you can’t create a workspace, create, at least, a setup that is comfortable and won’t hurt your back. A good chair and a dining table can also do the job.

How to work from home efficiently
Tip #6: Share your goals with others

It’s not because you’re working from home that it means you’re on your own. 

Connect with friends, coworkers or even family members and share your goals for the day.

In addition to keep you accountable for your work, it’s a good way to stay motivated in the long run.

You can use chat apps, email or any tool your comfortable with to start a mastermind and foster motivation. Stronger together right?

How to work from home efficiently
Tip #7: Work on in-depth topics

Working from home is also an opportunity to work on projects you usually don’t have the time to handle. It’s a perfect time to slow down a bit, re-assess the concept of urgency: no coworker to distract you from your task, ask you something random, and no one to disrupt your plans.

So take this opportunity to spend some time working on in-depth topics: content, strategy, processes, website redesign, organization, files management… Make a short list of deep work you’ve been thinking to do for a while. And include it in your task list.

If you don’t know where to start to set clear goals and move forward on your in-depth topics, the PROJO planner can probably help you with that. It’s designed to guide you through the whole process, from setting clear goals to getting organized on a daily basis to achieve them, no matter how small or big they are.

Working from home doesn’t have to be a painful experience. Yes, it can be challenging to adjust and create new working habits. But it’s also an opportunity to explore new ways to get organized, and to work on topics you’ve put aside for a long time.