There have been a million lists made about how to get more out of yourself when you’re working from your home office. I’m not going to rehash any of those points – we all know that we need make it hard (or impossible) for ourselves to get lost scrolling through Instagram and to minimize distractions from other people, the lure of Netflix, and the dirty laundry.
Instead this is a list of some new and creative ways that I’ve learned to get the most out of my days working from home. They might not work for everyone, but for those type A nuts out there who get a kick out of checking things off lists like me, they just might work.
The first thing I do every morning when I sit down at my desk is make my to do lists for the day. I have a bullet journal and use it to write out everything that I want to get done that day. I try to think of absolutely everything that I’m working on, worried about, or think I might have time for at the end of my work day, and list that side-by-side with personal stuff that might distract me from being productive while I'm working.
I do this for two reasons. First, if I have my personal stuff written down on my to do list, I’m not going to be worried about forgetting to do it, and I can take it out of my brain (much like the way Dumbledore uses the Pensieve...sorry, had to) so that there is room to focus on the tasks at hand. [Also at night if I’m having trouble falling asleep because I’m worrying about XYZ, I also find that starting this list the night before helps immensely.]
Second, it’s awesome when I need to take a break from sitting at the computer to be able to use those five or ten minutes to get something done like doing the dishes, booking a flight, or writing back to a personal message. This is part of my larger theory of productive procrastination.
Everybody procrastinates at least sometimes – it’s a part of being human, I think. I obviously love to-do lists, but I too procrastinate when I just don’t want to do something or hit a wall where I just can’t. The trick I’ve found is to procrastinate by being productive in some other fashion.
For example, if I am feeling stuck on how to make a design come together, I’ll let myself procrastinate by doing some bookkeeping, sending out invoices, or updating my portfolio. That way I’m still doing something that needs to get done, but I feel like I’m getting out of what I really didn’t want to be working on. It’s a great way to trick your brain into thinking it’s getting a break by just distracting it with something else. Brains are silly.
I let my personal to do list cross over into this as well. If I need to clear my head or just can’t make myself keep working, sometimes I’ll vacuum, or run out to the bank. I swear it has the same effect as wasting time on Facebook or turning on the TV, but you’ll feel much better afterward, and your to do list will be that much shorter.
If your home office is disorganized, dull, and uninspiring, it’s no wonder you don’t want to work there! Do yourself a favor and make it a place that you can’t wait to sit down at in the morning. Fill it with inspiring quotes, beautiful artwork, and lots of natural light. Buy a calendar that you love – be it funny cats, the men of the FDNY, or a fancy letterpress one from Etsy – and hang it at eye level.
Make everything you need to use easily accessible from your chair, and for goodness sake, keep the clutter to a bare minimum. I could go on about organization, but that’s for another day. The less physical stuff you have in your eyesight, the more focussed you’ll be able to be while you’re working.
Sometimes a change of space can really work wonders for swinging you back into a productive mood. I put a lot of time into making my home office somewhere I want to go in the morning, but around 3:00 I am sick of it and do not want to be there anymore, regardless of how organized or inspiring it is. When that feeling sets in, I either take myself out to a coffee shop in my neighborhood, or I move to another spot in my apartment for a fresh view and outlook on the rest of the day.
At home, my second workspace is just my dining room table, or sometimes the couch (that’s when having a MacBook Air comes in handy). It doesn’t need to be much, but just moving to another spot usually gives me a second wind to keep on going through the end of the day. I often change spots when I’m transitioning between one task and another to give myself that feeling of starting totally fresh again.
These are just a few of the ways I’ve found to help myself get work done. What about you? What are some of the creative ways you coerce yourself into being productive at home?