In the last decade, the number of people who work from home has increased by 115 percent. That’s a significant boost. If you’re one of them, you’re part of a fast-growing trend that looks like it’s only accelerating, especially as younger workers enter the workforce.
But though the home office comes with benefits -- easier to set the environment, less time-wasting meetings, less likely to get distracted -- it also has its own share of possible distractions. You want to maximize your productivity and avoid anything that could slow you down. How do you do that?
1) Only Use the Home Office for Work.
When you go to your office, you should be entering a completely different environment -- one that you associate with work. Sitting on your couch isn’t going to cut it. (This will also hurt your back and rear-end.)
Set yourself up with a different computer than you use for non-work stuff. If possible, have a completely separate room set up as your office and only use it for work. Creating a distraction-free office means keeping it organized, too -- according to Extra Space Storage. “If your home office is messy, take the time to declutter your desk and get organized. Working at a clean desk will help clear your mind and keep you focused on the task at hand.”
Create a work-centered environment so that every time you sit down at your computer, you’re already thinking about working -- not about checking your social media or playing Hearthstone. Make sure that your space is set up in a way that makes you think about working.
2) Set a Schedule.
Just as you need a physical space devoted to work, you need a space of time that’s devoted to work. Working from home means you never quite leave the office behind, and if you aren’t careful, the lines between work time and personal or family time can get blurred.
If you want to get maximum productivity, make sure that you carve out space for work and stick to a set schedule.
That doesn’t have to be eight to five office hours. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be.
Especially if you have kids, the most distraction-free time is likely to be either early morning or late evening. Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, having that quieter, more productive time to yourself can be the difference between a productive day and a non-productive one.
3) Make Sure the Kids (and Others) Have Ground Rules.
If you have children, you know already what a distraction they can be. That’s multiplied by a lot when you’re working from home. If the kids are around, make sure there are some ground rules in place so that they know you’re working and not to disturb you.
Some parents will put up a sign when they don’t want to be bothered. Some will close the door.
Whatever path you take, make sure that the kids know: when you’re there in your office, you’re working, and only to be bothered with emergencies. Make sure you set time to come out of your office and interact with them -- they’re less likely to bother you if they know you’re coming out eventually.
You must set firm boundaries with friends and neighbors who use the line, "since you're at home, could you..." NO, you cannot.
4) Invest In Your Office.
Nothing is more distracting than having to deal with technology issues or things that you don’t have on hand. Stopping your work to drive to a print shop, go buy paper, or deal with a balky computer is both frustrating and productivity-sapping.
Make sure you’ve invested in setting up your home office the same way you’d set up your office in a workplace. Have everything on hand that you need, and make sure it’s up to date and in working order—because having to jury-rig without the right equipment available, or deal with problematic old tech, is a major distraction.
5) Stay On Task and Off Email.
We’ve all done it. Work for five minutes, see an email come in, tab over and read it -- maybe quickly answer it -- then take several minutes to get back to the task at hand.
That’s not the way to be productive.
When you’re working, make sure that you’re staying on task by turning off your notifications. Don’t leave them on for your phone or computer -- email, social, anything. Then have set times during the day where you read and answer emails.
It may seem like you’re being less productive -- but batching your communications all at once -- helps you save time and stay invested in whatever you’re currently working on. Batching is also a well-known growth hacking tool for businesses. It takes longer than you think to get back to task after you’ve gotten out of the mindset.
6) Make Sure You Socialize.
No man (or woman) is an island, to paraphrase John Donne -- and you’re no different. Without getting some time around other people, you’ll probably go a little stir-crazy, and that sets you up to be distracted.
Make sure you’re getting out and actually talking to people, not just parking yourself in a chair and not moving all day. Whatever form that take -- client meetings, grabbing lunch with a friend, spending some time with your partner and/or children -- staying social will keep you grounded.
7) Take Breaks.
Working straight through isn’t actually the best option, as research has shown over the last several years. A study conducted a few years ago by DeskTime indicated that the most productive interval was 52 minutes of work interrupted by 17 minutes of break.
This doesn’t mean you need to get out a stopwatch. But you should build in time away from work -- you’ll be less likely to get distracted and more productive with your time.
The home office can be great for entrepreneurs, but you have to make sure that you’re set up for success. Use these tips to propel yourself to even greater productivity and supercharge your home office.