How to Be Productive Working from Home

As a freelance contractor who works from home, one question people often ask me the most is “how can you get any work done at home?”

Well, it can be a challenge, and working from home is not for everyone. But, here are my tips.

1. Listen To Your Body’s Clock / Take Breaks

The one big thing I discovered after working from home is that working eight or nine hours in a row is pretty inefficient. The human brain just can’t maintain peak performance for that long without breaks (at least mine can’t). So, I take many breaks throughout my day.

Everyone has their optimum work schedule. Some people love working early in the morning. As an example, here’s what works for me:

The Morning Burst

I discovered that the period of time immediately after I get up is when my brain is at its peak. I basically roll out of bed and start working. I am amazed at how much work I can get done during this time. What a shame it is for most people to waste this peak brain time on the morning commute!

The Mid-Day Siesta

After breakfast and my morning burst of work, I have lunch and take a long break. For me, the after-lunch afternoon food coma period has always been my least productive time. At work, I’d have to struggle to stay awake with coffee and tea, and get very little done during this time.

Many cultures in Europe, Latin America, and Asia have “siestas” during this time, and for good reason. Several factories that I visited in Asia take 15 minutes after lunch where they turn off the lights and the workers put their heads down on their desks, just like we did pre-school, but it works!

So, I use this inefficient time to shower, run errands, and do household work. These things don’t require a lot of concentration, and they need to be done at some point in the day, so why not in the middle of the day when you’re least productive at work? If I’m tired, I’ll sometimes take a power nap.

Afternoon Productivity

After the food coma wears off, I have another burst of productivity in the late afternoon. I generally work from around 2 PM to 4 or 5 PM in the afternoon.

Exercise and Dinner

By late afternoon, my productivity starts to decrease. At this time I go to the gym or go on a run. Then I have dinner with my wife and hang out for a while.

Night Owl Worktime

I usually have another burst of productivity before bed. Sometimes I work from 10 PM to midnight, rounding out my workday nicely.

So, there you have it: a full 8-hour workday, plus a two-hour break in the middle for errands, and time in the evening for your social life or exercising!! Since I have frequent breaks, I’m refreshed and ready to go when I do work. I’m not forced to work 8 hours in a row.

Everyone is different – this is just what works for me. Listen to your body and brain to find your optimal work schedule.

2. Get Enough Sleep

Going along with listening to your body’s clock is getting enough sleep. It’s SO important. I find that if I haven’t slept enough, my motivation goes downhill big time. I find that I’m more productive if I take the time to get the proper amount of sleep versus skipping sleep to work more.

3. Shut Off Distractions

Studies have shown that it takes up to five minutes for your brain to recover from an interruption.  Shut off all email popups, IM message alerts, etc. on your computer desktop and phone. If you really need to concentrate, close your email application altogether.

It is also important to have a quiet area of your home to serve as your office. I live alone so there are very few interruptions. My productivity would not be so good if my home was a chaotic mess with kids and pets running around, noisy neighbors, or other interruptions. If that’s the case for you, it might be good to work in a coworking space.

4. Get Good Equipment

After I started making more money in my business, I bought huge new computer monitors, replaced my desktop computer, and bought a new laser printer. Don’t be afraid to spend money on equipment that you use every day if it will make you more efficient. Plus, working with kickass equipment makes your job so much more enjoyable!

5. Do Your Most Dreaded Tasks First

A lot of folks advise this, and I think it’s good advice. My most dreaded task is making phone calls. So, I try to get them out of the way early in the day so I can concentrate on the stuff I do like.

6. Make a To-Do List

This is critical for me to stay on track. I usually make it before the end of my workday so I’m ready to go in the morning.

7. Eat Well

Working from home enables me to make my own food instead of the high-fat fast food I used to eat. No more vending machine snacks either. I’m able to have good, healthy food when my body needs it which keeps my energy up. Avoid too many carbs or sugary foods which result in a high and then a crash (when it happens for me, it happens after lunch).

8. Exercise

One of the biggest benefits of working from home is being able to schedule exercise time, something that was almost impossible when I worked a corporate job. Exercise helps your brain function! I’ve even solved problems while out on a walk or run!

When I’m done exercising, I find that I’m psyched to work again.

9. Be Social

I’m pretty introverted so I actually love working alone at home. But, I still do like people, and it is important to get out of the house and talk to another human being, so be sure to make that happen!

It’s Not for Everyone

Working from home is not for everyone. You have to be self-motivated. You have to judge this for yourself. If you can’t stop yourself from playing five hours of video games every day, you might not be a good candidate to work from home.

If you need a lot of social interaction every day, working from home might not be for you. Personally, I love not having to deal with a lot of people, but some people need that interpersonal interaction.

But, if you can overcome these hurdles, working from home can be very enjoyable and efficient!

Send Your Tips and Tricks

Working from home with flexible hours can benefit all aspects of your life if you can make it work. Let me know about your tips and tricks to stay efficient and productive at home! – Brian

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