If you work from home or remotely, you’re probably used to getting that look from people that means something like, “That must be the best job ever!” Yeah sure, there are perks – but working remotely has its fair share of difficulties too. It’s certainly not cut out for everyone.
Trust me, I get it. As a fellow work-from-homer, sometimes my entire day feels like I’m slouched over my computer typing like a madman, tackling the endless onslaught of emails, and occasionally coming up for a breath of air before diving back in. If someone dares to interrupt my train of thought, I’ve been known to give them the crazy eye (maybe even a snort) and blaze on as usual.
However, after years of working remotely, I’ve finally learned some of the finer arts of being productive while working from home without getting burned out. I’ve found this last part to be the especially difficult part.
Here are five strategies I utilize almost daily.
Tip #1: Listen to music.
One of the hardest parts about working from home is how your work life and personal life interact…and sometimes clash. It’s easy for your mind to wander from work when surrounded by distractions, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.
Studies shows that melodious sounds cause the release of dopamine, which is part of the “reward center” in the brain. Music can trigger satisfaction, making it easier to tune out distractions and focus on the present moment.
Music can be an idea generator too. Research on IT specialists found that individuals who listened to music not only completed their tasks faster than those who didn’t, but also came up with better ideas because they were in a better mood.
“It breaks you out of just thinking one way,” said Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor in the music therapy program at the University of Miami, in a New York Times article.
So what should you listen to? That’s completely up to you. Pick a genre that keeps you energized and focused, rather than puts you to sleep or is distracting. Then set a station on Pandora, Spotify or the streaming service of your choosing, and work away! Audio books and podcasts can work for certain tedious and mindless tasks, but I find they tend to be more of a distraction.
Bonus Tip: Don’t be afraid to tap your toe or shake your hips a little while you listen and work. It may look silly, but dancing will get your blood pumping and keeps your body and brain energized!
Classic music is supposed to make you smarter right? If you need some musical inspiration right now, lend an ear to this brilliant (and somewhat eccentric) artist one of my coworkers shared with the team recently:
Tip #2: Change your environment.
I don’t know about you but after a couple hours cooped up in the home office, I come down with a case cabin fever…bad. Personally, I’ve never understood how people can stay in a cubicle for 8+ hours a day and retain their sanity.
A change of location can be the perfect cure for the mid-day blues. Maybe that means taking your laptop into the living room or kitchen. On a nice day, why not enjoy the patio? My personal favorite is relocating to my local coffee shop. That way I can double up with the next tip and get some human interaction while I’m at it!
Tip #3: Drink coffee (or tea).
Enjoying a piping hot cup of pre-work coffee is something of a cliché these days, but it can truly do wonders for ramping up your motivation and alertness at work. The caffeine in coffee boosts your brain energy levels, which helps to improve memory, focus, problem-solving, and overall cognitive function according to a Nutrition study.
Plus, many studies actually say caffeine is good for your long term physical and mental health (not that it would change our addiction anyway…).
If you are defying modern society like me and don’t care for the taste of coffee, try tea. The taste will stimulate your senses and your brain in a similar way, making you more attentive to the task at hand.
Tip #4: Plan your day.
I once read that being productive was not about how much you get done, but rather getting the really important stuff done. Whether or not your day can be considered a success is about completing effective and efficient action items on the items that matter to you most.
At the end of each day, make a list of the top tasks you want to work on the next day. Rank these tasks in order of their urgency and importance. Planning ahead and prioritizing will help you sleep better and wake up the next day with a clearer sense of purpose.
There are plenty of free tools online to help you make better use of your time by planning your day. Here are a few of our favorites:
Or there’s always the old-fashioned approach of just writing down a list on a post-it note or piece of paper. (My personal favorite.)
Tip #5: Take breaks.
While taking a breather may seem counterintuitive to workplace productivity, the data actually shows the opposite – that regular breaks are beneficial to creativity and productivity at work. Those who give in to some sort of distraction or diversion once per hour repeatedly perform better at work than those who don’t, according to recent studies. Science backs up the fact that stepping away from our desk every once in a while helps us return to a project with a fresh mindset and renewed energy.
Moral of the story: pace yourself. For most of us, the work never ends and you’ll only succeed in burning yourself out if you keep trying to knock it all out in one sitting. So stop your timer every once in a while, IM your team, do whatever you have to do and take a break.
My favorite break activities include any number of outdoor stimulation such as going for a jog, biking to a nearby coffee shop, stretching, eating a snack and making another batch of tea. The physical movement helps me stay mentally active and the fresh air breathes life back into my brain’s creativity.
Those are my five tips for guarding against work-from-home burnout. These life-saving methods have allowed me to stay focused on SEO content creation for the last several years, and will likely continue to help me do so for years to come.
What are your strategies for staying productive when working from home?
Share your tips with us and other work-from-homers in the comments section below.
Sandi McCarter says
The best advice I ever received about working from home was to get up each morning, shower and dress like you’re going somewhere (even if it’s comfy clothes). Something about this routine helps keep me in a productive state of mind and gives me the flexibility to hop in the car to the coffee shop for a quick change of scenery.
Great article! I love listening to music when I work, but I found myself dancing and singing a little too much. Oops! Thankfully focusatwill.com is helping.