Staying motivated and productive at work can be challenging at the best of times. This can be all the more difficult when working out of a home office. Oftentimes, the only person you need to be immediately accountable to is yourself. There's no one around to bust you if you slack off or have a cheeky midday nap.
These things may sound tempting, but they're no way to stay on task or run a business. Here are some home office hacks you can use to boost your productivity.
#1 Have a dedicated area
Keeping a steady work life balance is particularly challenging when you work from home. Having a dedicated space can help with this.
Allowing a home office to bleed into the rest of the house is common. This can be detrimental to both productivity and relaxation time. Everywhere can either feel like a workspace, or vice versa.
If you don't have the space to dedicate an entire room to the operation, try converting a corner of another room into a mini office space.
Clutter and over stimulation can be distracting in a work environment, so try keeping the decore to a minimum.
It can a bit of a balancing act though. Creating a clinical environment can feel oppressive. You want clean and classic, not dull and bland.
If possible, opt for some statement pieces to spruce up your office essentials, as well as soothing colours that can blend happily into the background when you're in full flow.
HR know what they're talking about when they hammer this home in ordinary offices.
In addition to preventing long term injury, having a good office chair and a proper ergonomic setup for your computer, chair and desk will help keep you on task.
Feeling uncomfortable or strained will act as a distraction or perhaps even discourage you using your home office at all.
#4 Mouse and keyboard
When you're working long hours, you're going to want the right mouse and keyboard for you.
Do you research and find something that feels comfortable, is to your taste aesthetically and won't annoy you with their particular sounds. With less stimuli than an ordinary office, these little details will be important and could be a distraction if you don't get it right.
As an added tip, don't forget to adjust your mouse speed to what feels best for you.
Getting everything you need for work organised is great for a number of reasons.
Firstly, you can find the things you need quickly in the future. Secondly, having an organised work space can help you feel organised and ready to tackle your actual work. Getting your house in order can get your head in order.
#6 Air flow
Similar to above, being stuck in a single room can feel oppressive and distracting without some fresh air. Try and keep the room as open as possible — whether that be with an window or simply keeping the door open.
If you don't have these options, try getting outside for a little while during your work day.
#7 Natural Light
Research has shown that exposure to natural light is incredibly beneficial to office workers. Not only do they feel happier, it boosts productivity.
This principal is perhaps even more important for a home office worker. With no work mates, you're going to benefit from as much happiness inducing stimuli as possible.
#8 Use a drawer divider
It doesn't take much for a drawer to become a disaster area — things get thrown in randomly and suddenly you can't find a pen when you desperately need one.
A drawer divider can help with this. No more wasting time digging around. A place for everything and everything in its place!
#9 Get a whiteboard
Sometimes visuals and writing things down in a big visible area can help to work out what you need to accomplish and prioritise. It will also help you keep track of your deadlines.
Try splitting it up into sections such as long and short term. Wiping them off as you complete them is also incredible satisfying.
#10 Keep it clean
Having a messy desk can be distracting as well as contribute to feelings of stress when it comes to your work.
Throw out your rubbish, declutter and pull out the surface spray. You'll feel a lot better for it and more prepared to get stuck into your tasks.
#11 Use your calendar
A simple solution, but an important one.
Keeping your appointments in check will help you to priortise effectively and get things done. In addition to meetings, events and appointments, try adding all of your deadlines so you have visual accountability at all times.
As an added trick, use colour coding to distinguish between different appointment categories.
Sometimes nothing can be more deafening, or distracting, than silence.
In lieu of having the noise of a real office, try having low music on, turn the tv on (in a different room) or invest in a noise machine.
Some even swear by LectraFan, which generates white noise and has been shown to boost productivity in people who have trouble concentrating.
#13 Protect your most productive hours
By now you should know what times you're at your most productive. Whether you're a morning or night person, protect these hours from procrastination and distraction.
If you know that you can go into full flow mode between 10am and 12pm, always carve this time out. Don't schedule meetings, check emails or do anything that can wait.
#14 Turn notifications off
Your flow can be destroyed instantaneously by a push notification on your phone, screen or watch. Turn them off.
The last thing you want when you're on a roll is to get distracted. It's far too easy to open it and suddenly you find 45 minutes has passed.
#15 Get an email system
It can be tough to give advice on emails, because everyone has a different relationship with their inbox. You also don't want to miss anything that may need immediate attention.
But if you do feel like you can let go of the constant email monitoring a bit, there's a few things you can try.
You could set aside time in the morning and afternoon dedicated solely to handling emails. If you think you'll be too tempted to check it outside of these times, you can set your inbox preferences to deliver emails in chunks at certain times.
#16 Go wireless
Nobody wants ugly cables intruding on their work space. Try opting for wifi and a wireless printer. You can even get wire
Of course, a few wires are unavoidable. We all have to charge things, after all. But keep these as neat and tidy as you can — one neat trick is threading them through bullclips that are attached to the side of your desk.
#17 Time chunking
An extension of the above, this is where you plan your entire day into chunks and dedicating specific tasks to specific hours.
Things will always come up unexpectedly, but this is a good system if your flourish under a more regimental schedule.
#18 Take regular breaks
This may sound counter intuitive, but making sure you take breaks is beneficial to your productivity overall. You can come back to your desk refreshed and less stressed — enabling you to dive back in, rather than staring into space or browsing the web because you've been crunching for 7 hours straight.
#19 The 2 minute rule
A trick that a lot of productive people do! If something comes up that would take 2 minutes or less to complete — do it straight away.
#20 Mug warmer
Breaks may be important, but you need to make sure you don't use them as procrastination technique.
One way to cut down is to minimise the amount of coffee breaks you need to take — particularly if you find yourself with cold, half finished cups on a regular basis.
Try getting a cup warmer for your desk — you can easily get ones that run off electricity or USB. Alternatively, put that thermos at the back of your kitchen cupboard to good use.
#21 Stress relief tools
Having a stress relief aid at your desk can do wonders for your productivity. I personally think of them as a kind of brain workout tool — something to use when you're working through or trying to figure something out.
Personally, I opt for magnetic sand which I usually make into a ball to reshape and squeeze when mulling something over. Some other options are stress balls and mini zen gardens. Raking can be strangely therapeutic.
#22 Try to eat healthy
It can be tempting to reward ourselves with something not-so-healthy when we're stressed with work. Even moreso if you're working from home and are starved for other forms of excitement.
The last thing you want is so crave a nap after a heavy meal, or crash in the mid afternoon thanks to a carb heavy lunch or sugar soaked snacks.
Dark leafy greens aren't only healthy, but also help delivery oxygen to the brain and improve cognitive control. Try making some delicious salads for your lunch and combine with other brain food such as salmon, eggs, eggplant, whole grains, avocado and broccoli.
For snacks, try yogurt and berries, almonds, raw carrots, bananas or even a piece of dark chocolate. Just don't go overboard on that last one!
#23 No meeting days
Meetings are necessary and unavoidable, but they can also be terrible for workflow and productivity.
A good way around this, especially when you set your own hours, is to have no-meeting days. Set aside one day a week where you can just get your work done without interruption.
Even better if you can schedule all your meetings for the week in a single day.
#24 Personal flight mode
Some high powered execs have praised their work time on planes, as they feel like they get more done because of the forced restrictions a flight entails.
There's no reason why you can't replicate this in your home office, especially if you need to crunch. Put everything on your laptop that you'll need and then put yourself in flight mode.
Restrict your phone and turn wifi off on everything and see how much you get done.
#25 Utilise Sunday night
Work life balance is incredibly important, particularly when both coexist in the same space. However, taking a little bit of time out on a Sunday night to plan for Monday can be beneficial.
You'll feel more prepared to face the week in the morning, and some of those smaller annoying tasks may even already be done.
This post was originally published on November 15 2016.