For the last eight years, I’ve been working from home. I started off writing on a blog as a hobby but I eventually decided to write a book.
That book led to three more books, speaking engagements, co-running a membership site, a podcast, and my own online course. Now writing is my full-time job and it all happens right here in my house.
All the while, my three kids and my husband are people who need to be clothed and fed, not to mention seen and loved.
As much as I love the flexibility of working from home, sometimes I long for the clear lines a drive to the office in the morning seem to offer. But we are figuring out how to make this whole “Mom works from home, where are their socks, meet that deadline, boil the water, finish the laundry, write this book chapter, record those videos in the closet, sign their homework papers” thing work.
Here are five ways I stay productive while I work from home.
1. Craft purpose in the dark but plan in the light.
If I don’t have a clear vision or purpose for my work (either short term or long term work), I feel like a crazy person. Add laundry and home chaos to all of that and it’s goodbye forever to productivity.
What I’ve found works best is to craft my purpose and vision in the dark hours – either morning before anyone wakes up or evening after they all go to bed. Then, when John and I schedule our week together while the kids are eating breakfast, our step-by-step plans can be made and followed in the daytime.
If I try to craft a plan for my day before I’ve developed a vision for my work, I’ll be planning for stuff I might not even value. It’s like trying to organize your house of clutter. Where do I put this sock that has no match!
Instead, clear out the clutter first, discover your purpose and vision in the quiet hours so that you can execute a plan that aligns with your vision.
2. Trade the to-do list for a done list.
I’ve been making to-do lists since middle school. As my fellow list-lovers know, one of the greatest discouragements after a days work is when the list remains largely un-checked. Over the last six months or so, I’ve changed the way I make my lists.
I have a large list for the week of things I need to finish. But when I sit down to my work for the day, I have a blank page next to me with my tasks in mind.
I write one task on the page with a box next to it and I work on that one task only. When it’s finished, I check it off and only then do I write down the next task.
This has been unicorn magic for me because at the end of my work session, I have a fat checked off list rather than a sad, anemic one. Progress!
3. Face away from the room.
If you only have an hour in the day to work, you can’t spend it looking at all the mess in your house because inevitably, you will put your work off until you can just tidy up the living room real quick. Soon that turns into cleaning out the closets.
Ask me how I know. Never mind, don’t ask.
Easiest solution: sit to work in a spot where you see as little of the room as possible. When I realized how much of my mental energy was spent cleaning my house (even only in my head!) I immediately turned my desk around to face the window.
Twenty seconds and done.
If you have a desk, face the window. If you work from the kitchen table, choose the seat so you can’t see the sink.
Force yourself to face away from your house while you work so you don’t get distracted.
4. Clear the surfaces.
If you can’t escape the mess of your house, the very most I allow myself to do during work times is to clear the surfaces. My sister, The Nester, taught me two golden rules of clean surfaces:
- Soapy Rags: A hot, soapy rag goes a long way on a kitchen table. If the kitchen is a mess, just clean the table off real good, sit down, face the window and ignore the rest of the house.
- Make Mine Pretty: This means if you have a choice between two equal things, why not choose the pretty one?
Case in point: soap. John buys the fluorescent blue brand of soap that looks like space poison.
I buy Mrs. Meyers with beautiful scents and lovely packaging.
It sits on our counter out in the clear blue open. Why not choose the pretty one?
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5. Take a walk.
Since I spend a lot of my work time on my computer, I try to do things that are the opposite of the internet when I start to feel like a robot.
One of my favorite productivity boosts is to take a short break from my work and walk around the block. I leave my phone at home and practice walking without an agenda. It’s the best 12-minute re-boot I’ve found.
What are your best productivity tips for working from home?
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