The magic of modern technology has made it possible to do your job from almost anywhere – home, at the local coffeehouse, even your car.
We’re rarely as productive as we are at our office desks, but while it’s hard to control the environment at your local Starbucks, there’s no reason why working from home should be a problem, at least if you follow these 6 productivity tips to help you get your work done.
1. Have a dedicated home office space
Your kitchen table is a great place for breakfast, but it’s rarely a good place for thinking with a clear head. The best way to focus is to have a place that’s just for work, so you can get into the right mindset for productivity – ideally, a home office that is dedicated solely to work.
So often, our home offices are an afterthought; we just put a desk in whatever room has an empty corner. When it comes to functionality, that setup needs a little help.
Sit at your desk and analyze what you see. Visual distractions can really steal your time. Are there things in the room that constantly grab your eye, like a TV? Turn it off. Face your desk away from windows and doors. Are there things on your desk that don’t NEED to be seen? When was the last time you needed to see your router? Hide it if you don’t need to touch it.
A small desk will feel cluttered even when it isn’t. Is your workspace dark? Having good lighting will give the impression of less clutter, not to mention feel less dreary.
Visits from your spouse, kids, or even family pets are another distraction that you don’t have at work but that can cut in to productivity at home. Set up rules with family members. They need to know that if you are at your desk, you are not to be disturbed – close the door if possible, and ask them to respect your privacy. Also, making your work area off limits to your kids will mean that you’re not constantly looking for things like the mysteriously missing stapler that was there yesterday.
2. Minimalism is helpful, but not required
Yes, having a place that’s all business is best, but don’t go overboard. Give your workspace some personality. A few small family photos or a plant will keep the space from being so stark that you dread being there.
3. Keep your desk well stocked
It’s great to be able plop down in front of the TV and answer a few emails, but real work will require more than a laptop. Your desk will play a big role in your productivity, and having what you need and getting rid of what you don’t is the key.
Stock your desk with the same tools you have at the office to minimize your frustration. Office supplies are cheap… get new pencils and pens and throw away the dead ones. Get a real calculator with fresh batteries. Again, to minimize the visual clutter, keep unnecessary items hidden in a drawer, and only put one or two pencils in your pencil holder, not the whole box!
4. Go vertical
My wife, an organizing wizard, is always saying: “if it’s flat, it’s a pile – get it vertical.” It’s natural to want to leave papers on your desk, but resist the urge. That spot will eventually become a stack you don’t (or can’t) really go though. A simple file drawer with hanging folders will make that pile much easier to search through, while getting rid of the visual clutter.
5. Keep your equipment up to date
There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down at your home computer and not being able to do simple tasks because of out-of-date software or hardware. Subpar equipment causes a lot of wasted time and frustration, especially if the computer you use at work is state of the art. Slow processing, incompatible software, and missing files are real energy drains. Upgrade or even buy new. It will pay off.
6. Have a backup copy
Speaking of missing files, not having the updated documents for the new project can kill your productivity outright. Keep a thumb drive at work, so you can easily bring your work home.
However, thumb drives are not without their pitfalls. Misplacing the drive or accidentally overwriting newer files is always a possibility, but Google has a handy service that helps with these problems. Google Docs (docs.google.com) will allow you to store your files on their servers, and all you need is a Gmail account. Then you can edit your documents from anywhere you where you have Internet access, even if the computer is missing editing software. Google Docs accepts many of the common file formats, including those used by Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Adobe. You can even share the file with your work group so you call all be on the same page. Knowing that you and your team are working on the correct file is very comforting, not to mention productive.
See? With a little planning, your work at home can be as productive as your work at the office.