Whether you are a freelance writer (like me), a developer, web designer, or something else, if you work at home you probably struggle with how to be more productive at home. With so many distractions, such as the television, social media, or the rabbit hole that is YouTube, you end up wasting time and energy and of course not being very productive.
Working from home, pre-pandemic seemed glamorous and the ultimate goal. Who wouldn’t want to work in their pajamas? Sadly, working in your pajamas is not the best idea. I know that even feels wrong writing it out, but it is true. (Pick up, Who Moved My Cheese).
Why can’t I work in my pajamas?
Well, you could, honestly, you could but think about it when you put your pajamas on, what are you ready to do?
Think for a moment. Go on think for just a moment.
That’s right, you are getting ready for bed.
In fact, your brain will associate bedtime with putting on pajamas, and thus the settling down and sleep time attitude starts to kick in. This is why you shouldn’t wear pajamas when you are working from home.
You may not be aware of this but what you wear affects your mental motivation. Dressing as though you are going to tackle the world and you will be mentally motivated to take charge.
Dressing as though you are ready for bed, although comfortable and forgiving after eating that giant burger, and you become mentally ready for bed. (again read Who Moved My Cheese)
When it comes to working from home one has to ensure, they are maximizing the most of their day to produce quality work, and to do this you have to create a work schedule that makes sense and is realistic.
That, and put on real pants.
Why do you need a schedule again?
Schedules not only give you direction but can also help in completing tasks on time.
Let’s say you have several phone calls you have to take during the day, and you also have an article that is due by the end of the day. Without a schedule, this might feel a little overwhelming, and you may not complete your article on time. Or you might even forget about the article altogether.
Planning your day accordingly makes it possible for you to complete (almost) everything on your agenda. Another added benefit of a schedule will reduce any stress, disorganization, and rabbit holes.
(rabbit holes include social media, youtube, celebrity websites, etc.)
Routines are a part of our very nature, and throughout our lives, we will create several routines. When we have a routine or established habits we have certainty, and with certainty, we reduce anxiety levels, feelings of being overwhelmed, and unnecessary stress.
According to Memory.ai, “.absense of routines can severely impact productivity, wellbeing, and focus. Without them, it’s scarily easy to do nothing, as it is to burn out, requiring us to expend additional effort to engage each day.”
So many entrepreneurs will tell you the primary reason for their success is a strong routine. Using this proven successful path to being more productive, why not give a routine a try.
Without a routine, our lives can be overwhelming, and a bit unsettled. Keeping our “to do” lists locked inside our minds allows production to slow down. Things get forgotten, and deadlines are missed.
We have to rely way more on ourselves, creating more stress than necessary when we let go of a routine, or schedule.
A schedule is essential to help you feel you have direction and a feeling of order. (Fort Behavioral Health, 2021)
Break Up the Work!
Having large workloads or tasks we need to accomplish can feel more manageable if broken into chunks. For instance, let’s say you are going hiking and you have a choice of climbing one of two mountains.
If you are from the PNW (Pacific Northwest let’s say you have a choice between Mt. Hood and Mount St. Helen.) Mt. Hood seems easier to climb than Mount St Helen, so of course, you would choose the easier choice.
And because you just climbed a mountain you will still feel as though you accomplished something. This is the same with breaking your workload into chunks. When you break things up, you still feel as though you managed to accomplish your goals and you feel productive.
This is a way to be super productive, and I suggest you start with the smaller tasks first. They don’t take too much time and you can complete more tasks quickly.
When you get to a larger work task you will feel charged to tackle it because it won’t seem so bad now that you have completed so much already.
Get a good work schedule
The first thing you should decide on is when you are the most productive. When you are a freelancer or a developer you have this luxury. Most of us do our best work in the morning, and then there are people like my husband who do their best work in the middle of the after and late at night.
The rest of us who need to get up in the morning for whatever reason, carting the kids off to school or getting them ready for online school then schedule that into our day. Plan your morning so you have a chance to catch your breath, perhaps stretch or have a cup of coffee, or both.
Use this time to check up on emails, or any other small tasks that take up a lot of time when you should be more productive. Make sure you schedule breaks! You will see you’re more productive and alert if you take a break and clear your mind.
Here is an example of my own schedule
- 6:00 am wake up and make coffee
- 6:40 am stretch, check emails.
- 7:10 am wake up the child, get him dressed and feed him breakfast.
- 8:00 am take the child to school
- 8:40 begin writing on Novel
- 10:00 am Break
- 10:30-12:30-administrative duties, pitches, research
- 12:30-1:30 Lunch
- 3:00-3:45 Research
- 3:45 Check email
- 4:00 End Day.
Of course, your schedule is going to vary, and that is ok that is the beauty of a schedule it is tailor-made. The main point is to break up your day as if you were going into the office. (and stick to it!)
Make yourself accountable for it as well. If you are self-employed and you are using something like Freshbooks, clock in and out. Or you can create your own spreadsheet (there are free ones online to download as well), and again clock in and out. This way you can mentally say “I’m on the clock.”
If you were in the office you wouldn’t play around on your computer and never get anything done, if you did your boss would want answers.
Paper or Digital?
While there is really no right or wrong way to create a schedule, I am obsessed with paper; I love and need to have it when I do anything. Research, plan, etc. Without the option of paper, I cannot seem to focus, and I feel things get lost.
So, for me, yes, I use a traditional planner type schedule so I can write notes. I have tried to use project management tools such as Trello or Click-up, and sometimes they work but then other times I spend more time trying to figure out how to personalize them than working.
My husband loves using Trello, and Slack for communication. He doesn’t understand why I keep using traditional planners. But to each their own.
Write out your tasks, type them out if you are a digital person. Then use some sort of checklist system, which by the way feels so good to cross something off. A wave of accomplishment washes over you, and then you’re on to the next task.
Importance of Routine. December 2021. 10 January 2022. <https://www.fortbehavioral.com/addiction-recovery-blog/the-importance-of-routines/>.
Work from Home Routine. 10 January 2022. <https://memory.ai/timely-blog/work-from-home-routine>