There aren’t enough hours in the day. I’m too overwhelmed to get anything done. I’ll just do it tomorrow—it can wait one more day. This chair is so comfy and these Cheetos are so tasty…and The Bachelor is on. These are all thoughts we sometimes struggle with but, ultimately, they’re excuses. And when you work from home, excuses are the enemy of productivity.
As a digital agency, all we do is work from our couches and home offices. So how do we get it all done and continue to scale our digital marketing agency? We practice the following tips to be more productive when we work from home.
22 Productivity Tips for Remote Workers in 2020
1. Create a Dedicated Home Office Space
As an independent contractor, you can often use your home office as a tax write-off. But this is also your professional sanctuary. As much as you think your couch or bed will serve as a perfect office, it probably won’t be. Get yourself a desk, a designated space, and some peace and quiet to get your work done. While we love working from our couch and snuggling our dogs, when it’s time to really get sh*t done, we slam the doors of our home offices and tell the world to shut it.
2. Find Your Optimal Working Hours
If you work for yourself, you have the liberty and luxury to determine your own hours. Whether you’re a morning person or night owl, find your ideal nine-to-five time slot and get work done then. Most people can only work for four hours per day anyways—thanks a lot Ford for your 40-hour assembly line template—so save some time to get work done when your muse is in the building.
3. Make Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Annual Goals
It’s important to pick your head up and look around every once in a while—even if you feel insanely busy. Studies show making a goal bumps your productivity by about 25 percent! That’s because it’s easiest to stay motivated when you have a finish line to get to. Before you start working each day, create a goal. At the beginning of the week, set a larger goal for the next seven days. Do the same for a month on the first of the month—and likewise, at the beginning of every year. Write down your goals so you can check them off and you whiz by. Crossing off a checklist feels so good.
Goals also help you measure your own personal KPIs—key performance indicators. It’s best to hold yourself accountable in the war to win more productivity. If you aren’t performing up to a level you’d expect from an employee, give yourself a tough-love talk and get back to kicking butt.
4. Do Your Top Priority Tasks First
Every day, make a list of your top priorities. When you make this list, consider doing 20 percent of the work that yields 80 percent of the result. This helps you determine if a task is worth your time in the first place and clears room for more productive productivity.
During this priority exercise, you may find you pack too much into one day and that rigorous workload leads to added stress and less productivity. That’s all good stuff to know! Also, starting with your highest priority demand ensures you never miss the mark on something super important. Depending on the size of your team, you may be able to delegate the smaller, lower-priority tasks you were once bogging yourself down with.
5. Time Block
Time blocking has been shown to increase productivity by 150 percent. That says something. Once you have your goals and priorities straight, block out your calendar in up to four-hour chunks. Lump similar tasks together to get done in a given time—like responding to emails, doing production work, or pitching new business. The assembly line framework worked for a reason; because people can get one task done quicker and easier rather than when they jump from task to task and create something from start to finish.
When you time block, do so on your calendar. This way, teammates won’t schedule meetings during your working time and mess up your productive flow.
6. Leave Time To Think
That’s right. Leave time to brainstorm, read, and be distracted. Block out some time to daydream, read, catch up on news, and distract yourself. People often find their creativity comes to them when their mind is free to wander. And when you give your mind a break from strict focus, it’s able to better concentrate and be productive when you get back to work.
7. Find Your Ambient Noise
In studies, ambient noise has been found to boost productivity because it hushes distracting sounds and keeps you in the zone. Whether you opt for white noise machines, sleep machines that play rain falling or crickets chirping, or music on low volume, create an atmosphere that jives best with your neurons to keep yourself productive.
8. Tidy Up
Geniuses are often depicted as crazy-haired people with desks buried in a foot of paperwork. However, that’s not the best way to be productive. It turns out, people are more productive when they maintain order and organization in their surroundings. Look at this as an excuse to get that cute filing cabinet you’ve had your eye on or hire a cleaning service. If you don’t have to waste mental space on visual distractions or stress about an unkempt office, you’ll have more bandwidth to shift your focus to the task at hand.
9. Silence Your Phone and Close Tabs
Every time you’re disrupted while working, it takes XX to get back to your task. So even one small interruption every hour can severely impact your workflow and productivity. Shut down all forms of distractions—including chats in Slack and Gmail. Put down your phone or put it in another room. Out of sight is out of mind. While most of us are programmed to fill empty seconds with internet searches and texting friends, exercise some self-control to keep yourself on track.
10. Take Breaks, Naps, and Vacations
A well-rested mind works better than one that’s exhausted and overworked. Sadly, about half of all Americans didn’t take all of their paid time off in 2015—and nearly one quarter left more than five days unused. That’s insane! Take your time off, your power naps, and breaks, people. Vacations reduce stress, rebuild ambition, and fight burnout. In one study, over 60 percent of workers said they felt ready to get back into the office and work after a vacation.
You don’t have to go to Tahiti to get your productive groove back, though. According to other studies, taking a short break to walk around outside or take a 15 to 20-minute power naps also revives productivity. When you take breaks, screentime doesn’t count. You have to unplug to regenerate your brain and enjoy benefits to productivity.
11. Check Email at Certain Times
It’s easy to become a slave to your email and compulsively check it every five minutes. That’s because the average office worker receives about 90 emails and sends about 40 business emails per day. That’s a lot of distractions that can ruin your focus and productivity! Instead, of checking email every 10 minutes, time block a few times a day to check email and respond. Most people don’t expect a response within an hour anyway, so as long as you get back to important people within the day or next business day, the sky shouldn’t fall.
12. Go Virtual to Cut Commuting Time
Travel saps productivity because you spend so much extra time on the road, waking up early to travel, and expending energy to get from point A to point B. Whenever you can, make meetings virtual to save time and keep yourself productive. Also, plan out a meeting agenda to ensure you don’t waste time being unproductive because of disorganization.
13. Get Your Heart Pumping
Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. That was said by the wise Elle Woods. And while true, exercise also helps boost productivity by combating anxiety and stress which kill efficiency when you work from home. Aim for 30 minutes to an hour of vigorous exercise per week—and at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day (doctor’s advice permitting, of course). See for yourself what it does for your focus and productivity.
14. Stay Full
Your mom may have pumped you full of Wheaties before school because a good breakfast and full stomach helps your brain perform at its best. As an adult, this need doesn’t change. Research recommends you keep your blood sugar stable by eating small meals throughout the day. That’s because ups and downs in blood sugar are both bad for productivity and your brain. Keep your home office stocked with healthy snacks to keep your brain working the way it should.
15. Minimize and Cluster Meetings
If your meeting doesn’t involve big decisions or brainstorming, you can probably take care of this task via email. Also, time block your meetings to certain days and times of day to preserve large chunks of time for getting tasks done. This may require you to be stingy with meeting times. You probably don’t need a full hour to go over most things. Instead, make sure everyone arrives on time and block out meetings in 15-minute increments. If it only takes 30 minutes, don’t schedule a full hour.
As we said above, always outline an agenda for a meeting before you meet! That will keep everyone on track and productivity at its highest level.
If you have too much on your plate, it might be time to hire an employee or an agency like Witty Kitty. Feeling overwhelmed clouds your mind and hinders productivity. Plus, we’re only human and can only get so much done every day. If you feel like the pressure is just too much, communicate this to your supervisor, internal team, or…psychiatrist. It’s all about self-care, folks. Often when you feel overwhelmed it’s not just the amount of work you have to do, it’s your headspace that is cluttered. If you feel anxious, take some time to meditate and clear your mind. We guarantee you’ll feel much better and that to-do list won’t seem so daunting.
Anything you can do to offload your work to a robot, do it! This includes using
- Meeting schedulers like Calendly so people can schedule a time to meet with you—and you don’t waste time sending out meeting invites
- Workflow project management software like Trello, Airtable, Slack, or Asana (we love Asana) to keep track of projects and make sure you’re meeting deadlines
- Auto filters on emails so you know at a glance what’s what and what needs attention immediately
- Use tools like Boomerang to remind you to follow up on lapsed communications and send emails at certain dates and times
- Scheduling platforms for your company’s social media marketing and email drip campaigns so marketing doesn’t get in the way of your productivity running your business
- Time tracking and time blocking apps like Toggl to see how you spend most of your time so you can strategize ways to save time
18. Set your Mouse to Max Speed
Hey, milliseconds add up, right? Crank up that mouse speed do you can speed up your browsing, scrolling, and shifting between tabs. If you’re using a trackpad, adjust your computer’s setting to make it optimally sensitive so it will respond to your every movement. This sounds crazy, but we swear by it!
19. Upgrade Your Tech
Old computer or phone slowing you down? It might be time to upgrade. The bright side of these expenses is you can write them off on your taxes. Outdated tech can be extremely frustrating and even make you look ill-prepared when conducting business from home and meeting virtually with clients. Nothing is worse than getting the spinning wheel of computer death while trying to join a conference call with that big client you want to impress.
20. Pre-crastinate Never Procrastinate
As a business owner, when it rains it pours. That’s why it’s crucial to stay ahead of the game at all times. If a landslide of work comes across your desk, it’s easier to handle and tackle if you don’t already have a mountain of work from procrastination. Again, hold yourself accountable so you have the bandwidth to stay productive.
21. Plan For the Next Day Every Night
It helps to visualize your day ahead so you can mentally prepare to get s*#$ done. Make it a habit of envisioning what you need to do the next day so it doesn’t slap you in the face and catch you off guard—adding stress and hindering productivity—before the day even begins.
22. Respect Sleep
Sleep is so important for health, wellness, and productivity when you work from home. A 2016 study revealed that the American economy loses up to $411 billion a year (or 1.23 million working days) due to lack of sleep. That’s huge on a large scale, but also potentially very detrimental to you if you own your own business and work from home. Try to get the recommended eight hours of quality sleep per night to keep your mind sharp and productive. Put down the phone an hour before bed and download a meditation app to clear your mind after a long workday!
You don’t have to crack a whip on yourself every waking moment to stay productive. Adopting these 22 tips will help you become productive more naturally—and help build your business or career when you work from home.
Get more tips and insights on our Instagram @wittykittydigital!
*Editor’s note: This post originally published in 2019 and has been recently revamped to include all the latest stats, info, and glorious gifs. Enjoy!