Productivity is a string of habits.
There are certain things to do to stay productive and if you do these things consistently, you will see significant improvements in how productive you are. Lots of people took a big hit to their productivity when they were forced to suddenly work from home, which is one of the things I’ll be addressing later on in this article.
Productivity doesn’t have to be too complicated.
And so today I want to share 6 things I do to stay productive throughout my day and how you can increase your productivity while working from home. Note that when I say be productive, I don’t just mean productivity for your job, but also for your own personal growth and wellbeing.
Not a huge reader? Watch the video instead:
Productivity Hack #1: Productivity Starts the Night Before
If you want to be productive, you first need to decide on what productivity means to you.
If you go into the day without a plan, you’ll easily be distracted. The moment you wake up you’ll be drawn towards your phone for social media, email, text messages and calls. Messages from work are especially pesky because they are often important, but they are distractions nonetheless.
Here’s what I do:
At night just before I go to bed, I take a few moments to think about the 3 most important things that I should be doing the next day. I tell myself these are 3 things to do to be able to call it a productive day. Note that these 3 things can be task you need to do for your job but they can also be for personal goals in your life.
An example could be reading a book for 30 minutes.
You decide what’s important to you. Without tracking the most critical activities for each day, you’ll have no clue how well or how poorly you are doing. When you start tracking them, you get feedback and can revise your methods in order to reach a better outcome tomorrow.
But there’s a second aspect to your night as well.
It’s simple yet incredibly effective.
Plan your night and morning such that you are able to sleep for 8 hours every night! I know that it sounds incredibly basic, but trust me this works! If you get 8 hours of sleep versus 6, you’ll be roughly 30% more effective at every level (including your general brain activity)! Not sleeping enough hours literally has the same kind of effect as being hungover, so if you want to stay productive at home, you need to get enough sleep.
It’s 1 of the 5 parts of my free 5×50 framework training. The training covers 5 things to do every day to boost your productivity significantly!
You may not pull it off every day, but this is your goal.
Just last week I had a terrible night’s sleep. I had pulled a muscle that day and it was hurting with any movement. I got maybe 4-5 hours in that night. As a result, I had to leave work about 2 and a half hours earlier because I was simply exhausted and could not focus anymore!
Do not underestimate this productivity superpower!
Productivity Hack #2: Know What Moves the Needle
This one is prevalent in our culture today.
Personally I’m all for working incredibly hard, that’s how you’re going to achieve your goals, no way around it! However, it becomes a problem when the eagerness to work hard becomes a detriment to your health. I know someone in college for example who wants to get 8’s and 9’s. Not only does that require her to work extremely hard, but she’s stressed out all the time about possibly not hitting her incredibly high standards.
It’s just not worth it!
A few things about this, before I move into the main point:
- Sleep! 8 hours per night, which is non-compromiseable!
- Regular exercise to keep your body in great shape
- Take breaks and unwind
- If it’s tearing you down mentally, it’s not worth it!
- You gotta love doing the work, if not what’s the point?
That was a detour about the “hustle culture” we have going on at the moment.
The detrimental effect that it can have on you is only one part that I want to discuss though. The other part is that people blindly work in an attempt to be seen as working hard and being “productive”. People get so stuck in the mindset of constantly doing that they lose sight of the big picture.
One of the best things you can do to stay productive is to take a step back.
Take a good honest look at the things you are doing on a day to day basis and you will likely find that there are certain activities that take your time, but are not moving the needle. An example would be a blogger spending 3 weeks to change a few colors on the website and change the sidebar to make it look a little bit nicer. Yes, you’re busy doing work, but it does not lead to a return.
In this example, you would have been way better off when you instead spent those hours to produce new content and to promote that content. Those are the things that really move the needle.
See the point?
There’s a huge difference between productivity and efficiency.
Productivity is how effective you are at getting certain things done, like making the changes to the site. If you can do something in 2 hours instead of 4, that’s better. Efficiency on the other hand is all about how effective the activity is at getting you closer to your goals.
You can be the most productive person in the world, but if you are doing things that don’t contribute to your goals, then it’s no use at all. It’s like driving at full speed, but driving in the wrong direction!
You need both productivity and efficiency to reach your goals!
Note: Since these are the 6 things to do to stay productive, for the rest of this article I will focus on productivity and assume that you’re working on things that actually matter. If that’s not the case, then that’s something to consider for yourself and change directions if needed.
Productivity Hack #3: Keep Track of Your Time Wasters
One of the things to do to stay productive when you are working from home (or even from the office) is to make sure that the odds are in your favor. It means that you should first be aware of ways in which you have been wasting your time before.
If I asked you right now:
What are the top 3 ways you’re wasting time?
Do you have an answer for me?
The truth is that many people know that they are wasting quite a bit of time every single day, but they are unable to pinpoint exactly where this time went. The reason for this is that we don’t usually waste time for long periods of time on end. You just check your messages here, watch the news there, get stuck in thoughts when switching tasks and things like that.
It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it really can be.
The problem with checking your phone when it buzzes doesn’t just cost you the 5 seconds it takes to look at it and put it back in your pocket. The real problem comes after the distraction. Because now you’re returning to the task you were doing before and have to refocus again. This is where your time is really wasted!
- You may be staring at the screen thinking “what was I doing again”
- You might forget a certain train of thought
- You lost the flow you were in
- Complicated tasks require a deeper level of thinking, which takes a while to get back into
- You’re more prone to making errors
So what can you do to maintain your productivity at home?
Of course, this will depend on the kind of tasks and work that you’re doing, but the first step is to take an honest look at your activities throughout the day. Ask yourself if they really serve any purpose for you and please note that it is not just raw productivity you’re looking for.
Here’s what I mean:
Getting up regularly to stretch your muscles and walk around a little bit is NOT a distraction. It is actually a good thing for both your body and your mind. Another example of this would be staying hydrated, even when that means you get up to get water 10 times a day. You need things like that to stay productive and avoid fatigue.
It’s up to you to find your time wasters, I don’t know your day after all.
Even though I don’t know you, I’m willing to bet that I do know two of your major distractions, because they are quite universal these days: your phone and your laptop. I don’t know which apps, sites and programs are the culprits, but I’m willing to bet that they are killing your productivity all day.
For starters, let’s examine our browser.
What I recommend you do is to install the WasteNoTime browser extension. With this extension you can first monitor your internet behavior and see how much time you spend on each site that you visit. It’s a great way to figure out if there are any websites that just suck up way too much time. You also have the option to block certain sites if you desire.
Here’s a WasteNoTime tutorial that will help you set it up:
Next up is your phone.
Luckily, the heavy lifting has already been done for you!
If you were to try to limit time on your phone a couple of years ago, you would have to download multiple apps to figure out how you are wasting your time and to then block or limit your time spent on them. Luckily both Android and iOS have implemented their own systems for doing all of this: Digital Wellbeing and Screen Time respectively.
Both can be found in your phone’s settings.
I would highly recommend going through them today when you have the time, you will be surprised at how much time you waste on your phone! I consider myself to be pretty productive, but I found that I was wasting around 2-3 hours per day on my phone alone.
Both Digital Wellbeing & Screen Time track your app usage.
So once you open them, you’ll be able to see on a day-by-day basis how much time you spent on each of your apps. You may be confronted with your own behavior that you weren’t even aware of, but I can promise you that this is one of the best things you can do to increase your productivity by far!
So go and take that honest look at your daily activities.
We’ll go into fixing them later on in this guide.
Productivity Hack #4: Create an Optimal Working Environment
When you are working from home, do you find yourself using your phone more often than when you are working at the office? And if you indeed find that behavior, why do you think that this is the case?
Hint: It’s your environment.
In both situations, using your phone for personal reasons is not desirable most of the time. In both situations, you probably have your phone in your pocket and in both situations you are doing the same activities. The main difference is that there are other people at the office, which means that your phone usage will be noticed by others.
You’re less likely to be using your phone in the office because there is a chance that people will think badly of this behavior. In other words, you’re being held accountable for your actions.
At home, however, this is not possible.
So you need to make other changes in your environment to increase your productivity.
The first thing you should look into is the general environment.
A few things:
- Is there enough light?
- Is there good ventilation and/or fresh air?
- Do you have a good place to sit and work?
- Is it distraction free (kids, dogs, cats, spouses, etc.)?
- How is the level of noise there?
These are some of the most important questions to ask yourself.
It’s going to be incredibly difficult if you’re in a dimly lit room with no fresh air whatsoever, while you are sitting on the ground and there are 3 kids chasing a barking dog. You instinctively know the importance that a good working environment has on your productivity, but have you acted upon it.
Because common knowledge is rarely common practice!
Your Mental Environment
This is slightly off-topic, but it does really illustrate a good point:
You know how sleep experts tell you to never take your phone with you to bed?
There’s a great reason for this.
The reason is that you want to train your brain to know that going to bed means going to sleep. If you’re using your phone in bed, your mind starts to expect you to be using your phone for an hour before going to sleep. So even when you don’t have it with you, you’ll still have a hard time falling asleep, because your brain is not in sleep mode when you go to bed.
It’s the same with your work environment.
Even if the conditions mentioned above are great, I wouldn’t recommend working from your “lazy chair”. You know, the one you drop into when you’re tired or when you want to wind down and watch Netflix. Your brain will automagically go into relaxation mode when you sit down there, so it will be more difficult for you to be productive.
You should create your own productivity haven.
A place in your house where you come specifically to work. You want your brain to switch to work mode just from going to that area. Of course, this means to keep that area for work only if possible at all.
Your Desk & Surroundings
This one is pretty straightforward.
You want to make sure that your desk and surroundings allow you to work effectively.
Specifically, here are 5 things to do to stay productive:
- Make sure the desk is clean and not cluttered
- Avoid having any moving pieces on your desk (your attention is drawn towards movement)
- Don’t have anything that you can fidget with
- Have things that inspire you and encourage your dreams
- Your phone is not in arms reach and preferably in another room!
Number 5 is one of the best things you could possibly do to keep your productivity throughout the day (unless your job is to make calls)!
It gets rid of the FOMO.
When that device buzzes or rings, that’s when you want to pick it up. Because you’re afraid that there is something that you are missing out of if you don’t look at your phone right then and there. If you don’t have your phone with you, you’re not getting those notifications in the first place and so it is way easier to stay concentrated.
Create a workstation that motivates you, not one that distracts you.
Note: This doesn’t just apply to the work you do for your job. It also applies to working on a side-hustle or on any of the other goals that you may have. Try to create a dedicated area for each of your goals so that you can work on them with full motivation and as little distractions as possible!
Let’s move on to this blasted device.
As much as I love technology, your phone is also one of the main reasons why people can’t stay focused on the job ahead of them. You’ve already taken the first step at this point by identifying which apps suck up all of your time. The thing we want to do now is to eliminate these things once and for all.
I’ve written the definitive guide to stop wasting time online that I highly recommend.
This guide will cover literally everything you have to do to stop yourself from wasting time on the internet as well as on your phone. In case you don’t have time to read that 9000-word monster guide, I’ll cover the basic things to do to maintain your productivity and sanity throughout the day here.
Do these things:
- In your Digital Wellbeing or Screen Time settings, find all the apps that distract you from your higher purpose and set a time limit for them. You can even block these apps altogether if you choose to do so.
- Set up focus mode. When you have certain hours of the day that you want to be productive, you can make it so that you won’t get any notifications (or only the needed ones) during those hours and that you cannot use certain apps during those hours.
- In general, you want to go to your notification settings and disable any notifications that don’t serve you. I’m talking social media, games, news apps and any apps that send notifications that aren’t helping you in getting closer to your goals.
Do those things and you’ll be well on your way to having more productivity, happiness and mental energy!
This is the final step in creating a productive work environment at home.
If you have followed this guide so far, then you have installed the WasteNoTime browser extension already. After having it for a few days, you’ll be able to get a good idea of the sites that you visit on a regular basis. Some will be good for you, while others will just be distractions.
Luckily, you can block or limit the bad ones with the extension.
Watch this video if you haven’t done so already:
Follow the steps that I outline in that video and you will have blocked and limited all the sites that keep you from being productive. If you don’t have the discipline to stop your bad behavior, then put the right barriers in place that do have the power to stop you!
Productivity Hack 5: Break Up Your Day
There is an important misunderstanding of productivity:
There are a lot of people who praise themselves for being incredibly productive because they sit down at their computer for 4 hours on end to work. While this is commendable, I wouldn’t recommend this kind of “productivity”. Because the truth is that this isn’t as productive as you might think.
Your productivity dwindles when working too long on end.
There are some incredible benefits to taking breaks regularly. One of them is that it gives you a reset. When you spend too much time doing the same thing, you become significantly less productive at it. You may not realize it, but that’s what is actually happening.
It doesn’t have to be long either.
Taking a break can be as simple as getting up for a minute or two, stretching out, walking around for a little bit and then setting back down. The productivity is only one of the benefits, but this is also one of the best things you can do to keep your body and mind fresh.
Here’s my recommendation:
- Pick 1 task, only 1 thing that you need to do to make today productive
- Work on that thing for 50 minutes (use a Pomodoro tool if you feel it will help)
- After 50 minutes, you get up!
- If you feel you really were in a flow, do a quick walk and stretch.
- Otherwise take a break for about 5-15 minutes to wind down a little and relax
- Sit back down
- Do another session of 50 minutes
By working this way, you avoid the loss of productivity due to trying to focus for too long at an end. You avoid the mental and physical strain this way and you’ll be feeling better while getting more done! It’s one of the things I do to stay productive when I’m working from home as well as when I’m in the office.
Tip: When working on 1 task, don’t let yourself get distracted. Responding to email can be one of your blocks of time as well. This is way more effective than responding to each email as they come in.
Productivity Hack 6: Routine Tasks
This is another incredibly important thing to do to stay productive.
No matter what you do, there will also be certain tasks that you have to do over and over again. Depending on your goals or your job, these tasks may be one of the most time consuming things you do all day. It’s also one of the areas where you can get the largest productivity gains.
Don’t underestimate this.
It may not seem like a big deal to do a certain task 10 seconds faster because of a better process, but if you have to do that thing 100 times per week, it compounds to 16 minutes and 40 seconds saved. That’s almost 13 hours and 20 minutes per year (calculated on 48 working weeks).
That’s the power!
Because you do it all the time, the benefits add up.
Here’s my advice for anyone who is doing the same tasks over and over again:
Stop mindlessly doing these things! Instead, keep oan open mind when you do them, or even pause sometimes to think about optimization of the processes. There will almost always be ways in which you can streamline the process to either cut down the time it takes to do them, do them better or do both at the same time!
Here are the basic categories of doing tasks smarter:
- Batching subtasks
- Using tools to save time
- Automating certain (sub)tasks
- Using previous work / templates
- Different orders
- Dropping certain parts
- Improving your routine
To give you an example, let’s look at each of these so that you have a better idea of how to tackle your own routine tasks. Let’s say you have to post 100 images to social media every week as a social media marketer.
In this case you would first create 10, 20, or even all 100 images in a batch. then you would go and write the captions for each post. After that you would go and post them to social media. This is a great thing to do to be more productive, because you’re not constantly switching between programs and tasks.
The alternative, which is to do all three tasks for a single image and then move on to the next one, would be way less effective.
Using Tools to Save Time
You would be posting to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and perhaps some other platforms as well. Going to each of these separately will cost a lot of time, so instead you could use a tool where you can post (and schedule) messages to multiple platforms from a single dashboard.
With the social media tools we have today, you don’t need to sit around and wait until it’s time to post something. That takes a lot of mental energy, time and makes human errors common. Instead, you would put the images with captions into a tool and that tool will then automatically post it at the time you specified.
Using Previous Work and/or Templates
In this case this means having certain templates for images that you can easily tweak. With routine tasks, if there is a way you don’t have to start from 0, without compromising quality of work, that’s a smart thing to do. In this case, I could also automatically store each message somewhere so that I can use the same ones in 4 months.
It doesn’t matter too much here, but there are cases where doing a certain subtask before the other increases your effectiveness. Just because you have been doing something a certain way for months or years does not mean that this is the best way to go about it. Always be on the lookout for ways to improve the process.
Dropping Certain Parts
Are there any steps in the process you’re using that don’t actually contribute to the end result? Maybe you’re applying filters to every image, but data shows that a different filter doesn’t improve the results. In that case it would be stupid to continue doing that task, since there is no benefit, but it does cost a lot of time.
Improving Your Routine
An finally, sometimes all it takes to be more productive is simply to know what you’re doing and do it faster. Examples would be being able to type faster or knowing exactly where to click, so that you can do these tasks well every time while keeping quality high and significantly speeding up the action as well.
How to Stay Productive While Working from Home
As you can see there are many things you can do to be more productive and to stay productive.
The most important things you need to remember are knowing what tasks and what goals are important to you. This allows you to focus on the most important things without having too many distractions or doing useless tasks. Once you’re clear on the tasks you need to do, focus on creating the right environment to do those things in.
That’s your first hurdle.
Once you do have the desired level one of the things to do to stay productive is to take regular breaks. You want to avoid tiring yourself out both physically and mentally. Working in sprints also helps you to stay productive rather than having your attention and energy be slowy drained from you.
If you do these 6 things, you will be way more productive when working from home!
Both in your personal life as well as in your job. Stay productive my friend and start doing these 6 things today! You may also way want to click the share buttons below to share your newfound productivity with others! 😉