How to Stay Productive When You’re Working at Home

Maybe you’ve got the option to work from home for your employer. Maybe you’re a freelancer, business owner or a student. Whatever the exact circumstances, you’ve got to get productive work done … while at home.

You might think that being at home will make you more productive. For instance:

  • You don’t have colleagues stopping by at your desk and interrupting you
  • You can listen to whatever music you want, set up your workstation however you like, light candles, burn incense … whatever helps you focus
  • You don’t have to head out to buy lunch – you can just turn to the fridge
  • You won’t waste time commuting

… I’m sure you can come up with a few more!

While all of these are definitely benefits, there’s also a darker side to working at home. If you’ve ever ended up watching TV in your pyjamas in the middle of the day, you’ll know that the lack of a boss and colleagues isn’t always great for your productivity.

Here’s how to stay on track:

#1: Have a Designated Work Space

We moved into a bigger place last year, which has given me the luxury of a whole (albeit small!) room for my work. I’ve got enough desk space for two monitors – which definitely helps with my productivity – and when I’m in my room, my husband knows not to disturb me.

You might not be able to find a whole room, but can you at least have a permanent desk set up in a quiet area of your home?

#2: Figure Out Your Peak Hours

One of the lovely things about working from home is that you don’t have to work 9 – 5. You can work at 6am or 11pm – whatever suits you. So pay attention to when you’re most productive: for me, it’s the morning (around 8am – 11am) but you might be totally different.

If you can fit your most energy-demanding work into your peak hours, you’ll find that you get much more done.

#3: Write a To Do List

When you work in a regular office job, you might not need a to-do list. After all, there’s not much to do other than work – and your manager or team probably lets you know what tasks need to be completed urgently.

At home, it’s up to you to come up with your task list. If you find yourself procrastinating or slacking off, make a clear to-do list and get started on it.

#4: Get Out of the House

Some people really struggle to work in the home environment. Perhaps they’ve conditioned themselves to see it purely as a place of leisure, or maybe they have too many distractions going on (noisy kids or housemates).

If you struggle to work at home, then go somewhere else. Take your laptop to a cafe, library, or co-working space. Even if you can only manage this for a few hours a week, it can make a huge difference.


Do you work from home, some or all of the time? What tips would you add to this list?

Post image by Flickr user VeloBusDriver.

Previous post:

Next post:

3 Responses to “ How to Stay Productive When You’re Working at Home ”

  1. Guillermo says:

    Great article. Very good comments.

    I work from home almost all the time, or for periods. I think it results to be much more challenging at the end of the day to work by your self, since you are the responsible for creating all the circumstances for a better and appropriate performance.

    Additional to the tips exposed on this article, I’d like to share some tips to improve the home office experience that have worked out for me.

    1) Have a work area.
    As soon as your budget allows it, build or arrange a special area at home for work, with all the things you ever wished to have into your ideal offices: special lighting, a cool desk, a comfortable seat, a nice phone, custom library, a window where you can have a nice view, etc. But avoid anything that can actually distract you from work.

    2) Include a small space for social interaction.
    This is for two reasons: in case you need to receive a visit (client, friend, colleague, provider) or in case you want to “disconnect” from the work for a few seconds and wish to someone to chat. I like to have a comfortable love seat, with some cool magazines, and warm and nice lighting in order create an interesting environment.

    3) Maximize the use of space. Take a Breath!
    I personally do not like using mirrors to create grater space illusion. But if it’s an option for you, use it. If you don’t have any windows, add some great posters of nature themes, or whatever it can relax you and diminish the stress. And try to buy adequate furniture. Remember to leave space for “storing” work related stuff like boxes, papering, books, materials, samples, etc.

    4) Use nice colors on walls.
    Used wisely, color helps not just for creating an “emotional state”, but also for creating perceptional experiences like having more space. I like clear tones. You can combine a clear tone with a stronger and revitalizing one just in case you need to wake up!

    5) Make others respect your space and time.
    Try as much as possible to make your family / house roommates respect your time and work space. Tell them that although you are actually there, you aren’t… got it?

    6) Have a defined daily schedule.
    One problem could be the fact that you do not have a schedule or that you have it but you simply don’t respect it. Be professional and disciplined to use your work time productively. And remember not to be a workaholic!

    7) Respect each area’s porpoise.
    Something really important: NEVER ever use your work area to sleep. And on the other hand never ever use your sleep area to work. Mind is tricky, so do not mix up things wrongly. Sleeping, playing, watching a movie is something that should never be done at your work area.

    Finally, I agree that there are lots of advantages working at home. Specially it reduces daily food and gasoline expenses. If your mom/wife/girlfriend is cooking, or if you’re a good chef… you’ll always find yourself eating nice and clean food. On the worst case, you can make a phone call and ask for food at your door while you keep working or doing something else. (This is a time saver technique…)

    Another good thing is that you have more possibilities to see and share some moments with your family (in case you’re married or live with your parents). And the best one (to me) is when you get sleepy after lunch, you just can go to your bedroom and have a small sleep comfortably. :) (Or you can go take a small walk so as not to get fat…)

    At the end, it depends on you how to use your time. We all might have different needs, but what is really exciting about working at home is that you can suit yourself more comfortably and at the end of the day that can result in more productivity and better incomes.

    • Ali Luke says:

      Wow, thanks, Guillermo — fantastic tips! All great onees, and I absolutely agree with you about having a specific work area. I need to focus a bit more on having a daily schedule (though one of the things I love about freelancing is having a lot of flexibility about when I work).

  2. Sander says:

    Great tips Ali, these tips are very helpful to improve more my productivity. This is how I manage work at home at first before I start to work I take an exercise, it helps me to have an active mind and body. In order to stay productive at work I use this kind of time tracking tools. Using this tool it helps me organize my tasks depends on priority level and the task with the highest priority comes first. I also schedule my tasks on it and set an amount of time that I eagerly follow. I also take a regular break this way I can relax a bit that refresh sanity. It would be hard for me to follow all those tasks on schedule and finish it on time without self discipline. With discipline I can easily ignore work distractions and stay focus on tasks. With self discipline and the right tools I would say that I’m productive this way.

Leave a Reply