I know I’m lucky to be working independently myself as a freelance writer. However, it’s hard to stay motivated when you are constantly distracted by Netflix, your phone, and knowing you can easily give in to these distractions because you don’t have a boss to get mad at you.
I decided to create a better work system after a few weeks of slacking and indulging in my work-at-home freedom. It was tough finding and following accurate solutions to get me back in my game.
In the end, discipline is the hard thing you have to take to make everything else easier in the long run as most inspirational quotes would say. Here are the 10 ways I found to be helpful in maintaining productivity and focus when you’re working from home:
Wake up Early
Waking up early is not just for the ones working 9 to 5. Home-based workers should also practice getting up early in the morning. The early bird still gets the worm, after all.
The good thing about waking up early as a work-from-home freelancer is you get to enjoy your mornings anyway. Waking up earlier provides you a substantial amount of time to gradually transition from your relaxed state and into your workday.
People who rush their morning routines tend to be more absent-minded and too exhausted to do more in their day. As a freelancer, you can always adjust your mornings and divide it into these three productivity-inducing morning phases:
You need some time to wire your brain into working after waking up. Take this phase as the time to sit and make your morning coffee rather than hurrying up to get things done for the day.
What I do is I drink my coffee on my balcony while watching the sunrise. This helps put the brain in peace so you can happily go about your day afterward. You can also read a few pages of a book while sipping your coffee to stimulate your mind.
One of the most effective productivity tricks I do is organizing my work desk before I start working. I clean my desk, arrange my materials in a satisfying display, and make sure everything’s tidy or placed strategically according to how I’ll be using them.
Organizing your workstation enables the brain to be structured as well. When your mind sees clutter, it becomes susceptible to its own clutter as well. Yes, our brains are sensitive that way.
One of the luxuries you have when working from home is the time to exercise or hit the gym. Regardless of whether you actually work out or not, you need some time in the morning to exercise and break in your muscles for a full day of work.
You don’t have to go to the gym if you’re not really that type, but at least do some stretches before you start working. Us freelancers are prone to having wrist pains, for example. Ergonomic mouse or keyboards work but you still need to exercise your joints regularly to avoid serious injuries.
Set a Daily Schedule
You don’t have to follow a work schedule but you should at least set a routine for yourself. Create a schedule according to your preference, as in something you’ll follow every day. You need to do this so you won’t end up browsing on social media or doing something distracting in between your tasks.
It doesn’t have to be made with exact time periods. Just make sure you have a clear start time you’ll follow, a few breaks to eat or rest, and an end time that will still give you time to do personal duties like socializing or watching your Netflix series before bed.
Make a To-Do List for Each Day
It’s important to make a to-do list for each working day. This is the first thing that helped me become more productive. Listing all the things you have to finish for the day or week gives you a clear idea of what your priorities are.
This could go wrong, though. The trick is to keep your daily to-do list in a reasonable and realistic length. That means you should set a quota to reach for the day but be careful because listing too many tasks in a day can overwhelm you and discourage you from getting through the day.
Arrange Your Tasks in Systematic Order
Yes, it’s not enough to just list your tasks and accomplish them all. You have to list them in a systematic order that motivates you to get them all done for the day. What I do is list my least favorite task first. Starting at that task you dislike the most and all the way down to that project you’re looking forward to the most aligns with the reward system trick.
This is how I work on the articles assigned to me–I work on the ones I find difficult first. I feel motivated to work on them because I know I have that refreshing topic waiting for me in the end. I know I can’t work on that one until I’ve done all the challenging ones.
Work in a Well-Lit Dedicated Workspace
Have a dedicated workspace at home that’s away from any noise and other disturbances. Make sure that your home office is well-lit as well. You can’t work in a dark room as it might make you feel sleepy.
Also, a workspace with sufficient lighting will enable you to focus on what you’re working on more. Digital work requires us to keep our eyes on our desktop or laptop screens for long periods. Top that with poor lighting, and your eyesight will get damaged.
If you’re already wearing glasses, make sure you get computer lenses that make it easier for you to look at the screen longer without catching a headache. I also suggest you install f.lux, a software that lets you adjust the brightness of your screen according to your work hours and the way our eyes generally adjust to light at those times.
Trick Yourself into Forgetting about Checking Your Phone
We spend nearly 3 hours of our day on our phones. I bet it’s even more when you’re working from home and have easy access to your social media. I used to be addicted to my phone as well. There were times I’d stop in the middle of writing a sentence to check my socials just because.
The trick is to forget your phone exists at all. The way to do it is to never start your day by checking your phone. What I do is hide my phone the moment I wake up until day ends. I place it in different places I would have to try hard to reach.
If you’re worried about family calling you for emergencies, set a specific ringtone for them so you would know when to pick up. This digital age has made us feel like we can’t be away from our phones for a while, and we certainly should, especially if we’re working.
Get in Touch with Your Productivity Peaks
Getting in touch with your productivity peaks means knowing exactly when you’re the most productive. You need to know when you’re the most motivated to work, especially if you’re a creative, so you know when to set your breaks in your schedule.
You should also determine if you’re a night owl or an early bird so you know how to properly plot your work phasing. You don’t want to come up with a timetable that will just burn you out as if you’re working according to someone else’s preset schedule.
Take Real Breaks
Your breaks shouldn’t be just eating at the very same desk where you work. You have to take actual breaks where you maybe take a walk outside for a few minutes or eat at a restaurant or another part of your home for lunch.
You can’t spend your breaks watching YouTube videos at your desk as that doesn’t really rest your eyes from digital exposure. Also, it keeps you stationed in the same spot, making you feel stuck and uninspired to continue the rest of the day.
Switch up Your Workspace Once in a While
One of the best things about working from home is that you can carry your work around wherever there’s an internet connection. Always remember that you are location independent, so you can take workcations and enjoy new views and culture while working.
My first workcation was a big eye-opener for me. That’s when I had finally realized the full scale of my freedom and the good I can make out of it. You’ll be surprised how being in a different country or city can completely reset your productivity levels, making you motivated to work the entire time.
It’s just something about a new ambiance and foreign settings that refresh your mind. Suddenly, you just feel super creative again or that you can do as much as you want for the day. It’s worth taking every chance to travel with your work, trust me.
Prepare Your Meals the Night Before
If you’re not the type who orders in or eats outside for meals, you should prepare your meals every night before work (vice versa if you’re a night owl). Chopping alone can take too much of your time and cooking requires full-time attention, so that’s just another distraction right there despite the purpose.
If you prepare your meals the night before, all you’ll have to do in the morning is heat them in the microwave and eat them. This is one of the practices that make self-made billionaires as well, so you should really get on that.
Apply Automation to Balance Your Work and Personal Life
There are many digital tools you can download from app stores or online so you can optimize your schedule and work more. Use automation to get rid of repetitive tasks that take up too much of your time and kill your focus.
These tasks can make you feel stuck in a routine, demotivating you to continue work. This could lead to an overall negative space wherein you get so stressed and your performance at work just declines.
Since you’re already working digitally, maximize technology to make your tasks simpler. For instance, there’s a software called Process Street that automates your workflow using a checklist interface. The platform has different checklist templates from work-related ones to personal activities like house chores.
Don’t Forget About Your Social Life
Having 24/7 access to work, paired with all these productivity and efficiency tricks can make you addicted to work. Well, remember to log off the computer, too. Make some time to regularly interact with your friends and family.
Just because you are passionate about your work and you can do it all the time doesn’t mean you can just neglect your social life. As humans, we need to connect with other humans and tap into different energies from various personalities.
Once in a while, have a weekend where you just completely destress for a night and do fun things. I remember having such a wild night on a Saturday and feeling so motivated to accomplish a few tasks in advance the morning after, on a Sunday.
Working from home also has its disadvantages, and freedom alone has always been a complicated concept that’s constantly torn between good and bad. In this case, we should aim to be more disciplined as freelancers. Let’s be grateful for the liberty we have to manage our own time and work from anywhere we want.
Then avoid falling into tempting interruptions as much as you can. Working from home gives you a great opportunity to develop yourself at its utmost potential. Always remember that before deciding on spending your work hours on catching up with your Netflix series.