This is a big one for anyone aspiring to have a DIY nine to five. “How to be more productive” is a phrase that I’ve probably Googled a thousand times in my life (900 of those times being within the last year) because it really is SO easy to get off track, even when you’ve been doing great for a while. Am I right?
I’ve never been one to enjoy a strict schedule. In fact, as a child I refused to go to camp because I didn’t want to be told when to wake up, eat breakfast, go swimming, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love a little structure, but I love it a lot more when I’m the one who created it.
A necessary evil, that structure thing. Essential in all parts of life in some way, but especially important when you are self-employed and/or work from home. If you’re new to ASBE, you may not know this, but I began working from home last year. When I worked a 9-5 desk job, one of the things that really got me feeling down was the realization that I physically sat in a desk for 40hrs/week. In my opinion, nothing can break the creative mind more quickly than being chained to a desk all week long, and to top it all off, my responsibilities at home were suffering because I was just too damn drained to do anything when I got off of work.
After the whole “moving to Georgia/not moving to Georgia” fiasco, I found myself in a position where I was able to work from home. Hallelujah. I was going to be a successful career woman AND keep my house looking like Disney on Ice at all times. Yeah, no.
Between my freelance marketing and virtual assisting (I work for a few different companies), my vinyl business and my blog, I was easily working fifty hours a week, but I wasn’t making the money that I wanted to make and I DEFINITELY was not over-achieving in the housekeeping department. Here was the issue: I was basically running on a hamster wheel – constantly moving and doing, but there was no rhyme or reason…no structure. And it was killing my productivity. So, the big question: How can I be more productive (especially when working from home)?
Five Simple Tips on How to Be More Productive
1. Find your “Productivity Hours”: To my knowledge, no actual studies have been done on this, but I wholeheartedly believe that different people have different times when they are most productive. Let’s use me as an example. In terms of creativity/motivation, I’m a strong 1.5 out of 10 between the hours of 6 and 10 am. I’ve never been a morning person, I’m actually a serious night owl – and I oftentimes can’t sleep at night because my mind is running at 100 mph thinking about all of the awesome things that I want to do.
Remember how I said I was working [at least] fifty hours a week when I first started working from home? Well, a lot of those hours happened to be in the evening, which is when John would get home and want to relax and hang out with me. His work starts extremely early, so when 7:00 pm rolls around, he’s ready to decompress. But my mind is just getting warmed up for the night. Obviously, there needed to be some give and take and I needed to somewhat be on a similar schedule as John – so I worked out my daily schedule based on my productivity hours.
So how do you go about finding your productivity hours? Good news – it’s REALLY simple.
Think about what times of the day you feel most motivated and most creative. For instance:
- If you have a project that you’re working on…maybe painting a room, or cleaning out your closets, what time of day do you most feel like doing those things? When does it seem like less of a chore and more like something you actually want to accomplish? Try consistently over a few days or a week when you have projects to do and see if there are consistencies in when you feel like doing those things.
- If you’re a writer or artist: what time do you sit down and have the ideas just pour out, without having to force yourself to sit there and get it done?
Once you have narrowed down your hours of productivity, you can then schedule your day around that time frame(s), reserving the most creative hours for working on your business and spending the time when you’re feeling less productive doing things that don’t require much creativity…like laundry or vacuuming.
Again, using me as an example:
- 7:00 am – 9:00 am: I typically like to spend this time working on my virtual assistant responsibilities. My tasks are pretty straightforward and are a good way to get my day started. Also during this time I may have a load of laundry going – any time you can multitask, that’s always a plus. In terms of creativity, these are not great hours for me. If I sit down to write a blog post that early in the morning, I basically end up sitting there, staring at the screen and not getting any work done. That’s because those aren’t my most creative hours! See what I mean?
- 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm: This is one of my best times to shine. I like to have all of my housework and other responsibilities done by this time so that I can work on my business and be free of interruptions. I can get more done during this one hour of time than I can at any other time during the day. Because, ahem, these are some of my productivity hours. Tired of hearing it yet? Trust and believe, friends.
**Note: the above is just an excerpt from my daily schedule – I don’t spend only one hour a day working on my business (I wish that were possible!)**
If you can nail down your productivity hours and use that as a base for scheduling your day, you will ultimately get more work done – aka BE MORE PRODUCTIVE!
2. Resist the urge to sleep in: When you work from home, one of the perks is that you can set your own schedule…and it can be tempting to catch a few extra zzz’s in the morning. I’ll be honest, this was a major problem for me at first. I know I mentioned before that I’m not a morning person, but I’m REALLY not a morning person. Especially when it’s cold outside and all I want to do is hibernate for several months. I could very easily stay up all night long working and then sleep all day, but when you have other people in your life (husband, kids, etc.) you can’t always do that.
So here is my advice to you: get up early, even when you don’t feel like it. And use that time when you’re trying to morph into a normal person to do some of your work around the house or activities that don’t require much creativity (what we just talked about in #1). You will find ways to fill your day and end up with more time to devote to other things.
3. Write down your daily goals: Something about writing things down makes them seem more real, and makes me feel more obligated to get those things done. Writing down things that I want to accomplish helps keep me accountable, and there is something oddly satisfying about getting to check items off of your to-do list!
I have a planner, but I oftentimes find myself making separate lists. I like keeping my business to-dos separate from all of my other to-dos. I call it my “distraction free do list” because I can sit down (during my hours of productivity) and focus ONLY on my business and what needs to be done during that timeframe. I like my distraction free do lists SO much that I created a printable document that can be used to write down my business-related daily goals. Want a free copy of your own? Click the photo below!
Oh and an extra tip – if you’re feeling like saving some trees, laminate these pages and write on them with a dry erase marker!
4. Find a good work environment: As I write this, we are in the process of building a house (YAY!) that will have my very own, dedicated office space. I’ve already spent hours nerding out over plans for custom built-ins and photos of lady boss desks.
One of the most important parts of being productive is working in a productive space. Even though my current office is also slash John’s man cave, it is a quiet room that I can go in and (this is big) SHUT. THE. DOOR. Don’t get me wrong, I love my pets, but they never go away. I don’t have kids yet, but I’ve heard they’re pretty clingy, as well. It’s super important that you have a quiet, dedicated space to get your work done. Make the most of those productive hours!
We can all use a change of scenery every once in awhile, and it’s okay to sometimes feel as if you’re about to start climbing the walls! Search around town for a productive space away from home. My favorite is the public library down the street from my house…whenever I’m feeling like I’m not able to get work done at home, I change up my surroundings and that usually does the trick.
5. Take breaks. If you were working a traditional 9-5 job, you would have breaks throughout the day. Working at home shouldn’t be any different! Sitting for hours on end working with no break is enough to make anyone go a little crazy. And a lot of times, when working from home, you actually end up working MORE than you would otherwise. I find myself checking my email or responding to readers late at night, on the weekends, or even when I’m riding in the car! While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you need to have time to yourself when you aren’t working.
Have dedicated break times built into your daily schedule so that you are sure to take time away from the desk. Even if it’s just a 15 minute walk or 30 minutes of watching a TV show – take the time away from your work and you will come back feeling refreshed instead of feeling drained.
How to be More Productive: The Overview
- Find the hours that you are most productive and spend those working on your business/personal projects.
- Wake up early! Get on a schedule and stick to it!
- Write down your daily goals and check them off as you complete them! Don’t forget to snag your free planner pages!
- Find a productive, quiet work space where you can focus!
- TAKE BREAKS! Don’t be afraid to take a step back – it will help you to stay productive and feel refreshed during the day.