Working from home is usually about outsmarting yourself. It’s about developing strategies to redirect the urge to go Youtube surfing. It’s about preparing meals in advance so you don’t spend forty minutes staring at the freezer. It’s about making yourself ignore guilt and say no to people who think you can work whenever you like. Really, it’s about priorities, and finding ways that work for you to keep your priorities in your mind alive enough to ignore the distractions working at home present.
Here are five more ways to outsmart yourself into productivity.
Keep your home office clean
If you work best first thing in the morning, clean your space at night, and vice versa. I find myself blaming OCD for spending an hour (or four) sweeping and organizing before realizing to my dismay that I’m behind on work. Really, though, this is just another form of procrastination, even if it is a sort of productive one.
If your office is clean when you step in to work, that’s one less excuse to procrastinate.
Try a standing desk
As it turns out, the danger of sitting for long hours doesn’t just apply to frequent fliers or avid gamers. Cardiologist Dr. David Coven explains that during extended sitting (as we do in cubicles, on the couch, and even in our home offices) puts our bodies into storage mode, which is why it’s been called as deadly as smoking and linked with heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. “The fact of being sedentary causes factors to happen in the body that are very detrimental,” adds Coven.
A good morning jog, while healthy, won’t exactly put you in the clear if you sit for the rest of the day, either. This explains the current fad: standing desks.
I wasn’t ready to commit to a standing desk, so I started working off the top of a tall bookshelf. Not only was it not too bad, it promoted productivity. Lo and behold, I was done with work an hour early. Standing for hours with intermittent stretching and walking to the kitchen for tea was nevertheless standing and kind of tiring, which meant I wasn’t going to sneak onto Facebook or Pinterest before I finished work and could finally sit for a spell.
Open the windows, shut the door
A light breeze and sunshine-derived vitamin D is a surefire, non-caffeinated way to stay awake when the post-lunch lag sets in, but neither will travel through glass. Another reason to open the windows is to keep allergies at bay, since household dust can do a number on the sinuses.
Do not, on the other hand, leave the door open. In fact, if you have housemates or kids, put a big do not disturb sign on the door. If you share a workspace, get a bamboo screen so you can more easily resist turning in your seats to share GIFs and Youtube videos.
Prior to committing to working from home, a sincere conversation with everyone under your roof to establish working hours and privacy is in order. Inevitably, some things will need your immediate attention, like a dog needing to go to the vet. Removing little distractions, however, will do loads for your productivity.
Stop checking emails
A FastCompany article published earlier this year shared a few habits of successful people. The first item on the list was not checking emails at the beginning of the day.
“Reading emails at home never feels good or productive,” says Tumblr founder David Karp. “If something urgently needs my attention, someone will call or text me.”
Say NO more often (and wear a nice watch)
This is perhaps the hardest part of working from home. It’s not about productivity. It’s not about personal responsibility. It’s about the people in our lives who think that because we work from home, we have the freedom to help clean the garage at a moment’s notice or share a long, gossipy lunch.
Initiate the conversation that you had with your housemates with the usual suspects. When you have this conversation, be sure to be dressed like you’re going to work in an office, not your home office (which, really, should be the same thing if productivity is a concern).
In fact, dressing nicely is near-essential when working from home because, for example, you never know when a lead or contact will be in town for only the next hour and wants to meet with you to discuss other opportunities. Moreover, dressing the part of a professional while working from home makes you look less available to anyone who has the nerve to knock on your door when the do not disturb sign is up.
I once met a woman in Rome who, venting about a horrible interviewee in beautifully accented English, said to me, “You must always wear a watch so they know your time is precious.” Whenever I feel like sloughing around in my pajamas, I remember these words and start sifting through the closet for something crisper.
Alexis Bonari writes for collegescholarships.org, an open database of college funding opportunities.