Working from home is easier said than done. However, those that thrive in a home office setting know that there are a few keys to their success.
The first is understanding biology in terms of how your body and mind work together, and using this knowledge to build an environment around yourself that encourages productivity.
The second is understanding that everyone has unique personality traits. Everybody is different, and your home office should be tailored to your own individual idiosyncrasies and sensory preferences.
Let’s break each of these down…
Tip 1: Keep your phone in another room and check it at predetermined intervals.
Our world has become addicted to perpetual connectivity in a way that no previous generation could conceive. While this can be extremely beneficial, it has also created unlimited avenues for procrastination.
Next time you’re working from home try this, put your phone in another room and only check it at predetermined intervals. And definitely disable iMessage notifications if you have them! No cheating.
NOTE: For more productivity tips, check out this ultimate guide to productivity!
Tip 2: Simplify Your Workflow
The human mind is not designed to deal with complexity.
When you’re juggling tasks in different applications, on different computers, and with different groups of people, you get confused.
By trying to learn and balance 6 different user-interfaces at your job since each has something the others lack, you’re wasting both time and energy.
However, if you can simplify the number of tools you use and the places that files/information exists, you are setting yourself up for success.
Recently, I came across a guy who complained about having to keep track of conversations in his email, texts, phone calls, meetings, Invision, Basecamp, Slack, Skype, and, to top it all off, daily comment-conversations in Google Docs from the company’s in-house bloggers.
If you can relate to his plight and you’re not reading this in the fetal position, congratulations.
The takeaway is that we need to simplify our communication channels as much as possible. Figure out how to consolidate your interaction into 2-3 platforms.
With Click Up, you don’t need google inbox, email, InVision, and multiple project management apps notifying you individually – instead, you can have everything flowing through a single communications hub.
You’ll be shocked at how easy it is to keep track on things when they’re all in the same place.
Tip 3: Stay hydrated.
The brain is basically just a gooey water-blob. Without water, you have no brain.
A profound insight with an important lessons: Drink lots of water, dummy.
Most people don’t drink near the actual amount of water they need per day (at least a half gallon). Dehydration can cause an enormous range of physical and mental consequences as a direct (and entirely foreseeable) result.
Keep water close by and sip it constantly. It keeps you alert and healthy – both good things if you’re wanting to be productive.
Tip 4: Stay active, even if that just means standing up.
Ready to have your life changed forever? Then remember these words: “Standing desk.”
Ikea offers a great standing desk on the cheap, and the impact that not sitting down all day has on your productivity will blow your mind.
Even just going back and forth between sitting and standing adds variety and interest as you progress through your day.
If you can’t manage the standing desk (your loss), at the very least make sure you’re getting up and walking around on a semi-regular basis.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a binge-worker, giving your mind a second to relax and getting your blood flowing a bit is a good thing.
Design your home office in a way that allows you to work while standing and move around. It’s also great to get outside from time to time (even if just for a moment).
Tip 5: Understand your Personality
You don’t need a comprehensive analysis of how you work to know that there are certain things you prefer that others can’t stand.
If you’ve been working for any length of time, it’s no secret that people clash over what makes sense.
Is it better to have an open office, or private offices? Is it better to work in groups, or as individuals?
Questions like these seem obvious to most people, but few realize that to others the opposite point of view seems just as obvious.
The reality is that you need to know your personality and how to structure your environment so that you’re maximizing your personal output.
Can you zone-in for 4 hours and knock out almost an entire day’s work without breaking your train of thought?
That seems like insanity (and maybe even an outright impossibility) to a many people who require a slow, steady 8 hour day with downtime interspersed throughout.
Tip 6: Choose The Right Music
Which brings us to our our chosen topic of personality differences: Music.
Sound is energy and whether you realize it or not, can define your work environment in a profound way.
Music is possibly the greatest point of contention I see when visiting traditional office settings: Does it help or hinder productivity?
Some music can be distracting for certain people while others swear that it galvanizes them to perform at their best.
This is a sticky debate and I will make no attempt at ending it today, but what I will say is that you should think and reflect on which category you fall into.
Fortunately, when you’re constructing your ideal work setting at home you have control over the sound decisions, and can ensure you have what you need to perform at the highest level.
I’ve worked with a number of employees who were facing productivity issues and were able to correct them largely by adjust their home office’s auditory environment.
When it comes to answering the “so, where do I start?” question, my answer is always the same, it starts by knowing yourself.
I’ve found that most people fall into one of five categories:
- No noise, thank you very much.
- I need my music…
- Instrumental music only, (or only for certain tasks)
- Background Ambience (waves, water)
- White/Brown Noise only
Fear not, if you lack an immediate place to begin testing.
I recommend you check out brain.fm and Spotify’s ‘Moods’ playlists. In particular, the Brain Food playlist has been a favorite among those I’ve worked with.
You may find that you LOVE music when making design mockups, but absolutely require brown noise when you code.
Whatever weird preferences you end up finding in yourself, you’ll be glad you know them.
Tip 7: Create a Mail Station
We all get tons of mail. This could be junk mail or the bills that you haven’t paid yet. And some of us may still get personal letters (How nice!). If you’re not careful, this could create quite the jam of clutter.
By setting a certain place that’s easily accessible, you can review your mail and decide immediately what to do with it. Throw away, pay or save. It’s that easy.
Tip 8: Make Folders For Important Stuff
Once you have that mail situation figured out, you may need a system to keep up with all of your important information. Bills from vendors, health insurance, medical bills or travel documents are all items that you need–just not right away.
Organizing these into color-coded folders will help you keep tabs on the important things and know exactly where they are when the time comes.
You can cultivate a home office that helps you achieve peak productivity even as you grind through your most difficult tasks.
Your home office can maximize your biology, your personality and include enough efficiencies to keep you focused and dedicated.
What are your tips for maximizing your home office? What would you add to this list?