Productivity works differently for different people. Whether a few post-it notes on the wall above your desk outlining your goals enforces a strong work ethic in you, or you need a totally zen zone free of clutter to get going, productivity–especially while working at home–can be an elusive beast. Here are some starter tips to set yourself for productive days.

  1. Paradoxically, planning out break time can have a big effect on your productivity while working. If you are clear with yourself about the difference between work time and play time, you’re far more likely to get good work done. This means setting aside time–maybe ten minutes in the morning and fifteen in the afternoon–to do something fun for you that isn’t work and when you’re back on the clock, set distractions out of sight and out of mind.
  2. Distractions can come in many forms–fun and less fun. The less fun distractions are often the ones that sneak up on you and take root. Set a few ground rules for yourself. For example, if personal tasks seep into work time {for instance, if you find yourself scheduling doctors appointments and emailing back your kid’s teacher while you should technically be working}, make a rule that you get that work done in designated times at the beginning or end of the day, and don’t ever do it during work time.
  3. Buy a plant. It may seem like pseudoscience, but having a plant around literally freshens the air, and makes your space happier and more habitable. Plus the habit of watering and caring for a plant can instill a sense of discipline which will allow you to re-invest yourself in your work.
  4. Purchase ergonomic input devices. That might sound like gobbledegook but what it really means is that you should invest in a keyboard and mouse designed for long term use. This is for your own health and can make a tremendous difference in preventing muscle strain. Here is a good list of effective ergonomic devices.
  5. Dress smart. What you wear can be a surprisingly slippery slope into unproductivity. If you stay in PJs, you’re also more likely to want to justify staying in bed, or working from the couch, rather than getting into your work zone.
  6. Dressing yourself for the day goes hand in hand with getting up and out of the house first thing–even just walking outside for five or ten minutes in the morning can reset your mind from sleep and into work mode, but so can driving your children to school or going out to buy coffee or working out. The key is early morning movement and then a return to the workspace, renewed.
  7. Don’t self-punish. This is a good rule in general, but especially in your workspace. If you’re beating yourself up for not handling every little thing perfectly–for instance, if your house is messier than you’d like or if you forgot to buy something that you need at the grocery store or if you haven’t gotten around to changing the litter box–getting frustrated with yourself is counterproductive. Take one thing at a time and make a list every morning of all the little things you need to do. Put down the most basic stuff that you can check off–even drinking water and setting your bed count–and you’ll be able to see what you’ve gotten done throughout the day, giving you motivation to complete more tasks and not to feel too badly when you missed something.


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