8 Tips for Being More Productive When You Work From Home Tricia O'Donnell Ah, to work from home! For anyone who’s spent years hunched over a cubicle desk — or begrudgingly stuffing earbuds in their lobes to drown out noisy open-concept neighbors — it seems like the ultimate dream. Lounging around in pajamas, napping after lunch, blasting music, choosing your own hours… What’s not to love? But as anyone who’s worked from home full-time can tell you, it’s not always such a thrill. Most entrepreneurs will understand the self-destructive impulses of lethargy, despondency, procrastination and distraction. It takes emotional strength to work from home, as well as diligent self-control and the ability to hold yourself accountable. Struggling with a few of these issues? Hey, we’ve all been there. Here are a few tips to help get your home office functioning as efficiently as a dreary gray cubicle. Start early. Sleeping in may sound like a good idea. It’s not. Early mornings will help motivate you to kickstart your day right, partly because it’s scientifically proven to improve your day. Studies have shown that early risers enjoy better mental health, are more proactive, wake up after a better night’s sleep and have more self-discipline than people who tend to sleep in. If you need a motivator, consider implementing fitness and wellness into your morning routine. Running, yoga and a healthy breakfast are great ways to start the day, especially when you can afford an extra 10 minutes to enjoy them. Get dressed. This might sound silly to anyone who hasn’t worked from home before, but seriously, staying in your pajamas will keep your brain in a state of laziness. It helps to get dressed as if you’re going to work, even though you’re not going anywhere. Mentally, getting dressed helps create boundaries and puts your brain in “work mode.” Writing in Fast Company, Stephanie Vozza, who claims to usually work in yoga pants, experimented with the idea and found it kept her more focused, even though she was skeptical going in. She changed back into casual wear at 5 p.m. and felt like it created a real distinction in her day. “This felt like an improvement to work-life balance because I tend to feel like I’m always working,” she wrote. Put away the phone. We tend to procrastinate on our phones — the constant finger-flipping alone is a hypnotic design meant to suck users into an endless scroll, drawn in as we are by pinging notifications that jostle up a fleeting euphoric chemistry in our brains. Unless you use your phone for business calls (and even then, why not use GoToMeeting, Skype or Google Hangouts?), or you’re designing a website and need to test its mobile version, try putting away your phone as a default work environment. It’s one less screen to distract you. You don’t need notifications from Facebook and Instagram coming in while you’re trying to get work done. Check social media every so often and ignore it the rest of the time. Find a dedicated workspace. This one’s similar to the power of getting dressed, even when you don’t need to. The idea is to convince yourself that you’re “at work,” even when you’re at home. Working from the bed or sofa will start conflating home and work in your mind — you won’t enjoy watching a movie on your sofa at night if you’ve been working on it all day, and you won’t feel like you’re at work if you’re still in bed. Invest in a work desk and comfortable chair if you’re planning on spending a lot of time working from home. It may cost a few hundred dollars, but it will be worth the money in efficiency and peace of mind. Stay in contact with your coworkers. Accountability is key. If you want to get something done, it helps to keep in touch with your employees or coworkers to create a feeling of being in an office. Let’s face it: anyone who works in a cubicle probably virtually chats with their coworkers more than they speak to them face-to-face anyway, so sending an email or a Slack from home shouldn’t feel too different. Make a to-do list every day Sometimes, especially for entrepreneurs, the list of things you need to get done can be overwhelming. In times like these, the old mantra holds true: just take it one step at a time. Create a to-do list for the day, and make it manageable. Promise yourself you’ll get everything done in that day no matter what. To help, you can start by underestimating how busy you’ll be — give yourself a fairly easy list. That way, by the time you’ve crossed everything off, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that can carry you forward as your daily lists grow longer. Go outside. Sometimes, the best way to work from home is by leaving home. Go to a cafe or library for a change of scenery. Cafes can be tricky, depending on how loud they are or what kind of music they play. But if you can find a suitable one, a change of venue can often shake up your daily routine and force you to feel like you can’t slack off, because other people can see you. If it helps, give yourself one hour-long assignment to get done, and commit to doing it while you’re out. No distractions, no digressions. Just get there, get the work done and head back home for lunch. Disconnect from the Internet. Sometimes you need the Internet — but not always. To prevent yourself from leaning back, opening up a new tab and typing in “reddit” when you feel you’ve hit a roadblock, simply turn off your WiFi connection or unplug your ethernet cable. When distracting yourself with funny memes and YouTube black holes literally isn’t an option, it’s a lot easier to hunker down and focus on the work at hand.