There is no shortage of productivity tips for working from home. A single Google search returns millions of websites, tools, and tips promising to skyrocket your productivity.
And, it’s not surprising. At the end of the day you, me, and Elon Musk only have 24 hours to work with. No amount of money can buy more time. So, instead, we strive to do more with the limited time we have.
Remote workers are no exception. In fact, telecommuters often work extra hours to increase their productivity.
Unfortunately, working more doesn’t guarantee greater productivity. For many, working too much actually has an opposite effect (more on that in a minute).
That’s why it’s so important to establish productivity tips for working from home for good. These practices set the foundation for a thriving remote-focused career.
What is Productivity Anyway?
First, let’s talk about productivity. There’s a common misconception about what it actually means to be productive. The literal definition of productivity is:
Unfortunately, this is a simplistic take on the term. Sure, you can easily measure the rate of output versus input when dealing with machines. For example, printers are assigned PPM (pages per minute) to inform consumers how quickly their inkjet can churn out documents.
But, we’re not printers, machines, or robots. We’re human. And humans have variables that affect their productivity every single day.
What Affects Our Productivity?
You know that feeling when you’re in a state of flow? In those moments, you hit your stride and effortlessly sail through tasks. Then you stop for lunch, eat something that doesn’t sit well with you, and spend the afternoon aimlessly floating from task to task seemingly busy but not getting much done.
Other factors that affect your productivity include:
- Work environment
These factors result in varying states of focus and flow! That’s why I always preach productivity tips for working from home for the long run. Remember, you’ll never achieve automated robot status on the daily. And that’s okay.
The ultimate goal is not to be robotic. Instead, focus on healthy time management habits to promote productivity for the long haul.
Long Term Productivity Tips for Working from Home
Most remote workers want to continue telecommuting long term. In fact, 97% of surveyed remote workers want to remain remote for the rest of their career according to the State of Remote Work 2022.
This desire to create long-term remote careers is totally understandable. After all, remote work comes with tons of documented benefits like less stress, more time, and money saved without a daily commute.
But just as many remote workers fear being called back into the office if they are not productive enough. Sadly, these fears are not unfounded. A Harvard Business Review (HBR) study found 38% of managers agree that remote workers perform worse than office workers.
In response, remote workers work longer hours. They believe longer hours = more productivity. However, working longer hours is not the solution. In fact, roughly 20% struggle with working more than they should.
Not only is this an unhealthy way to work, working too much leads to decreased productivity and increased mistakes according HubSpot.
So, if working more doesn’t work, what’s the solution? For remote workers, the secret to productivity is all about work quality over work quantity.
1. Prioritize Tasks
Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle? Often called the 80/20 Rule, it suggests just 20% of activities account for 80% of results.
What is the Pareto Principle?
The Pareto Principle dates back to 1896. Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that just 20% of people owned 80% of land in Italy. Pareto also noticed that 20% of his garden produced 80% of the fruit!
- 80% of vegetables come from 20% of plants
- 80% of revenue comes from 20% of customers
- 80% of points earned come from 20% of players
The Pareto Principle helps remote workers amplify productivity by using their time on tasks that produce results. In other words, you get rid of busy work to focus on high-impact items.
How to Use Pareto for Work from Home Productivity
First, create a master to-do list for the day. Next, scan through your list. Your goal is to sort high-impact tasks from low-impact ones. High-impact tasks produce immediate results (quick wins) or are an important step in completing a larger project. Always prioritize high-impact tasks first. These go at the top of your to-do list.
Low-impact tasks are fill-in tasks (busy work) or thankless tasks, ones that take a lot of time to complete with little to show for in the end. Save low-impact tasks for the end of the work day when productivity and focus fizzle out. It’s not uncommon to discover some low-impact tasks are actually unnecessary!
That’s it. Prioritizing tasks is one of the basic yet most effective productivity tips for working from home. Just ten minutes of pre-planning your work-from-home day helps you focus on tasks that matter! Remember, regularly putting the Pareto Principle into practice has the greatest impact on your overall productivity.
Check out The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More by Richard Koch.
2. Set Work Boundaries
We already know that working less is better for our productivity. And the first of the working from home productivity tips showed how you really can work less yet do more. Our next productivity tip also focuses on time management to help boost productivity.
It’s no secret that remote workers complete the majority of work online and communicate with coworkers via text, messenger, Slack, or similar platforms.
This is great for remote collaboration but not so great when it’s time to disconnect at the end of the workday. In fact, a survey of remote workers showed working too much as one of their biggest struggles.
Honestly, it’s not surprising. In our ever connected world we’re conditioned to constantly be doing. We wear busyness like a badge of honor. The more we do the more bragging rights we have.
In the end, we place ourselves in competition with, well, ourselves. This self-imposed competition is commonly called hustle culture.
As a lifestyle, hustle culture prioritizes work over all else (even family, friends, and hobbies). Unfortunately, hustle culture is toxic.
Examples of Hustle Culture:
- Emails are answered during family dinner time
- Client phone calls are taken on weekends
- Personal plans are canceled to continue working
Eventually, boundaries no longer exist and work spills over into every aspect of life. In the end, relationships become strained and work performance declines. Instead of increased productivity, working more has an opposite effect.
Research tells us that individuals who work longer hours produce poor quality work, make more mistakes, and experience reduced happiness.
Who wants to work like that?
To build a happy, healthy career from home it’s important to set clear and consistent boundaries.
How to Set Boundaries for Work from Home Productivity
You work from home, but that doesn’t mean you have to work whenever you’re home. Instead, separate the two even though they happen in one place.
A lot of productivity experts will tell you to shut down your computer and turn off your phone after work. I disagree. It’s impractical to completely disconnect. After all, your personal life happens on your phone and computer too.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do a drastic disconnect to enjoy well deserved down time. Instead set boundaries that separate work and home just by communicating. That’s it.
Communicate Your Work Boundaries
Let coworkers know when you’re signing off for the day and when you’ll be back. This is especially helpful when you work with teammates or clients in different time zones.
Next, consider using an email autoresponder after hours, on weekends, during holidays, and for days off. A simple automated reply clearly communicates to senders that you’re not in but will respond when you’re back.
Similarly, set yourself away on Slack so coworkers know you’re not “in office.”
Coworkers, companies, and clients don’t expect you to answer 24/7. (If they do, it’s time to look for a different job). However, if you regularly answer emails, texts, and messages every day of the week at all hours, you condition others to expect . Stop it!
Get in the habit of clearly communicating to work connections when you’re in the office and when you’re out of the office. Let them know they can message you when you’re away, but they won’t receive replies until you return.
Remember, boundaries are a good thing. They are simple, effective, and a healthy part of working remotely.
Get in the practice of setting them and actually following them. You’ll avoid burnout, feel happier, and routinely boost productivity.
Productivity Tips for Working from Home: Apps to Help
Finally, I want to include apps to help you improve time management to increase productivity. Technology is awesome. You should definitely put it to work for you.
RescueTime is a good place to start if you’re looking to develop better productivity habits at home. Why? RescueTime runs in the background of your computer or mobile device and tracks all the time spent using individual apps and websites.
This gives you a really good idea of where exactly it is your time goes every day. At the end of each week, you get an email summarizing your activities — you also get a Productivity Score.
You might be surprised to learn how much time you actually spend answering emails, checking Facebook, or Googling various things.
I like that RescueTime lets you set daily goals and easily view your progress. For the longest time, I felt like I spent too many hours in front of my computer — and I was, but on the wrong things. RescueTime let me spot inefficiencies in my day and become better at time management. And remember, time management is actually the secret to increased productivity!
You know when you’re on Twitter for a legitimate work reason, like sending a direct message to a contact, when you see a tweet with a link to a story you just have to read? Well, when you use Pocket, you can save that link and plug along with your workday knowing that your good-read is safely stored for later.
This free productivity tool keeps you from clicking through time-sapping links, helping you stay focused on the task at hand. Once your workday is over, you can see all of the items you put in your Pocket (articles, videos, GIFs, memes) you name it, you can probably put it in your Pocket.
I love Pocket because it makes it easy to view things later on (when I actually have time to spare!) Plus, you can access your Pocket through your computer, phone or tablet — you don’t even need an internet connection.
Any.do is perfect for remote workers because it helps you draw lines between work and home! You can to-do lists that separate work and personal tasks. Plus, Any.do allows you to share your lists with others – a handy feature when you need your SO to grab groceries. create lists and tasks and share them with others.
Cal, the Any.do calendar feature, beautifully displays your daily agenda so you can see, at a glance, what’s going on and what needs to get done — whether you have to pay a bill or attend hop on Zoom, Cal has got you covered (and yes, you can see your Any.do lists directly in Cal!)
Any.do is also unique in that its Moment feature is a fun and easy way to develop healthy productivity habits by encouraging you to set aside time every morning to plan out your day.
Plus, you can break large and seemingly overwhelming tasks into manageable subtasks, set recurring tasks, and add custom notifications.
You can manage your tasks and to-dos just about anywhere — Any.do is a free productivity tool available on most devices.
4. Time Doctor
Time Doctor is an accurate productivity software on the market, and offers time management apps on all the most popular platforms. It lets you harvest time tracking data on your company’s work habits and then provides analytics to show key areas where improvements can be made.
With Time Doctor on your side, you can stay super productive by getting more done in less time — even when working from home. How so? Time Doctor has built-in features that helps get you back on track when distracted and monitors how your time is really spent so you can easily see where you can make improvements to your workday routine.
And with optional integrations and a screen monitoring feature, you can seamlessly demonstrate your day’s work to others — especially helpful features for the remote freelancer. By using Time Doctor, you can conquer working from home and feel confident knowing you’re making the most of your time each and every day.
5. Strict Workflow
If you like the Pomodoro Technique of working, you’ll love the free productivity tool, Strict Workflow. This is a Google Chrome extension that follows the 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break (what the Pomodoro Technique is based on) approach to getting more done.
The idea is, when you give a task your all for 25 uninterrupted minutes followed by a short break, you avoid mental fatigue and are able to get more done. You follow this pattern over and over until your task is done.
I like Strict Workflow since it really does help me focus intensely on a task in manageable blocks of time. It’s amazing what I can get done in a three-hour period, even though I’m taking a five-minute breather every 25 minutes. If you’ve never tried this method of working — it’s a must! You’ll be surprised by just how much you can get done in just 25 distraction-free minutes.
Time Management: The Real Productivity Tips for Working from Home
Thankfully, remote work is here to stay. However, remote workers still worry about getting sent back to the office if their productivity is not on point. To compensate, they work too much which actually causes productivity and work quality to decline.
Remember, there are no secret productivity tips for working from home. At the end of the day, time management plays the biggest role in getting more done. Always remain mindful of the time you have and prioritize high-impact tasks first and foremost.
And don’t forget to work less! Although you work from home, you shouldn’t work any time you’re home. Too many hours logged in a given week is unproductive! Lack of separation (boundaries) between work life and home life leads to burnout and productivity loss.
Fortunately, you don’t need to rely on quick fixes or life hacks to be a productive remote worker. At the end of the (work)day, time management strategies are the best productivity tips for working from home. You’ve got this!
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Corina Ramos says
Thanks for sharing these tools with us. I love using Pocket. I’m just a click away from the articles and posts I’ve marked. 🙂
I’ve heard of RescueTime but I’ve never tried it. The others are new to me and since I love keeping to-do lists, I’ll be checking them out.
Have a great weekend.