7 Ways to be More Productive When You Work for Yourself

The last time I worked in a “real” office was my senior year of college as an intern at Sports Illustrated. The rest of my career has been spent working from home, co-working spaces and coffee shops. It’s not for everyone — I still haven’t completely mastered it — but I have learned a lot about how to optimize productivity.

1.) Move your body first thing in the morning.

This took some getting used to, but the days when I start with a sweat are always better. Wake up, put on your shoes, go for a run, a walk or head to yoga. Just 30-minutes-to-an-hour of body-moving, sweat-inducing activity will change everything about your day.

As an added bonus, find an “accountability partner” who will exercise with you each morning. Plan a meeting time and place, and show up for each other on the days when you’re tempted to text message yourself out of it and hit “snooze.”

2.) Dress up.

One of the most overrated “perks” of working from home is the idea that you can stay in your pajamas all day. Five o’clock rolls around, you haven’t lifted your eyes from the computer screen, and you realize you’re still wearing sweatpants, slippers and a coffee-stained hoodie.

As much as you can tell yourself it doesn’t matter how you look — it does matter how you feel. And unless you’re one of those people who wakes up looking like Miss America, it’s worth putting in some extra effort in the morning to feel like your most-productive self.

Shower. Get dressed. Dab on some lipgloss. Maybe even slide into those black heels that are collecting dust in your closet. Your work, your ego and your psyche will be better for it.

3.) Jazz up your workspace.

Buy flowers for your desk. Hang a poster that inspires you. Clear the clutter. Create lots of light. Turn on your favorite music. Paint the walls. Mount photos on a corkboard. Hang a whiteboard. Stick multicolored post-it notes around your desk. Or, find your ideal workspace on Pinterest and replicate it.

4.) Use Asana to manage your projects and keep track of your tasks.

If you’re not already using a task management system to organize your “to-do” list, this one has completely changed the way I structure my day. It’s free, compatible with web and mobile, and ideal if you work with clients or in teams.

Before I discovered Asana, I was using a combination of Google docs, Evernote, Google calendar and a notebook. Everything was scattered in different places, and it was hard to keep track of the tasks I had completed without forgetting the tasks I hadn’t finished. Asana enables you to create multiple “Projects,” invite other Asana users into the Project, and lays everything out in an easy checklist format.

Write down the task, set a due date, and check it off once it’s complete. If it’s not on the list, then it probably won’t get done.

5.) Leave your laptop plugged in and don’t move it.

With today’s online mobility (read: digital obsession), it is 100 percent vital to take moments throughout the day to “unplug.” For peak productivity, it’s recommended to make all breaks laptop-free.

Attempt to go through one day in which your computer doesn’t move. It doesn’t accompany you to the couch for a five minute “break.” It doesn’t help you make a sandwich for lunch. It doesn’t go outside with you for a breath of fresh air. Create a space for your computer and leave it there for 24 hours. Come and go as you please. If it feels good, try it again the next day.

And if you’re really up to the challenge, don’t move your phone either…

6.) Put your phone in a “phone basket” away from where you’re working.

Turn the ringer up if you’re prone to phone-withdrawal anxiety attacks. Otherwise, store your cell away from your workspace and save texts and Instagram for when you’re not working.

7.) The Pomodoro Technique (with a twist).

The Pomodoro Technique is a well-known time management method that uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals, separated by short breaks. The frequent breaks are supposed to boost mental agility.

Going a step further, make it a goal to complete one big task before 11am. Go outside as soon as you complete the task. And then repeat with your second highest priority of the day. One task may take longer than 25 minutes, so find a good stopping place as close to 25 minutes as possible. Take a five-minute break outside. And then repeat again.

Most important of all, remember that if you’ve just started working from home, habits and behavioral change doesn’t happen overnight. It can take a while to get into a routine, so be patient with yourself and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Do you have other tips to add to the list? Tweet me at @factory45co and share what’s worked for you.