Home office hacks for higher productivity

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Learn how to get more work done in your home office by setting the mood, managing distractions, and establishing a productive daily routine.
Older woman working on tablet from home.

When you work from home, it can be hard to stay focused. There are dogs at your feet that need to be cuddled. You can pace around in your bathrobe and there’s no one around to think less of you. You’re the king of your castle, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. Before you know it, you’re trying to find the end of the Internet or viewing hundreds of cute animal videos. The day comes and goes in an unproductive blur, but you do know a lot more about bunnies than you did this morning (e.g., that hoppy dance of joy is called a “binky.” Who knew?).

Maybe this is an extreme example that is most definitely not written from firsthand experience. As a small-business owner, you likely have a lot more self-control than that. But when your time is already stretched thin, it doesn’t hurt to find new ways to maximize your efficiency. Your bottom line will thank you when your extra productivity translates into more output and more revenue.

Let’s take a look at some home-based office tips that shift your productivity into high gear. 

Set the tone for your workday

Lighting is one of the keys to creating atmosphere. (Just ask any restaurant owner – they know what’s up.) Cast too dim a glow, and you’ll be snoozing at your desk before lunchtime. Shine a desk lamp on your computer, and you may feel as though you’re being hunted down by a helicopter’s searchlight.

There are some simple ways you can tweak your home office to invite the spirit of productivity in. Put these quick and cost-effective tips to use:

Keep your desk near a window so you can open the curtains and let in natural light. Natural light boosts happiness and productivity.

Paint your office blue if you want to work harder; yellow if you have a hard time staying focused. To learn more about how color choices bring out different traits, read about the Colour Affects System.

Tune in to amplify your work groove. Try using a free ambient-noise generator. You get the feel of working in a coffee shop, but you don’t have to invest in $6 soy lattes. Win-win.

Soundtracks are also a good way to boost focus.  For best results, try listening with some headphones. It helps you tune out the other chatter happening around you.

Use scent to reap work benefits. Search for candles or diffusers scented with lemon to promote concentration and relaxation, peppermint to boost your energy, and jasmine to reduce typing errors. Even if the effects are subtle, it never hurts to have a good-smelling office.

Spruce up. Plants play a prominent role in ramping up productivity, increasing creativity, and promoting a sense of well-being.

Easy ways to stay focused

Hey, your office looks good! Is that jasmine I smell? Wait, why are you still watching bunny binky videos on YouTube? The internet isn’t going anywhere.

Ah, I spy a few problems. Let’s take a look at your desk and see what you can do to stay focused and get work done:

Stand up

By now, you’ve probably heard about how much a drag sitting can be on your mind and body. Sitting for extended periods of time has been linked to weight gain, repetitive stress injuries, bad posture, and low productivity. So maybe it’s time to invest in a standing desk. Pro-standers claim they feel more active throughout the workday, get more work done, and have better focus.

Swap your coffee for water

Or at least supplement your massive caffeine intake with water, you fiend. Dehydration is one of the biggest productivity killers. If you don’t drink enough water, you may feel sluggish, unable to process information quickly, and have a difficult time concentrating.

To improve your concentration, alertness, short-term memory, and overall productivity, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to eat some healthy snacks!

Don’t compulsively check your email or social media

Take thirty minutes to an hour each morning to check and respond to emails and to update your business's social media accounts. After that, refuse to check your email until the end of the workday.

This can be a tall order for even the most disciplined home-business owners, so don’t feel bad if you need a little help. Use Inbox Pause, which literally pauses your inbox so you’re not constantly battling those distractions throughout the day.

Clean your desk

Think of your desk as a reflection of your mind. When you need to be productive, you need a clear path to blaze. Keep the essentials at hand, and file the rest away where you can easily locate them when the time comes.

Create (and stick to) a routine

Though you work from home, you still need to treat your time like any other workday if you’re going to get stuff done. Wake up at the same time each day, and swap your bathrobe and slippers for actual work attire. It’s a little psychological trick that makes you feel more professional and focused.

Plan your days and assign yourself deadlines

Divide up all the tasks that you need to accomplish for your workweek. Give yourself daily tasks and allot an amount of time to finish each task. Though it can be hard to take these timetables seriously (you are the boss, after all), giving yourself a set schedule helps you avoid Internet wormholes when you have marketing materials to generate or books to balance.

Take a break to manage stress

It’s no surprise that stress is the bane of productivity. You might find yourself staring at the clock, thinking about upcoming deadlines and the hundred million things you have to get done before you can call it a day. But letting your stress demons get the better of you is a surefire way to make sure you don’t get as much done.

So take a deep breath. Relax. Impossible, you say? Try these stress-relief tips on for size:

Prepare yourself for the workday

Writing down what you need to accomplish can transform an insurmountable workload into manageable tasks. Though you’re still hauling through the same amount of work, making a to-do list can motivate you to manage your time and get work done quickly. It can also emotionally prepare you for your day. Plus, if there is a finer feeling than crossing a completed task off a list, I don’t know what it is.

Get moving

Contrary to what you may think, the butt-in-chair method doesn’t always mean you’re getting work done. Sure, you’re looking at the computer screen, but engaging with your work is another thing entirely. So instead of working through lunch like you always do, you workhorse, go for a brisk walk around the block. If it’s cold or rainy out, run in place or do some pushups.

Getting your blood pumping releases endorphins, which have a whole host of benefits, such as stress relief and increased energy, focus, and productivity.

Pet a fluffy dog

Did you know that when you pet an animal, your body releases a feel-good bonding hormone? It naturally eases stress, helps you feel more optimistic, and reduces social fears. Plus, it’s a pretty good excuse to step away from the computer for a bit. 

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva's free TrendCast reports.

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