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Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, companies around the world have told many of their staff to start working from home, to protect other people and stop the virus from spreading.

As someone who works at home most of the time, thanks to a successful online digital business, I have picked up some really useful habits and, dos and don’ts along the way.

When I first started working from home, I found it hard because I did not have a system in place to organise my day. I got up around 9:30, started work around 11 and finished at 5 pm. However, I found that although I had spent many hours sat in front of the computer, I hadn’t really got anything done.  There were just too many distractions. Distractions coming from my family, the TV, my mobile phone, the latest YouTube video etc.

Some days I would have videos being played on YouTube in the background and, find that I had watched a whole mini-series during the workday, whilst my laptop stayed static doing nothing.

If you are one of the millions of people who now have now had to work from home, I have written this blog post of the 5 disciplines that would help you be the most productive. These points have most definitely helped me and I hope they help you too.

Your whole working environment changes when you start working from home. To start, you’re no longer working in an office surrounded by your colleagues, there’s no manager or supervisor watching over you.

When you start working home procrastinating and allowing distractions to occupy your time are the biggest challenges you will face.

You are in the comfort of your home, with your bed and your sofa which look so enticing. If no one’s watching you, do you really need to get your of pyjamas and brush your hair?

You have unlimited access to entertainment, YouTube, Facebook, Netflix etc.

You can just walk in your kitchen and open your fridge full of snacks.

You family/ children are around trying to get your attention every 2 seconds…

Walking upstairs when you feel tired and jumping in your bed for a nap seems like the best thing in the world.

I feel your pain, I have been through it. I suffered from all these obstacles when I first started to work for myself, running my own online digital business from home. Having the right system, and a disciplined routine helped me become productive, achieve my daily goals and, work from home successfully.

People don’t really talk about this aspect of running your own business from home. Procrastination is in all of us, we always say “I’ll do that tomorrow!”

So here are 5 best practices to help you maximise your productivity whilst working from home:

Create A Routine

Make a schedule for your day. Decide what time you are getting up and when you are starting your workday and, what time you are finishing your workday. Let others in your household know your schedule so they can respect your time. Sticking to this routine will give you blocks of the day to be productive.

Don’t forget to take breaks! This is important, you need some downtime too! This will give you the structure you need in your day. For example, if you’re working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it can help to stick to your usual working hours e.g. 9 – 5pm, 1-hour lunch etc.

To Do List

Don’t underestimate the power of a simple to-do list. Having a list of tasks that you need to get through, can give you much-needed clarity on your priorities and what you need to accomplish today. Ideally, create your to-do list the day before for the next day. This way you can start your day by looking at your to-do list and know exactly what needs to be completed today. If you don’t manage to complete all the tasks that’s fine, they get put on to tomorrow’s list.

The biggest benefit is having that clarity, knowing exactly what needs to be done. Instead of sitting at your computer and getting bogged down in menial tasks like reading emails, without getting to the important stuff first. A good old paper and pen works great, however if you want to use an online to-do list/ project management tool there are hundreds out there.

Parkinson’s Law

I discovered this law a while back and it’s completely changed the way I work. If I set a realistic but tight deadline for tasks and projects, I can get a lot more done in a lot less time. When I first started running an online business, I would sit at my laptop for 12+ hours a day, sometimes even more! However, when I adopted this habit, I cut back to an average of 3-6 hours.

So Parkinson’s law is “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. What it basically means is that you dictate the length of time a task will take, and not the other way around. You can decide whether you will take a week to complete a certain task, or just 2 days. If you give yourself 4 weeks to complete a project, you will subconsciously allow yourself to take longer to complete each aspect. When in reality, it can probably be done a lot faster. Give yourself stricter deadlines and see how it can work wonders.

Establish a Workspace

Not many people will have the luxury of having a dedicated room in their home to use as an office – but if you do, that’s great!

However, if don’t have a home office, you can still create a workspace. Working in your living room in front of your TV, although very tempting, is a bad idea. The distraction of the TV and Netflix (and I like watching Netflix series just as much as everyone else) is going to cost you valuable hours in your day. I have found that a lot of people have been tempted by the idea of working in their soft office – the bed. That’s not such a great idea as you’ll probably end up nodding off. You need to separate your working zone from your unwind and relax zone.

The best thing to do is to have a designated working space, free of distractions. It doesn’t have to be the whole room, just a section of the room, specifically for working and not any other purpose. Waking up and going to work at this designated spot every day will set the tone that it’s time to work.

Take Care of You

At the end of the day, the most important thing is YOU. Being disciplined and productive whilst working at home is very important. However, it only works when you’re in good mental, spiritual, emotional and physical health. Take the time to take care of yourself. Take a break in your day, don’t overdo it and work longer days than you normally would.

That’s why sticking to a routine is so important, as sometimes you can find you have ended up with no boundaries between what is your workday and what is your home life. Working from home can blur these lines and it can be detrimental to your health. So remember to be active, stop for some exercise or maybe just go for a walk in your break. Just getting up and moving around will do wonders for clearing your mind.

There is no denying that currently everyone is stressed and anxious about the COVID 19 pandemic. Thousands of people have lost their lives, so it’s now more important than ever to take care of yourself. Listen to the government advice and try and not get too stressed about it, the media can often make you even more panicked and anxious.

    Whether you’re working from home because you have a day job and this is the new reality, or you’re working from home with your own business, these tips can really help you. Ultimately, you control how you spend the hours in your day. You decide whether to watch TV or stream hours of video, rather than invest a few hours into growing your business.

    Distractions will always try and steal your time. It’s how you manage these distractions that will decide on how productive you can be and how much closer you can get to your goals.

    Try out some of the tips and let me know if they help you by leaving a comment below.

    Have you struggled with the work-life balance when working from home? What sorts of adjustments have you had to make to bring your work home?