Some of the most successful people I know work from home. Working from home has many perks, as well as many drawbacks. However, if your work-from-home ecosystem is designed just right, you can be incredibly productive.
The perks of working from home are obvious. The freedom to work the hours of your choosing. Not having to deal with office politics. The ability to have full creative control when it comes to decorating your office. Don’t forget about the time and money you save by not having to commute to work. These are only some of the many advantages of working from home.
One of my favorite things about working from home is the creative freedom to create an ambiance that is both inspiring and comforting; both productive and mood-boosting. I surround myself with wealth triggers. I understood how to design my home office into a place where I want to be.
The drawbacks of working from home and navigating the gig economy are different for everyone. For some people, it’s the loneliness and lack of social interaction. For others, it’s the struggle of avoiding tempting distractions such as the television, when they should be working. Many people have trouble managing themselves, and staying organized. It’s also common to feel as though you might be less productive working from home than you were at the office, but I can help with that problem.
You have to figure out how to make working from home productive for you, especially if you’re a freelancer whose only option is to work from home. Perhaps you have to work from home because you are most productive at night, but your neighborhood doesn’t have many late-night cafes to work from. Or, maybe you have to work from home because you have a child or a dog that needs care. Working from home for moms, for example, is often a necessity and mom get their best work done after they’ve put their child to sleep. Whether you’re working from home because you have to or because you want to, I’m going to provide you with some tips for making your home office a productive space.
You’ll notice that some of my tips for creating a better work-from-home environment require some investment on your part. You’ll have to spend money to buy what’s needed for an ergonomic workstation, for example. However, any money you spend improving your home office will pay off in the long run, since you’ll get more work done if you improve your home office. If you improve your work-from-home environment, you’ll want to spend more time working, because you’ll feel more comfortable and more positive when you sit down to work. So, let’s get started with some of my best work-from-home productivity tips for self-employed people who want to be successful:
Have a Morning Ritual That Supports Working From Home
What does a successful online entrepreneur’s morning routine look like? You’ll want to wake yourself up with a nice shower, eat a healthy breakfast, have a coffee, and write out your goals for the day. The point of a morning routine is to get yourself ready for a productive day.
Perhaps part of your morning ritual is to walk to a coffee shop to get a morning coffee. It’s healthy to get out of the house, and the walk and fresh air help wake up your brain.
Writing out today’s goals or a to-do list is an integral part of your morning routine when you’re going to be working from home. You might even find that writing out today’s to-do list in big letters on a whiteboard helps. Should you get a whiteboard if you work from home? Yes. You’ll want to reserve your whiteboard only for today’s tasks, though. So choose actionable tasks to write down, that you know you can accomplish before the day is over. This will help you make each day count.
Tidying up and decluttering doesn’t just keep your home clean – it also gets rid of mental clutter. Clutter and mess are very distracting, and scientific research has proven the negative impact of clutter on the brain.
According to scientists at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, the more cluttered our environments are, the more energy the brain needs to spend thinking about the surrounding stimuli instead of focusing on task-at-hand. By stimuli, the researchers are referring to clutter or mess that acts as attention-grabbing stimuli. The researchers explain that the visual cortex of the human brain can be overwhelmed by task-irrelevant objects, making it harder to allocate attention and complete tasks efficiently.
The more cluttered your surroundings are, the more your mind will be cluttered with anxious thoughts and emotions. This means that you absolutely will be distracted by mess or clutter while you’re trying to work, if you don’t clean it up. When you’re working from home and your home is messy, what happens? You’ll be thinking about the household chores you want to attend to, and you might not stop thinking about it until you clean it up. The act of cleaning up in itself will put you in a productive mood, and the clean space you’re left with will allow you to focus on work.
A minimalist environment in the form of a clean, decluttered home, is optimal for those who need to focus on the task-at-hand. It goes without saying that a clean and organized desk is needed if you’re working from home. However, a clean and tidy home is equally important.
Set Up an Ergonomic Workstation
“Ergonomics” is the science of refining and re-designing your workstation for optimal use, comfort and productivity. Ergonomic desks tend to be adjustable in height, so that your posture and comfort don’t have to suffer from sitting at a desk that is too low or too high. Many modern desks these days can even be adjusted to standing height. It’s healthy to switch things up and stand for awhile, preventing muscle strain.
Your computer monitor should also be adjustable so that you can adjust it to meet your eye level. Looking downwards all day at a low computer monitor is terrible for your neck.
Maintaining good posture while working from home will prevent you from experiencing decreased productivity due to back and neck pains. Poor posture increases the likelihood of experiencing body pains while you work. An ergonomic workstation promotes correct posture, allowing you to work more comfortably for longer. Dr. Michael Horowitz explains that good posture actually improves mental clarity: “Optimal mental and physical energy requires good oxygen flow and blood flow. Poor posture results in your brain not receiving as much oxygenated blood. This can lead to mental fatigue or brain fog as well as body fatigue.”
Investing in an ergonomic chair is well worth the price tag. If you’ll be working from home for several hours per day, you’ll need a really good chair. You’ll need a chair with ample lumbar support, adjustable arms, and an adjustable seat.
An ergonomic keyboard curves to prevent unnecessary limb extension while typing, which minimizes muscle strain. This allows you to be more productive and type for longer.
Many entrepreneurs who work from home use an ergonomic footrest under their work desk. A footrest feels more comfortable, and prevents blood pooling in your lower limbs. Many footrests will rock when weight is applied, which encourages healthy blood circulation.
Listen to Brain-Boosting Music While Working From Home
Research has found that listening to certain kinds of music can improve brain function. Certain music improves concentration, productivity, and creativity. Most of this is instrumental, because song lyrics are distracting. Some ‘brain music’ actually syncs with the listener’s brain waves and can promote a higher level of thinking. Below are some examples of brain-boosting music you should listen to while working from home:
Cinematic Music: Because cinematic music is so exhilarating and intense, it has the ability to boost your performance. Cinematic music tends to consume your body and mind with a sense of urgency, so if you’ve been procrastinating, turn it on and get energized. It’s extremely uplifting and motivating. Cinematic music is very effective in combating mental fatigue or exhaustion – it might even work better than that extra cup of coffee.
Classical Music: Plenty of research has supported the theory that classical music improves productivity and focus while reducing stress. The positive affect classical music has on the brain has been nicknamed “the Mozart Effect”, and is said to enhance brain activity.
Nature Music: The sound of a flowing river, waves crashing or rain falling has a soothing and continuous effect, promoting your continuous workflow. Working from home will be more positive if you can sense nature while you work. These sounds also work as white noise which drowns out other, more distracting noises. A study published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America found that playing nature sounds in an office environment improved the workers’ cognitive skills and mood.
Listening to music also helps you feel more present; less likely to get distracted or drift off into space. Our thoughts tend to wander when we sit in silence, whereas music helps us engage with the task-at-hand instead of engaging with our wandering thoughts.
Use an Essential Oil Diffuser
Just as certain types of music can promote creativity and focus, certain scents also have a positive impact on the brain. There are specific scents that are known to increase productivity, focus and creativity. That’s why I would suggest getting an essential oil diffuser for you home, and using the essential oils known to improve energy and focus. Below are some of the best aromas for productivity:
Peppermint: It is a well-known fact that peppermint is a natural stimulant. It increases energy and concentration, while boosting your mood and invigorating your mind. The scent of peppermint is the perfect pick-me-up when you’re on a deadline and can feel yourself crashing, as it helps keep you alert.
Cinnamon: The scent of cinnamon can boost performance. The stimulating properties in cinnamon help fight mental fatigue and improve concentration. A research study found that cinnamon heightened alertness and attention, and enhanced cognitive performance.
Grapefruit: This invigorating and uplifting citrus scent is great for increasing energy levels. Rather than being an over-stimulating scent, it tends to make you feel clear-headed and balanced. Grapefruit is also a stress-reducing and mood-enhancing scent, which helps you stay productive. Lemon is another uplifting citrus scent that has a similar effect.
Rosemary: Rosemary essential oil is often used for concentration and focus. This scent awakens the mind and has stimulating effects that fight both mental and physical fatigue.
Cedarwood: Cedarwood essential oil has a very grounding, woodsy aroma which will help you get centered and focused. It instills a sense of comforting stability.
Jasmine: Many stressed-out entrepreneurs need a scent that is both calming and uplifting. The scent of jasmine achieves this. It is revitalizing, but it also has calming and stress-reducing properties. It relieves you of restlessness, allowing you to become centered and ready to work. Jasmine is also known to increase confidence and optimism. It’s therefore a great essential oil to put in your diffuser if you’re feeling down and depressed, yet need to get some work done.
Essential oils are also known for generally boosting one’s mood. If a certain smell or aroma in the air puts you into a better mood, you’ll be more productive. Many of us have a habit of slacking off when we’re depressed or anxious, and these scents in the air can help create a more uplifting ambience. Saje Natural Wellness offers most of the above-mentioned essential oils, as well as stylish portable diffusers. The scent will fill the air of your home when you put the oil in the diffuser, and this aroma will significantly improve your work-from-home environment.
Surround Yourself with Wealth Triggers
My working from home space is full of wealth triggers. What exactly are wealth triggers? These are inspiring things in your home that symbolize prosperity, leadership, or your dream life. Looking at these symbols or images will keep you going, even when you feel exhausted or feel like giving up.
While working from home, you should be able to look around and see plenty of wealth triggers. These should trigger a positive response in your brain. For example, you might have framed photos of successful or powerful people you idealize, or framed quotes that are motivational. Other wealth triggers you might have include symbols of the dream life you’re working towards. For example, maybe you dream of being able to afford to buy your own stable or ranch one day. If that dream motivates you, perhaps you’ll have a gold horse on your desk. It’ll be there to remind you of what you’re working hard for. Plus, pleasant surroundings will keep you uplifted and sustain a positive mood, rather than feeling dread about working.
The wealth triggers that surround you while working from home have a similar effect as a vision board. The goal is to stay motivated, and remember what your dreams are.
Be Your Own Manager
Remember that when you’re working from home, you’re your own boss, and you’re your own manager. Nobody is looking over your shoulder, making sure you’re working and not online shopping. There’s no peer pressure to get stuff done like there is in an office, because nobody is watching you. There is no one micromanaging you. That’s why it’s so important to manage yourself so that you don’t let yourself slack off. You can be your own worst enemy while working from home if you allow yourself to take too many breaks, watch TV, or get distracted.
You need to schedule yourself, block out time to work, attend to your to-do list and be your own manager. Allowing yourself to get cozy on the couch and slack off only messes with your success, your money, and your dreams. Just because you can get away with working in your pajamas, doesn’t mean you should. Being in pajamas makes your mindset geared towards leisure time.
Try to set yourself up for success. If you tend to get distracted by your phone, put your phone in another room while you work. Instead of letting social media distract you, remove all bookmarks of social media platforms from your computer’s toolbar. And if possible, set up your workstation in an area of your home that is not near the TV. It also shouldn’t be near the couch or the bed. You don’t want to look at things that are associated with leisure time. If it’s not possible to set up your workstation away from your living room or bedroom – if you live in a studio apartment, for example – then what? Try to set up your workstation at a window. This way, you can look out at a view while you’re thinking, instead of looking at an inviting couch or bed.
Clearly Communicate Your Boundaries to Avoid Distractions
Unfortunately, many people assume that their friend or family member who works from home is always available. They think that because you’re not at work (at a real office) they can call whenever they want. They might also think they can pop by whenever they want, or ask you to go shopping with them. This is especially difficult if you live with someone who doesn’t understand that just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean they can bug you.
It’s a common misunderstanding that working from home means “I can always make time for you, because I work my own hours.” It’s your job to clearly communicate your boundaries to your friends and family members. Tell them that even though you are at home, you’re still working, and that you actually have scheduled office hours during which time you want zero distractions. Disengage from anyone who pushes those boundaries and attempts to distract you. Explain that you take your work-from-home job extremely seriously, and your flexible work hours aren’t as flexible as they might think.
Meal Prep Brain-Boosting Foods
For maximum efficiency, you should meal prep a week’s worth of meals in advance. This way, you won’t waste time each day thinking about what you want to eat, or mulling over take-out menus. Nor will you spend a ton of time cooking a meal. You can use meal breaks to eat, and get back to work sooner.
You’d be surprised how much time people waste deciding what to eat for lunch, or how much time people spend cooking their dinner. The most efficient entrepreneurs will have a ready-to-eat meal in their fridge that they don’t even have to think about. Just reheat, eat, and get back to work.
Now, what should you be eating for optimal brain function? When you meal prep, it’s good to have an idea of what foods promote brain function, and incorporate some of those foods into your prepared meals. Walnuts, for example, are known for being a superfood that improves brain function. So, why not add some walnuts to your stir fry or salad? Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids which are great for brain health. Wondering what not to eat? Carbohydrates can cause brain fog and mental fatigue. That’s why so many people on the keto diet say that their productivity and focus improved as a result of cutting out carbs.
Work When You’re Most Productive
Are you a night owl, who feels more energetic and more productive in the evening? Or are you a morning person? When you work from home, you have the luxury of deciding your own work hours and setting your own schedule. You can work when you’re most productive.
Night owls have a late chronotype, and their brain comes alive at night. In the evening, they feel much more creative, energetic and focused compared to their sluggish mornings.
If you know that you’re going to be doing most of your work in the evening, since that’s when you’re most productive and that’s when your brain functions best, does that mean you can slack off all day? Absolutely not. Even if you’re going to be mostly working from home in the evening, you can still use the daytime to plan out your to-do list, answer client emails, draft outlines, etc. Set up the groundwork, so that when your productive hours commence, you have something to go off of. In other words, save the hard work for when you’re most productive, but make sure to do some easier tasks throughout the day.
It’s also good to understand what structure or schedule works best for you. For example, perhaps you’ll find that splitting your 8 hour work day into 4 chunks of 2 hours works best for you. Perhaps you need that break every 2 hours to get some fresh air, play with your dog, give your eyes a break from screen time, etc. Understanding what type of schedule makes you most productive is key when working from home.
Develop a Plan for Writer’s Block
If you’re prone to writer’s block or other forms of brain fog, you need to devise a plan to combat this. The last thing you want to do is get frustrated, give up, and turn the TV on. Instead, figure out what helps you get unstuck, so that you can get back to work.
Some people simply need to go for a 10 minute walk to get the blood flowing to their brain. The walk lets your thoughts run through your head while you breathe in fresh air. Research from Stanford University found that walking gets your creative juices flowing. Many people claim they do their best thinking while walking. Why do you think Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have been known for their walking meetings? Walking just works.
I’m personally a big believer in the importance of ‘thinking time’, which is time dedicated for thinking and brainstorming. Business is an intellectual sport. Sometimes, when I’m having my thinking time, I pace around my home office and talk to myself. This helps me, and it might help you, too.
A change of environment can wonders when you’re feeling stuck. That’s another reason why going for a walk to think helps. Or, maybe you just need to eat something. Either way, have a plan in place for what you’ll do when you’re crashing, so that you can get back to work as soon as possible.
It’s All in the Details When it Comes to Ambience
Your work-from-home ambience can be perfect for optimal productivity and comfort (the ideal combo) if you pay attention to the details. The colors of your walls matter, for example, because you don’t want your walls to be painted an aggravating color. (Pale green is a great color for productivity.)
Lighting matters, too, because harsh lighting can cause migraines or eye strain. Speaking of eye strain, you should invest in a pair of blue light filtering eyeglasses. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time looking at your computer screen, these are great. They protect your eyes from becoming strained or tired, which would obviously be a detriment to someone working from home.
Having houseplants in your home office makes you feel connected to nature (and nature is linked to happiness and creativity). Plants also contributing more oxygen to the air and make the air in your home fresher and cleaner.
Don’t forget that a fundamental component to your work-from-home ambience is what you listen to, and what you smell. Remember that an essential oil diffuser will infuse your home office space with invigorating and productivity-promoting scents. And, brain-boosting music will lead to more work getting done than sitting in utter silence.
Working from home can be very uplifting and productive if you design your environment to meet your needs. Below are the most important work-from home tips to remember:
- Stick to a Morning Ritual
- Tidy Up
- Have an Ergonomic Workstation
- Listen to Brain-Boosting Music
- Use an Essential Oil Diffuser
- Surround Yourself with Inspirational Items and Wealth Triggers
- Be Your Own Manager
- Clearly Communicate Your Boundaries
- Meal Prep Brain-Boosting Meals
- Work When You’re Most Productive
- Develop a Plan for Writer’s Block and Thinking Time
- Remember the Details for a Productive Ambience
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