Sometimes I work in my underwear.
Of course, I can do this because I work from home the majority of the time (unless I’m out looking at new rental properties to purchase, in which case I’ll throw on some pants — probably).
And being able to work “pants-less” is only one of the many benefits to being able to work from home. Other perks include being able to set your own schedule, not wasting away your life in rush hour traffic, and not having to sit next to sweaty Dennis while he bloviates about his foot fungus.
That said, working from home is no walk in the park either (unless, of course, you set up your treadmill desk at the park, but I would advise against this). Working from home can be a huge drain on your productivity, causing the time needed to accomplish a project to actually increase.
Therefore, if you want to maintain maximum productivity while working from home, I would implore you to establish the following six “rules” in your home office and watch your productivity double, triple, or even “10x”!
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Rule #1: Establish a work sanctuary.
A “work sanctuary” is exactly what it sounds like: a specific place in your home where work is done.
When you are in the work sanctuary, you are not chatting on the phone with your mom, eating leftover nachos, or lifting weights. You are working.
Creating a work sanctuary allows you to more easily get “in the zone” on your work, leading to less downtime and greater productivity.
Rule #2: Work will ONLY occur in the work sanctuary.
By having a clearly established “work sanctuary,” the rest of your home should be considered a “no work zone.” In other words, when you are working, it must be done in the work sanctuary, and when you are not in that space, you should not be working.
For years, I worked in my home office (my work sanctuary), but I also found myself working in bed, working at the dinner table, or working on the couch. While I was able to get stuff accomplished in these locations, it blurred the lines between what was “work time” and what was “family time.” This sent mixed signals to my wife and made it difficult for her to know whether I was working or just surfing Facebook.
Today, work is done in the work sanctuary and nowhere else.
Rule #3: Work will only occur during office hours.
Another area where the lines are often blurred for those who work from home involves when work happens.
Yes, those who work from home can pick their own schedule, yet often that schedule falls into the trap of “whenever I can grab a spare minute.” In other words, work becomes reactionary to all your other priorities in life. It gets the time that’s left over, causing stress and decreased efficiency.
Others tend to simply work “all the time,” and before they know it, a decade of their life has vanished (along with their marriage, friends, and kids!).
This is why rule number three is simple: Work during work hours, and don’t work outside of those hours.
Of course, your work hours do not need to be 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You are the boss, so pick a schedule that works for you. Maybe you want to work from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and then again from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Whatever suits you, just schedule it and follow your schedule.
When you establish “office hours,” you establish boundaries that allow you to lead a more balanced life. Additionally, by “time blocking” your day, your productivity will skyrocket even if the number of hours you work decreases.
Rule #4: Work will be broken up by regular breaks.
When you work from home, there is no boss standing over your shoulder telling you to “get to work,” yet most people I know who work from home take far fewer breaks than those who work in a corporate setting.
While it may seem that breaks interrupt a person’s workflow, decreasing productivity, the opposite is actually true. Studies show that those who take regular breaks during their work actually accomplish more — and produce better results.
So take regular breaks (at least a five-minute break each hour) to walk, eat a nutritious snack, stretch, or just breathe deeply. The regular refreshing of your mind will have dramatic effects on your life.
Rule #5: Work will start with the most important task.
Rule number five should actually apply to all workers — whether in an office or at home. However, it is especially important for those who work from home to start with the most important task.
No matter how many rules you establish, interruptions still happen. Your daughter gets sick, your wife needs help with the kids, the house across the street burns down. By immediately working on your most important task when you get into your “work sanctuary,” your most pressing work is likely to still get done even if something interrupts you later.
Working on the most important thing first can be especially difficult when you work from home because there is no boss standing over you telling you what to work on next. You get to prioritize your tasks, and humans tend to choose the easiest task first, rather than the most important. Fight that instinct and instead prioritize your day based on what’s important, and then get to work.
Rule #6: Work will be deep.
Finally, understand that when you work from home, it’s very easy to get involved in what Cal Newport calls “shallow work” rather than “deep work.” In his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal separates most of what we do each day as either “shallow,” where little substance is accomplished but work is still happening, and “deep,” where the most important tasks are knocked out.
Very little of what we do during the day is likely “deep work,” but this is the kind of work that matters the most.
So when you work from home, make every effort to avoid shallow work and spend more time diving deep into your most important tasks — the things that truly move your business forward. Block out social media during your deep work times using an app such as Freedom.to. Leave your cell phone in the other room. Ask your family not to interrupt except for emergencies. Do whatever you need to do to get deep into your work.
And, by the way, email is not deep work. Use it sparingly.
When you work from home, life and work collide in an awkward way that leaves both less-than-ideal. Your family gets irritated that you are “always working,” and you get irritated that you “never get anything done.”
But it doesn’t need to be this way!
Working from home can be fantastic, and I believe if you are efficient in the way you handle work, working from home can actually be far more productive than working in an office. You simply need to establish these rules and abide by them to see your productivity shoot through the roof.
And best of all — you can do it while working in your underwear.
Do you work from home? If so, how do you stay on task and separate work from life?
Leave your tip and tricks below!