I’ve been doing it for nearly 10 years, and honestly, I can’t imagine ever returning to a traditional office environment.
Still, it’s easy to get distracted when you’re effectively your own boss when it comes to time management. Since no one’s clocking my productivity, it’s up to me to ensure everything gets done promptly and at a high level of quality.
Here’s how I keep myself focused and disciplined while working from home.
While some people might consider the ability to change up your routine a perk of working from home — and it’s great to be able to go to a mid-day dentist appointment or run out to the store if I realize I’m out of milk — I find I work best if I adhere to a pretty strict schedule.
I get up at the same time every morning (around 6:30 a.m. but never later than 7 a.m.) and am generally in bed by 10 p.m. every night, including weekends.
First thing in the morning, I take my dog for a walk. Then I go to the gym for an hour, come home, and cook some food, and then get down to business by roughly 11 a.m. I don’t really take a lunch break, but I do something even more valuable …
There are proven productivity and physical health benefits to getting up from your desk regularly, and I make sure I do so at least once an hour. Not only does doing so allow me to stretch my legs and get my blood flowing again while I grab some coffee from the kitchen, it also helps me clear the fog of concentration I was working in and get ready to approach a given project with renewed concentration.
I also drink a lot of water— roughly 4 liters a day — and this also helps with forcing me to get up a lot since I often have to make a quick bathroom run at least once an hour. Hey, whatever works, right?
It sounds crazy, but Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response— a phenomenon known more commonly as ASMR — has done wonders for my productivity levels. Basically, it’s a super relaxing, full-body “buzz” that’s produced by certain triggers, which differ according to the individual. Whether it’s tapping sounds, crinkling sounds, or whispered voices, those who experience ASMR swear by it, and I’m one of them.
While it’s also great for helping me get to sleep at night if I happen to be having trouble resting, during the day, plugging in my headphones and listening to some of my favorite ASMR artists on YouTube allows me to get in a zone of total productivity.
While the science behind ASMR isn’t totally understood just yet, it works for me.
In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, eating well helps increase energy levels as well as your ability to focus. What “eating well” looks like will differ to everyone, but for me it includes a lot of fresh vegetables, a moderate amount of protein, and a diet that’s high in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates and sugar, which can cause crashes in excess.
My inbox is constantly pinging with new messages, 99% of which are either mailing list spam, spam from a PR agency, or some other email I’ll likely delete without even opening. In other words, most of it isn’t important, and it’s certainly not time-sensitive.
When I’m working on writing or editing an important article or document, I log out of my email accounts and forget all about it. Otherwise, I end up clicking on newsletter links and going down an internet rabbit hole.
While I do work really hard to ensure I meet deadlines and turn in work that’s high quality, I also know my working style and the time I need to complete certain tasks, which means I sometimes have pockets of an hour or two where I can do other things.
Generally speaking, this translates into the aforementioned run to the store — which also helps with talking to actual human beings, since I can go days without human contact while working from home — or even baking an impromptu dozen cookies. In the end, I know I’ll get done what needs to be done, so it’s not worth sweating too much over.
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Originally published on Business Insider.