My #1 tip for working productively from home

Working from home presents unique challenges. On the one hand, there aren’t bored coworkers who interrupt you because they want to chat. On the other hand, your kids or your pets might demand your attention.

On your way to the bathroom, you may notice some laundry that you might as well do right away. And the grocery store is close by, so why not run some errands right now? During the day the store is nice and quiet.

Being near your family and doing chores efficiently are lovely perks of working at home. But more so than at the office, when you work from home you need to be in charge of your work schedule.

How do you take advantage of the perks of working from home while getting stuff done?

I could write a comprehensive guide to working from home—actually, would you find that useful?—but today I’ll share my #1 tip with you:

Productivity doesn’t have to be linear.

If you charted your work output against time, it wouldn’t be a straight horizontal line. And it shouldn’t be. Instead, aim for your productivity to look like a medieval castle’s battlements.

When you work, work. Remove distractions and tell you housemates—whether human, feline, or canine—that you need some uninterrupted work time. This allows you to do deep work.

And when you don’t work, don’t consciously start thinking about work. In my experience this is even harder than shutting out distractions when you do work. If you do start thinking about your work while you’re preparing lunch, that’s not wrong or bad. But be aware of it and don’t do it all the time.

Do you sometimes feel guilt when taking a break? You might feel that you “should” be working. Either because you expect yourself to be working all the time or because you think your client or boss expects you to.

Feeling guilt like that is totally normal. If you feel guilt, start by simply recognizing that. Then realize that not all feelings are productive. It’s not always wise to act on your feelings. In this case, taking breaks is a good thing, because you’ll get more done in the end. So recognize the guilt, and accept it—but don’t let it trick you into trying to work for eight hours straight.

And when you are taking a break, do that laundry or run those errands. Get away from your devices, if you can. (This is a huge challenge for me, but I’m trying because it works.)

To make sure your work periods are productive, you can try the pomodoro method. Many people swear by it, although the one time I tried it, I didn’t like it. I prefer to schedule my work periods ad hoc. Just experiment and see what works.

Now, good luck and have fun working from home.

Yours,

— Peter

P.S. What’s your biggest productivity challenge when you work from home?

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