Making money online gives you the freedom to do your work in the comfort of your home, on your own time, under your own guidance. This freedom is a huge perk, especially if you’re a self-starter. Some people work better at home than in an office setting, but many struggle to be as productive when left to their own conduct.
Maybe you’ve been there: You set out to write an article but find yourself thirty minutes later on the kitchen floor eating a box of cereal. You seem to get more laundry done than work, or you network on social media but get lost in the News Feed for hours. If this is you, experiment with one of the following tips and see if it helps you in being more productive. These habits and mentalities help keep me accountable to my work, and I hope they’ll work just as well for you.
Write a list of every task you can do toward your business or side hustle.
No matter how big or small the task is, write it down. Checking email, sending invoices, writing blog posts, updating your website—include everything and keep this list within reach. When you’re unsure of or don’t feel like working on the task at hand but need to do something toward your work, take a look at your list and pick a task that sounds more doable at that time. You don’t want to rely on this every day, because you need to get those undesirable tasks done at some point. But every once in a while, the list will provide you with a good opportunity to work on a neglected task or something that is important, but not as urgent.
Make a schedule, print it out, and make it visible.
From your long list in the first tip, make note of the tasks that are most vital to your work and need to be done on a daily basis. Make a schedule by batching hours of the day with similar tasks. For example, 9a.m.-noon is blocked for writing projects and 2-5p.m. is only for marketing and networking.
To better stick to your schedule, print it out and put it somewhere that you’ll see it every day. I advise to type and print out your schedule over hand-writing it because the printed version looks more professional and permanent. I put my schedule in a 2X2 in. frame and have it on my desk shelf. There is no writing over it or denying that it is there. This reminds me that I am serious about my work, and I don’t want to disappoint myself by not sticking to my plan.
Schedule time for distractions.
Whether it’s Facebook or text messages, household chores or a squirrel in your back yard, you know best what distracts you from getting work done. When making your schedule in Tip 2, leave 15-minute breaks between time chunks to visit those distractions. Texting people throughout your work day is totally going to happen, but make a point to only do it at certain times. When you know you have an allotted time to do these things, you’ll be less tempted to do them when you’re in middle of your work.
Be honest with yourself.
You know yourself and your work habits best. Why force a 9-5 schedule if you usually hit your stride at night? Plan your schedule—and your distractions—according to the way you work. When do you work best? Where do you work best? What distracts you? Don’t try to force habits that don’t align with your natural tendencies.
Keep track of the work you complete each day.
Make an Excel spreadsheet as a way of logging your productivity. Rather than (or in addition to) a to-do list that you cross off, a log provides an empty line that you have to fill in with your accomplishment. You don’t want to see a blank space for the day, right? Recording your work and reviewing it each night is a pretty simple habit to help you stick to your goals and it’s rewarding. Enter everything from replying to emails and participating in mastermind groups to completing assignments or blog posts.
From your list in the first tip, what are a few things that you have to or should do every day that will pay off over time? I’m talking about things like brainstorming five article or blog post ideas, commenting on three blogs, sending five direct messages to leaders in your area, tweeting three times a day and so on. Setting a couple of these things that you must do every day as a non-negotiable gives you a set, routine goal, so when you do feel unmotivated, you can jump to these routine tasks and add them to your productivity log. Completing them might even give you the motivation you need to get through the harder tasks.
Take an exercise break.
Many of us suffer from the 3 p.m. slump. You’ve already worked most of the day and the end of the day can’t come soon enough. Since you work from home, you might think this is the perfect time for a little nap. Instead, since you have this luxury, take a long lunch break and get a workout or a long walk in. Doing so re-energizes your body for an afternoon of solid, productive work instead of drifting off to your room for a nap. And why not give yourself a nice long break to separate your morning work from your afternoon work? Take some time to play, exercise and enjoy some fresh air.
Write your plan for the next day.
Before you put away your laptop for the day, take a few minutes to prepare for tomorrow. What came up or didn’t get done today that needs to be addressed tomorrow? Plan it out ahead of time so you’re not faced with deciding what you’re going to do when you sit down to work the next morning. Knowing your schedule ahead of time also allows you to think about those tasks and strategize during your down time.
Always be prepared to adapt to changes.
When you work from home, you might think you have control over everything. On most days, that’s true, but what happens when your Internet isn’t working? When your spouse is home sick? Or an unexpected phone call with a client takes up most of your morning? An unproductive person might throw in the towel in any of those cases and waste the rest of the day stressing out about these circumstances. When your day isn’t going as you so productively scheduled it doesn’t mean that your whole day is lost. Develop the mindset of being flexible. Think of ways to overcome the problem. Internet not working? Look at your list of tasks and see what you can do without it. Use the opportunity to read things offline (a.k.a. books!) or write longhand. Spouse driving you crazy? Close your door or go work outside. Make it clear that you are on your work schedule.
Keep a notepad at your side for random thoughts.
You know how this goes: you’re halfway through writing an article and suddenly remember you have to pay your phone bill. You close out of the article and pay the bill right then, and somehow you end up scrolling through Facebook again. Random thoughts pop up all day long, but they don’t have to deter us from our work. Keep a small legal pad on your desk for all of the mind musings and jot them down when they come to you. Check your notepad during your breaks or at the end of the day and take care of those thoughts then.
Luke and PeerFly make it easy for us to make money online, so don’t make it harder for yourself by slacking at home. It’s not easy to discipline yourself every day, and you may need to take a hard look at your habits to get better at it. Although changing your habits may seem like torture for a while, keep at it and you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to be productive and successful at home.
Michelle Chalkey is a Des Moines-based freelance writer with experience in health and lifestyle writing. Her work has been featured in Iowa Living Magazines, Your Wedding Iowa, and the Fit Bottomed Girls blog. She blogs about managing stress and pursuing creativity over at her website www.michellechalkey.com.