Remote employees have been reported to be more productive than in-office employees, according to a study by Inc.; however, that doesn’t mean you’ll always feel more productive when working from home. Quite the contrary, there are many distractions when working in the same space where you live: laundry to be switched over, the loud neighbor next door, or the dishes piling up in the sink. Instead of leaving all this behind for the day, you’re right in the middle of it all—and still have to get work done.
If you’re struggling to be productive at home, use these five pro tips to stay on track and get your work done, no matter what distractions or challenges come your way.
Find the Natural Light
There’s a reason many people find it hard to work in a dark office space. Not only do humans crave access to natural light, but in a recent study of 1,614 North American employees, 47 percent say they feel tired or very tired when they don’t have natural light or a window at their office, and 43 percent say they feel gloomy without it.
To be most productive, find the natural light in your house and use that to power your work day. If you find yourself slowing down or struggling to get work done, find a window and work there. If possible, move your desk near a window that gets light most of the day to create a “light-powered” work space that keeps you productive and happy all day long.
Find Your “Zone of Productivity”
The beauty of working from home is the flexibility you have. In most cases, you can pick and choose when you work, rather than being tied to a 9 to 5 schedule. When you’re able to choose when you work, you can maximize the amount of work you get done by working in your “zone of productivity.”
This “zone” represents the time of day when you feel most productive, creative and effective at your work. For some people, this time falls first thing in the morning, for others it’s late at night. If you have the option to work when you want, step out of the 9 to 5 mindset and maximize your productivity by doing your hardest work during your “zone of productivity.”
Put on Headphones (Even if No One is Around)
Headphones don’t just allow you to tune out chatty co-workers. Headphones, whether you’re playing music or not, allow you to drown out the sounds around you—lawn mowers, beeping smoke detectors or a ringing cell phone—so you can focus completely on your work. You can even test new types of headphones, made for cutting down the noise and turning up the productivity.
For example, Mindset Headphones not only cancel out noise and operate on bluetooth, but also track your concentration. Using EEG technology and AI, these headphones are able to detect patterns that indicate whether you’re distracted, using various metrics that include level of cognitive engagement and level of distractibility. The headphones then help you avoid these distractions in the future. Mindest explains how this works:
“Whenever we detect that you are distracted, we send a subtle auditory cue—a small increase in the volume of your music—to remind you to refocus. This feedback acts as a negative reinforcement, training your subconscious to better recognize and tune out distractions inherently. Thanks to neuroplasticity, over time your brain internalizes this feedback, rewiring itself to favor states of deep concentration.”
If you don’t want to invest in “smart headphones,” simply putting on regular headphones can dull the noises around you. If you like working with music, maximize your work time by putting one of these six types of music, proven to increase productivity:
- Classical music
- Nature music
- Cinematic music
- Video game music
- Your favorite music
- Music between 50 and 80 beats per minute
Work in Shifts to Avoid Distraction
Working in shifts is not only good for our mind (Pomodoro Technique), but it’s critical for managing distractions. When you work from home, you’re not easily distracted by co-workers stopping by your desk or talking to you at the coffee machine, but rather:
- The dirty living room.
- The phone that’s sitting next to you.
- The clothes on the bed.
- The package that showed up at your door.
- The neighbor’s dog barking next door.
By working in shifts, you give yourself time to do or address those things—wash the dishes, open the package—in between projects, rather than distracting from your work mid-session. This is key because, in two small studies, college students were interrupted during tests at random intervals to complete unrelated puzzle tasks, like figuring out math problems or unscrambling words.
While these interruptions lasted just 60 seconds, the students who were interrupted scored significantly lower compared to those who were not. By working in shifts, you reduce the interruption and give your mind a break from work, allowing you to return with a fresh mind and renewed focus.
If you’re still finding yourself distracted between breaks by the biggest distraction in our lives—your cell phone—I suggested in a recent remote productivity article: “Eliminate the temptation by keeping your cell phone away from your desk. Keep it in another room, instead, giving you an excuse to get up and move around when you want to check it as well.”
When you can’t pick it up at the first sign of a lull, you’re more likely to stay focused on the work in front of you.
Know When You Need to Leave the House
Working from home is convenient and comfortable, but sometimes, you need to get out of that space. If you’re struggling to finish a project that requires heavy thinking, or can’t seem to get settled into your day, get out of the house. Just like in an office, when you move to a conference room to focus, sometimes you need a chance of scenery. The good news is, when you work from home you get to take your pick from co-working spaces, coffee shops or even the local library.
When you get out of your space, you open yourself up to the creativity and energy of the people around you, which may be just what you need to do get that project done.
Be More Productive in Your Remote Workspace
Get more work done every day by creating a workspace that’s optimized for productivity—and you don’t need an office space to do that. Instead, tune out noises with headphones, find natural light, working during your zone of productivity and work in shifts. If you’re still struggling, get out of the house—sometimes you need a change of scenery to be productive and come back to your remote workspace feeling rejuvenated and ready to work.
Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s worked from home for 5+ years, including spending 8 months traveling the globe while running her business. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes and FastCompany. She also writes for Business Insider, Score, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.