14 Productivity Tips To Get Things Done When Working From Home (2020)
Can you really work from home and still be productive?
It's hard, really hard.
This viral BBC interview shows you just one of the challenges people face while working from home.
Making money online remotely from the comfort of your home sounds really cool but it comes with its own set of challenges.
I've been a full-time freelancer since 2012 and know exactly how hard it is to stay focused, meet deadlines, and stay connected with clients while working from your living room.
However, there are ways you can fight all the distractions and get things done without losing your mind.
In this article, I'll share several time-tested productivity tips by different time-management experts, entrepreneurs, and remote workers who have mastered the art of working from home.
If you're finding it hard to make the best of your time as a remote worker, you'll find lots of great advice in this article.
- How to achieve 10x more every day by making a small change to your routine.
- How to stay more focused and productive and get better use of your limited time.
- One habit that's killing your productivity every day.
- How automation can help you become more productive.
- How to build a business in your spare time around your day job.
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When you're already working 50+ hours a week at your day job, it's hard to find time to work on your business.
You need to optimize your productivity for whatever time you get before or after work to run your own niche business.
But you can't improve something that you don’t measure.
This is why you need to use tools and systems that measure your current productivity levels and tell you exactly where you're spending your time.
One of the easiest ways to do that is by creating to-do lists for the next day.
Before you finally shut your laptop, list down the activities that you want to perform the next day.
Doing so not only gives you a clear direction but also allows you to see how much you got done at the end of the day.
This could be done on a simple piece of paper or an app like Evernote or Google Keep.
However, a more accurate way to measure your productivity is to use a tracking tool like Rescue Time which has been a real life-changer for me.
It not only tracks everything you do on your laptop, smartphone, tablet or any other device you choose but also gives you a clear breakdown of where you spend most of your time.
Here’s a sample snapshot:
33% productivity which is 3.1% higher than the last month! If stats like these don't open your eyes I don’t know what will.
You just need to add your core business activities and potential distractions while setting up your account, and the app will start doing the rest for you.
You don’t think there’s anything worse than eating a frog, right?
It's one of the best productivity tips I've ever used.
“Eat That Frog” is a bestselling book by Brian Tracy, a hugely successful businessman, and a productivity expert.
In his book, he shares this theory by Mark Twain...
That is the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worse thing that is going to happen to you all day long.
Your frog is the biggest and the most important task of the day which you’re likely to procrastinate on.
Instead of pushing it down your to-do list, you need to eat that frog every morning (or evening, if you have a day job as well) to get things done faster.
Because research indicates that the longer you procrastinate on a task, the harder it becomes.
Another study by Procrastination and Science shows that serial procrastinators are 70% more likely to be unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives as compared to the people who get things done.
Habitual procrastination may also lead to more complex health problems like heart diseases, depression, and anxiety.
Eating that frog might feel difficult at the start but once it becomes a habit, nothing tastes better.
So try cranking out a difficult or time-consuming task BEFORE you go to work.
And trust me I know:
You get little sleep as it is and it's going to be hard to get up even earlier in the morning.
But even just 30 minutes earlier that you dedicate to your business before you have any distractions from family amounts to roughly an extra 15hrs per month towards your businesses.
And if you think you're tired first thing in the morning how are you going to feel AFTER a full day's work?
Seriously, give it a try...
You're trying to build your niche marketing business while doing a full-time job.
So you need to find time either before or after work to get things done.
But that really depends on whether you're an early riser or a night owl.
My own productivity levels rise with the sun and go down as it sets, and in my own experience, it's much easier to put in a couple of hours before work than after your day job.
But it’s different for everyone so there’s no fixed rule here.
If you think you can find a couple of distraction-free hours before work, then early morning might be the right time for you.
But if you think you can concentrate better after everyone's gone to bed at night then be a night owl.
Being a morning person, though, I do recommend that you try an early morning routine for at least a month and see how it goes.
Source: Fuzzy Science
Several studies show a direct relationship between productivity and getting up early, which is why some of the most successful entrepreneurs are early risers.
For example, Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, gets up at 4AM and conquers the day even before most people wake up.
Glen Alsop (ViperChill) was a night owl who forced himself to become an early riser.
The results were staggering.
But whether you’re an early riser or not, identifying your most productive time, and making full use of it, is the key to success. It’s like applying the 80/20 rule to your daily schedule.
All of us have the same 24 hours in a day.
When you're already working at a 9 to 5 job, there's little time to work on your own business since most of us have family commitments as well.
But some people still manage to achieve much more in that time than others.
No, it's not magic.
It's called time management and following well-defined routines.
A study by The University of Maine shows that following fixed daily routines improves your brain’s ability to focus on the task at hand and perform at the optimal level.
According to the Harvard Business Review, having fixed daily routines is a common trait of successful people.
So what exactly do I mean by routines?
The objective of a routine is to structure your day for maximum productivity and work-life balance.
It allows you to live a normal life and not drown completely in the bottomless sea of IM (which can easily happen and ruin your family/social life).
Being an internet marketer means you can work whenever you want.
But for the sake of consistency, it’s better to fix your working hours or time slots for work.
More specifically, I believe it’s important to set an end time for your workday which acts as a deadline and gives you a sense of urgency to complete your daily tasks.
Your routine should also include designating a separate room or place in your house for work.
It’s even better if you could work from a local library, a co-working space or even a coffee shop.
As a part-time niche marketer, you have limited time to work on your business.
Which is why you should never start working without clear goals.
Otherwise, you’ll always find yourself behind time, moving in different directions without achieving anything at the end of the day.
Or you might fall victim to the shiny object syndrome (something most beginner niche marketers suffer from) and waste money buying new courses or MMO programs instead of working on what you already know.
These are common problems for wannabe niche marketers who don't have clear goals.
Having SMART goals, on the other hand, gives you the luxury of planning ahead and identifying the most important tasks that you need to perform every day.
Source: New Found Balance
A study by Massey University (Switzerland) established a direct relationship between goals, focus, and self-motivation.
The clearer your goals the better you’re able to focus on the task at hand (something most people working from the home struggle at).
For example, as niche marketers, most of us need to create content on a regular basis.
Smart marketers have months of content planned ahead for them (like we do here at NicheHacks)
They identify the keywords they want to rank for or the audience they want to target and list down at least 2-3 months of blog titles in their editorial calendar.
The same goes for other marketing objectives like guest blogging, social media posts, link building, or anything else related to your business.
It all needs to be planned in advance so that you have clarity about your immediate and long-term goals, even if it means spending the first 1-2 days of every quarter doing this activity.
Without a plan and SMART goals, you'll remain distracted and keep on chasing shiny objects resulting in loss of focus.
Which is the last thing you need when you only have a few hours a week to work on your niche business.
I’m a huge believer in the 80/20 rule which is why I keep mentioning it in my posts.
For a part-time niche marketer, it's a real life-saver
There’s so much to do it’s sometimes hard to prioritize and focus on the most important tasks.
This is exactly why you need to filter your tasks through the 80/20, also known as the Pareto Principle.
Focus on the 20% of the most important activities that bring 80% of your results.
Automate or outsource the rest.
As marketers, you can completely or partially automate 3 main areas of your business.
- Email Marketing and Autoresponders
- Social Media and Content Curation
- Landing Pages and Sales Funnels
Tasks such as content creation, editing, formatting in WordPress etc. can be outsourced to professional bloggers and writers.
Source: Switching from Job to Business
Chelsea wrote a detailed guide on hiring a virtual assistant to manage other tasks that are important but do not require your direct involvement.
For example, finding or creating images for your blog posts, scheduling content, organizing and prioritizing your emails, managing your social media groups or pages and responding to comments on social media.
All of this costs money, of course.
You might not have the resources to outsource everything right now, but do it whenever possible so that you can work on your business instead of working in it.
When you have full-time job, family commitments, and everything else that life throws at you to deal with, on TOP of running your niche business, the 80/20 rule is a lifesaver.
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Emails, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. are all key platforms for niche marketers.
You can’t make a living online without them.
But they can easily distract you from your core tasks and eat up your
Email, in particular, is not only one of the biggest time-killers for online marketers but also a major source of distraction if not managed properly.
Studies suggest it takes almost 90 seconds to regain focus after reading 1 email.
And of course, most of us read more than one email every time we check our inbox.
One way, to counter email and social media distractions is by time-capping both these activities.
You can’t work without them, but you can limit their usage to only certain hours of the day.
I personally recommend checking emails only after you’ve achieved your top priority goal for the day.
This allows you to stay focused on your own agenda and follow your own plans.
The team at The Simple Dollar even tested this technique and documented the results in a blog post. On average, limiting technology access during work saved them 31 minutes every day.
Author and management consultant Julie Morgenstern has written a complete book on the topic “Never Check Email in the Morning.”
“Once you check emails in the morning, you won’t be able to recover for the rest of the day.
Those requests and those interruptions and those unexpected surprises and those reminders and problems are endless... there is very little that cannot wait a minimum of 59 minutes.”
Another management expert, Craig Jarrow, recommends checking email only twice a day.
Once early in the morning AFTER you’ve set your own agenda for the day, and once in the evening to catch up on anything important.
I apply the same rule to social media as well.
In fact, I recently deleted Facebook from my smartphone and only use it on my laptop when required, which has significantly reduced the time I wasted on the platform before.
I know Stuart does the same...
He doesn't take his phone with him when working on his business, he mutes chat apps and messenger programs and blocks distracting websites.
For example, he only has 10 minutes per day to spend on Facebook by using the StayFocused app for Chrome to limit his use.
When you're working a full-time job this is 100% essential as every minute counts and must be put towards your niche business.
If you’re like me, and most other home-based or part-time niche marketers, you spend a lot of sitting on your couch, office desk, chair or bed (depending on where you work).
Research shows that’s not a really good idea.
Sitting for 8 to 12 hours a day increases your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes by 90% EVEN when you exercise regularly.
World Health Organization has identified physical inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor for death of people all around the globe.
Source: Business Insider
On the other hand, regular exercise and physical activity increases your energy levels, stamina, motivation, and improves your brain’s performance.
But even if you don’t want to be a bodybuilder, do make a conscious effort to remain physically active throughout the day by walking around the house in every 30-40 minutes.
Having hand weights on your desk next to your laptop or somewhere that you spend a lot of time can help get some simple exercise.
It doesn't only help with fitness but also with keeping you focused and productive.
I’ve been working from home and making a full-time living from my laptop for several years now.
Needless to say that I love the freedom, comfort, and money this lifestyle offers.
But I’m an extrovert and the only reason I sometimes miss my corporate job is the chitchat with office colleagues, going out regularly for lunch with friends and just having a more active lifestyle.
It can be lonely working from home.
And no matter how many Facebook groups or Twitter chats you join, there’s no replacement for physically going out and meeting with people.
Doing so regularly not only freshens up your mind but also helps you identify new opportunities that you can use as a niche marketer.
Search for other local internet marketers, freelancer and other related professionals working from home in your town, and meet them from time to time.
I’ve been doing that for the last 2 years in my city, and it has helped me and my business in a number of ways.
If you’re like the average niche marketer, you’re most likely subscribed to dozens of email lists, and regularly receive offers, notifications, and messages from countless other blogs.
Plus, you follow all of them on Facebook, Twitter, and every other social network as well.
There’s no harm in it, as long as you can prioritize your information intake.
This is where productive and successful internet marketers are different from you.
They identify their most important information sources and shut off everything else.
They realize that they don’t need to know every new research that comes up or every new blog post that someone has written.
You need to do the same.
The world won’t stop spinning if you stop noticing.
A simple way to do that is to align every source of information with your goals.
Whenever you’re tempted to read a new blog post, new research or any other form of content, ask yourself if it contributes directly to any of your goals.
If it does, consume it. But if it doesn’t, just move on.
He mentioned in his book how he managed information overload by completely quitting T.V and News.
Instead, once a week he would ask any of his friends if anything big had happened in the last week.
Even if you don’t go to that extent, here’s a simple exercise you can do to cut off unnecessary information from your life.
- Identify where you spend most of your time on the web and list them down on a piece of paper. Email, Facebook, Twitter, and random browsing are likely sources.
- Now look at each source and ask yourself if it is contributing to your goals in any way.
- Give an importance score (1-10, 1 being most important) to each information source.
- Eliminate anything that’s below 6.
- Now sort the remaining sources according to importance and allocate a time duration for each of them. For example, you could allocate 15 minutes to Facebook.
- Now instead of randomly accessing these information sources, schedule them at the end of your workday or distribute them into multiple slots. Make a conscious effort not to exceed any of the slots.
Limiting your information intake and taking control of your time is one of the most important steps towards achieving your goals and getting things done.
We’ve all heard of To-Do lists.
Every productive and goal-oriented person maintains them at some level.
But a simple change in the way you create to-do lists can make them much more effective and help you focus only the job at hand.
In his book Getting Things Done, a renowned author and productivity guru David Allen discusses the GTD system for creating to-do lists.
It’s a simple system that focuses on writing everything down and keeping your mind free. The GTD system has three parts,
A list of things you might need one day but don’t need immediately.
Current task list
A list of active tasks that need to be done.
Every task needs to be written as an action item which should give you a clear guideline on what’s next.
For example, instead of writing “Make my blog more secure”, write “Ask Jim about the best security plugins he has been using”.
The more precise your action item is, the better.
Try rephrasing everything on your to-do list in a way that leads you to the next action.
This small activity has a huge psychological impact.
Daily Task Folder
A folder for each of the next 31 days of the current month, plus 12 separate folders for the months to follow.
You can manage this whole system either on apps like Evernote or Google Keep (my personal favorite).
Every day you can pick up your current to-do list for the day and review the actions for that day.
If you think a task or a piece of information might be important, but not sure about it, send it to the archive list.
If you see an item that needs to be done later in the month or year, just move it to the relevant folder.
The remaining tasks on your list are current to-do tasks that have clearly defined action items.
Doing this activity every day for a few days will get the GTD system rolling for you, freeing up your mind from unnecessary clutter, and making it easier for you to focus on the tasks at hand.
You might not have heard the term “perfectionist syndrome” before, but you’re most likely suffering from it.
This is one of the biggest reasons why many people, despite knowing enough to start an online business never do so.
If you’re suffering from this syndrome, you procrastinate everything and wait for the perfect time (which never comes).
The origin of the perfectionist syndrome is fear.
Deep down inside, you fear failure. You fear embarrassment. You fear financial loss. You want assurances before starting something.
That’s not how business works.
And that is why the only cure to this syndrome is to actually start taking action.
And to make this easier for yourself, you need to follow the first six steps I’ve shared in this post.
Fear comes from uncertainty – when you don’t know what’s next.
And you can simply eliminate uncertainty (and fear) by planning.
But in order to plan, you need to have goals, which takes us all the way back to the second point in this post.
Sending emails, doing Twitter shoutouts, and commenting on blog posts and forum threads can feel like work.
But unless you’re actively closing a sale or implementing growth of some sort, it isn’t.
If you work with a support team, let them know in advance that you’ll only be checking your email once or twice a day.
So you don’t get sucked into chatting with them for 45 minutes.
You’ll both know that communication needs to be brief, so you’ll get to the point even faster.
And even if you don’t have a support team and you're building your site totally on your own, only allow yourself to do these types of activities once per day, and limit your time window surrounding them.
This forces you to get to the most important messages more quickly.
And discard the clutter that stops you from focusing on the most important things... like the things that will drive more affiliate sales.
If you’ve got a window of available time where you can work on your site every day or every other day, give yourself a hard stop time and STOP working when that time rolls around.
Stop working even if there’s still a few things on your to-do list.
It can be tempting to just keep working until you’re finished.
But if you stick to a hard stop, it trains your brain when it needs to be in a highly-productive working mode.
"Without structure," said Joel Runyon on Lifehack, "it’s easy to let non-essential things get in the way of actual work.
Because you haven’t designed exactly how you want to spend your time, it’s easy to let other people come in and steal 15 minutes here, and 30 minutes there."
But with a set routine, he says, "you don’t get the luxury of indulging people in things that distract you from your goals because you know exactly what you must do in order to get the end result that you desire."
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Ready to Use These Productivity Tips While Working From Home?
The productivity tips I’ve shared in this post have worked for me over the last few years and made me more efficient.
But now I want to hear it from you.
What productivity challenges do you face while working from home around your day job and other commitments?
How do you manage your limited time successfully?
Tell me more in the comments and let other NicheHacks readers help you.