21 Productivity Tips to Get You Fired Up When You’re Having One of Those Days
One of the best things about working with WordPress is that no matter where you are in the world, all you need is (reliable) wifi to work with the platform. But it does come with a downside: working from home can be really distracting.
When you’ve got the TV on in the background, a hundred tabs open in your browser, a pile of clothes waiting to be folded and friends messaging you because you’re at home so obviously you’re not busy and have lots of free time to hang out (!), your home can quickly become the worst place to work.
As someone who works from home myself, I’ve struggled with distractions. Still, there are ways you can make your home conducive to actually getting stuff done.
Below you’ll find productivity tips that I have picked up and refined over the years to help me make working from home a pleasure rather than a pain. I hope they work for you, too, and inspire you to come up with other ways to be more productive.
Tip #1: Decide on Your Career Goal and Make a Plan
It’s hard being productive when you don’t know why you need to be productive, i.e. are you building your career as a freelancer? Or simply fixing websites to make a bit of cash on the side?
Take some time to work out what your work goal is – our WordPress Careers Masterclass series can help you with that – and put together a career plan.
Once you know why you’re working, you’ll have a sense of purpose and should be able to start putting your career plan in place.
For more details, check out the book The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.
Tip #2: Accept Work that Fits Your Goals
When you’re freelancing, it’s not uncommon to feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions when opportunities for work present themselves and you need to make tough decisions about which job you should say “yes” to and what to turn down.
It’s important for your productivity to pick the opportunities that best fit your career plan. Doing this will get you closer to achieving your goals and steer you away from projects that would otherwise be an unnecessary distraction.
Tip #3: Make Your Workspace a Delight
If your desk is cluttered and a looking a little sad, it’s not going to inspire you to do your best work.
Clean up and de-clutter your work area and decorate it in a way that makes you want to gravitate toward sitting at your desk. A few family photos, motivational artwork or fresh flowers goes a long way.
And if you don’t have a desk, get one! Having a dedicated space to work (and no, that doesn’t include your kitchen table) will help put you in the mind space that you’re at work, not at home, when you sit down and turn on your computer.
WordPress swag can also go some way to getting you motivated.
If you notice your desk getting cluttered time and time again, get to the bottom of why it’s getting cluttered. Are you failing to wash your coffee cups? Are you regularly posting sticky notes everywhere until your desk is swimming under a sea of paper? Take a moment to come up with come simple solutions to these problems, i.e. you could take your cups to the kitchen each time you get up to use the bathroom, or keep a notebook or use a note-taking app to reduce the amount of paper you use.
Tip #4: Separate Your Work from Your Home Life
One of the tips that has been hugely beneficial to me has been finding a way to separate the space where I work from the space where I relax. This is especially difficult at home or in an apartment, but it can make a big difference in your productivity levels.
If you don’t have an extra room you can use as your office, get creative and think of ways you can add a nook in your kitchen or separate your desk from the couch in your living room with a bookshelf or two.
Pinterest can be a great source of inspiration for finding creative office space solutions, even on a budget.
Tip #5: Manage Your Distractions
Identify what your biggest distractions are and find ways to eliminate or manage them. You can do this by keeping track of what you do every day for a week, then make note of each time you become distracted.
Try eliminating unnecessary distractions such as TV or social media. There are apps that can help you block the latter. Here are several for you to try:
- Self Control – Mac OS X
- StayFocused – Chrome
- Strict Workflow – Chrome
- Freedom.to – Windows, Mac and iOS
- Cold Turkey – Mac
Tip #6: Choose Your Scheduler Wisely
There are many apps out there to help you schedule and better manage your time. It can be all too easy to get bogged down by the sheer number of choices and features each option presents.
It can work for some people, but if you find you spend a lot of time searching for an elusive perfect solution or you otherwise can’t seem to find a solution that works for you, try using good old fashioned pen and paper.
Writing your projects and to-do lists down on physical paper can help cement the need to get those tasks done post haste, especially since it’s a lot more permanent and tangible than clicking a delete button in an app.
Tip #7: Set the Right Schedule for Yourself
When you work from home, it’s easy for time to become a blur as you begin working when it’s convenient or you start working long hours until a task or project is complete.
This rings true for many developers who fessed up to this in our post 12 Awkward and Embarrassing Confessions About Working From Home with WordPress.
As appealing it may be to leave behind the 9-5 work day, it can be incredibly helpful to create some kind of habit or schedule for yourself. The best kind of schedule is the one that is within the hours you are most productive.
For one week, keep track of your energy and productivity levels every day to determine the hours where you’re at your peak. Then, create your schedule around those times. You can check out How To Find Your Most Productive Hours as a guide.
Tip #8: Adjust Your Frame of Mind
It can be easy to lose focus once you look at a to-do list that’s a mile long, especially if it’s the first thing you do before you start work. The reminder can help make you feel small and incapable, rather than productive.
It can be helpful to keep a running list of everything that needs to be done but try writing a short-list of tasks in your daily schedule. Then, keep your unabridged version to one side or out of immediate view.
If you find you write notes to yourself that directly says or implies you didn’t finish some tasks, take them down or re-write them to read as a standard to-do list.
For example, I used to keep a running tally of how many posts I was behind on to help remind me to catch up. Once I stopped, I instantly became more productive.
Tip #9: Prioritize Tasks
Choose which tasks are more important, then prioritize them in your schedule. Put them above all others and work on them first.
Getting the most important work done early on in your work day can help liven your mood which can, in turn, boost your productivity.
Tip #10: Finish Your Least Desirable Task First
Mark Twain was once quoted giving a tip on productivity that may seem odd at first glance:
Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
His point? If you start work by completing the task you least want to finish, the rest of the day should be a lot easier and more productive.
Tip #11: Start Small
If you procrastinate and have difficulties starting, well, anything, try finishing one or two small tasks before tackling larger ones. It can help give you a quick dose of accomplishment and that can often be enough to propel you forward on other tasks.
Tip #12: Finish Less Critical Daily Tasks Last
If you get carried away with the above tip and find you don’t get important tasks done during your work day, try prioritizing smaller tasks. Tasks that are least crucial to your projects can be done last. It can also be helpful to also set a time limit for yourself.
For example, if your main source of income is web developing for clients, try to answer emails at the end of the day and allot yourself 30 minutes for the task.
Tip #13: Break up Large Projects
Instead of listing an entire project as one task on your to-do list, break it up into smaller, more manageable tasks. While the result would be a longer to-do list, you can cross off tasks faster giving you a greater sense of accomplishment to help push your forward.
You can take this one step forward and create micro tasks such as writing one line of code and one PHP function. It can act as a shortcut in times where you’re tempted to procrastinate.
Tip #14: Force Yourself
The most important action you can take to instantly increase your productivity is to force yourself to complete tasks.
Think of it this way: are you ever going to want to complete work you would rather not finish? Probably not. That’s why it’s important to put your thoughts to a halt when you decide you don’t want to work, then force yourself to start.
This tip also applies to waking up after your alarm goes off. Instead of pressing (or smashing!) the snooze button, tell your brain to stop being a sneaking snake and making excuses, decide you’re going to get up, then force yourself to do it.
Tip #15: You’re Fully Capable
Your productivity can plummet when you start feeling like you’re a fraud or that you’re less than capable. If this happens to you often, it can be helpful to write a list of all the times you proved you were capable as a reminder.
For details, check out How to Fake It as a Developer (and Kick Impostor Syndrome to the Curb for Good).
Tip #16: Wake up Earlier
Many studies including one published in the American Psychological Association journal found that people who woke up earlier were happier, which led to being more productive.
Unless you identify as a night owl, try waking up a bit earlier. You can also check out 12 Lessons of Waking Up at 4:30 a.m. for 21 Days and The 5 Productive Morning Routines Of Highly Effective People for inspiration.
Tip #17: Work Less Hours
In a post on Code Without Rules, it’s succinctly explained why working shorter hours in a day makes you vastly more productive:
Working while tired is counter-productive. It takes longer and longer to solve problems and you very quickly hit the point of diminishing returns. And working consistently for long hours is even worse for your mental focus, since you will quickly burn out.
Giving yourself a shorter work day can ensure you work when you feel refreshed and alert. It also provides a subtle, yet solid reminder not to procrastinate and get right down to work.
Tip #18: Check in with Your Progress Regularly
When you’re trying new ways to be productive, not all of them are going to work for you. It’s important to hold a regular appointment for yourself to reflect on your work day and decide what worked and what was a total flop.
That way, you can make necessary changes that keep you moving forward. If a daily check in is too frequent for you, try a weekly approach instead.
Tip #19: A Smoothie for Breakfast
Your doctor likely reminded you to eat your fruits and veggies regularly as a child, but sometimes that sound advice can take the back burner.
Eating, er drinking, a smoothie for breakfast in the morning is a quick way to give your brain the nutrition it needs to work at its peak, while also saving you time in your morning routine.
Tip #20: Take Proper Breaks
Another study conducted by Hiroshima University found that taking short breaks to look at pictures of kittens can help you relax and make you more productive.
When you get into the flow and start working with laser focus, it can be difficult to remember to take proper breaks. A Cornell University study reported higher productivity rates in workers who were reminded (and took) regular breaks.
If you have difficulties reminding yourself to take proper breaks, set an alarm on your phone or try the Pomodoro Technique.
Tip #21: Automate Tasks Where Possible
When you’re a freelancer, you’re a company of one and completing everything yourself can become cumbersome and a downright drain on your time and productivity. Automating tasks can be an effective way of reducing your workload and to help you be more productive.
Write down all the tasks you need to do for work and decide which ones directly make you money, then find methods or software you can use to delegate the tasks that indirectly add to your income.
You can check out 35 Time-Saving Productivity Apps for Busy WordPress People and 20 Free Chrome Extensions for WordPress You Need Now for details.
Being consistently productive can be a challenge, but these tips should help you get back on track and make the most of your work week. Give all of them a go, then pick and choose the ones that work best for you.