Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

3 Tips to Guarantee Your Work-From-Home Days Are Actually Productive

From small startups to large corporations, the option to occasionally work from home is becoming an increasingly popular benefit. In fact, I’m willing to bet that a good number of you have already made use of this perk. As with anything, though, working remotely is only as productive as you make it.

While you might not be constantly pulled aside for on-the-fly conversations and last-minute requests, you might find it hard to sit down and actually make things happen when you have instant access to your bed, TV, and countless other distractions. But this can be exactly what you need to help you plow through your to-do list, lighten your workload, and recharge your energy—as long as you’re strategic about it.

Want to learn what you can do to turn your non-office days days into major wins? Check out the tips below.

1. Set Up Your Sanctuary, Wherever That Might Be

Most offices are designed with productivity in mind—your living room, not especially. If you want to make big things happen, you need to make sure you’re in a setting that encourages you to do so. A lot of people recommend setting up a formal workspace in an isolated room (or even getting decked out in business-casual attire while you’re at it), but I think it’s all about creating a happy space for yourself.

As long as you choose somewhere that’s relatively quiet and free from interruptions (no roommates, significant others, or pets to get in your way), you should work wherever you feel most comfortable, whether that’s in a home office, your bed, or even outside on your front porch. Before determining your space, however, take a good, objective look at yourself and your work style. If you’re liable to doze off taking up residence with your computer on your bed, it might not be the best place for you to tackle tasks.

Other environmental hacks that might be worth taking into consideration as you create your sanctuary: surrounding yourself in natural light to decrease stress, adding a few small plants to your workplace to promote creativity, listening to music to improve your mood, and, interestingly enough, working in a room with high ceilings to enhance abstract thinking and increase your attention to detail. You may only be able to do one or two of these hacks, but take advantage of what you can while you’re not stuck in the office.

2. Build a WFH-Optimized Agenda

I’m a big believer in agendas regardless of location, but when you’re working from home, they’re particularly important. Without a manager to check in on you or hardworking co-workers to inevitably create an environment of productivity, you alone need to hold yourself accountable—and there’s no better way to do that than by creating (and following) a solid plan.

The first step to devising a tailored agenda is choosing the right tasks. Working from home offers you an amazing opportunity to stay focused for long periods of time without distraction, which is perfect for intensive, independent projects like blog posts, proposals, and presentations, or anything else that involves a lot of careful thought and creativity.

Even if the deadline for a project like that isn’t imminently looming over your head, it’s worth getting a head start—you rarely get this much uninterrupted time to work, so save the routine maintenance for when you’re back in the office. Once you have your to-dos outlined, work them into a realistic schedule.

3. Go Incognito

If frequent deskside asks at the office are simply replaced with an endless parade of emails at home, you probably won’t benefit much from the privacy you get when you’re not present in the office. Setting some boundaries with co-workers about when and how they can reach you while you’re remote can have a big impact in how much of your to-do list you’re able to tackle.

Start your day off with a polite note to anyone you work with regularly saying that you’ll be working heads-down on a few projects from home, but they can feel free to chat you for urgent matters. You might even want to list some “open hours” when you’ll be most available in case your teammates need to reach out with something that’s not urgent, but which still requires your feedback.

Make sure to update your calendar so anyone curious about your availability can be kept in the loop, and turn off your email, log out of messaging apps, and silence your phone so you aren’t bombarded with notifications throughout the day. There’s rarely anything so urgent that you can’t wait to address it until after you’ve reached a good stopping point.

It’s easy to place the blame on the folks who seem to constantly demand your attention for sucking up your time, but for the most part, people will only bug you as much as you let them. However, it bears noting that you should check in with your boss before you go MIA, lest he or she think your request is actually a disguise for a day off!

The frequency with which great workplaces provide flexibility is increasing, but it’s up to you to use that powerful perk for good. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to make your work-from-home days just as productive as your time spent at the office (or maybe even more so). And, as an added bonus, you’ll perhaps even bring the self-discipline skills you gain from working independently back with you to the workplace, making your in-office time more productive too.

Photo of woman working from home courtesy of PeopleImages/Getty Images.