1. Exercise Daily
I’m no advocate of this, but in order for it to work effectively, you need to treat your body correctly. You might think that since you spend a lot of the day sitting in front of your computer, your physical health is not all that important, but that’s just not the case. In fact, because your job is often so sedentary, you need to exercise more than people with active jobs.
As a bare minimum, you need 30 minutes of exercise a day, but you will feel most productive and energized by exercising several times a day, preferably before each meal, even for 10 minutes at a time.
2. Get the Right Amount of Sleep
One of the greatest challenges of being self-employed is maintaining a healthy work and sleep schedule. Experts say we should get between 7 and 9 hours sleep a day, but if you’re working until the last minute of the day, it’s hard to switch off and fall asleep. The best thing you can do here is not work from your bed.
Turn the computer off at least 1 hour before bedtime and let yourself decompress fully. Avoid the television, but instead try reading a book, taking a walk, or chatting with family or friends to help you relax.
3. Eat Well
Your diet is of utmost importance and especially if you work from home, it can mean finding yourself grazing throughout the day. Structure your diet just like you structure your day, fitting in 3 meals and 2 snacks. Be sure to buy lots of healthy food, and remove the temptation of junk food in the house.
4. Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
The age-old stereotype of writers and other freelance professionals living off coffee may be true, but it’s not a great habit to get into. Caffeine results in us having less energy and feeling more tired. Not to mention all the other bad side effects of caffeine. If you can’t give it up altogether, limit yourself to one cup of coffee each morning and then switch to water or green tea.
5. Make and Maintain a Simple To-Do List
One of the most important tools for increasing productivity is your to-do list. Make your list the night before, so you’re ready to go and have your daily goals clear in your mind the next morning, but keep it short and simple and be realistic about what you can achieve.
Be sure to refer back to the list throughout the day and at the end of the day. Anything that’s not completed should move on to the following day’s list. Write the list by hand, ideally, and if you have a whiteboard, write your list there.
6. Prioritize Your Tasks
When making your to-do list, place the tasks in order of importance. This will ensure that if you don’t have time for any of the tasks, it will be the less important tasks that get passed on to the next day.
7. Time Each Task
Procrastination is your worst enemy. Picture this: You make a list of 10 tasks that you think you can complete in one day. At the end of the day, you’ve only completed 5 of them. What happened? You were distracted, most likely without even realizing it.
Try setting a time objective for each task on the list. Then, as you begin each task, start a stopwatch and be sure to complete it within the allotted time. You will find this added “pressure” helps increase your productivity dramatically.
8. Set Long-Term Goals
Your goals should be set for a variety of timelines (weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually) and they should all be linked together. Everything that you do should be leading up to, and contributing towards the annual goal. When you make your action plan, step away from the computer and other distractions.
Perhaps go down to the beach or wherever helps you think clearly. Once you have made your action plan, refer back to it regularly. Stick it on the wall. Update it as you achieve things and as you think of more goals.
9. “Am I Being Productive?”
Return regularly to the questions “Am I being productive?” and “How is this task going to make me develop as a professional?” These two questions will help you to be productive and stay on track with your goals and not get carried away with useless tasks that contribute little to your long-term plans.
10. Remove Distractions
People’s homes have always been filled with distractions and it takes a certain type of person to be able to work from home productively. With the advent of the internet, these distractions have multiplied. Phones, instant messenger, email, web surfing and Facebook, can all be distracting if misused and can crush your productivity levels.
Where possible, turn these distractions off or work in an environment where these machines are absent.