1. Have a designated space, but make sure that space is right for your task.
One of the bedrooms in my house has been made into my office. It's got everything I need for work; a nice big desk, lots of lighting, candles, bookshelf, computer etc. I love it but sometimes it's not the right space for me to be working in. Sometimes I would find myself sitting for hours but achieving nothing. This made me realise that some tasks are better achieved curled up in my reading chair or on the dining room table with a laptop.
When I have uni lectures to watch, I prefer to sit somewhere comfy like the couch. A desk isn't needed as all I'm doing is listening and watching, but I find if I attempt to sit in my office, I get distracted by other work. It's too easy to press pause on a lecture when you study by correspondence.
2. Plan your time
If you know me at all, you will know that I am a big advocate for the physical paper diary. My busy life gets mapped out on the page and I can be sure of what needs doing and what needs to take priority. Now a paper diary might not be right for you, but there a lots of options of electronic organisation using a phone, tablet or computer. Find one that works for you. Use colour, It helps! I'm also a fan of post-it-notes and have a selection in my desk drawer.
It's important to schedule your time. Make a list of the jobs you need to complete, then prioritise them. I'm a big fan of doing the most important thing first, that way when you get to the end of your day you can be sure that you completed at least one important thing. This can still be used even if you only have an hour to spare for work.
When you're working for an extended period, don't forget to plan in some breaks, which leads us to our next tip...
3. Take time for breaks
If you don't set yourself break time you will end up less productive. It took me quite a while to realise that sitting at my desk for 4 or 5 hours would not let me get 4 or 5 hours of work done. If I didn't plan breaks, I didn't take them. I would get about 3 hours in then find myself getting distracted. I'd click over to facebook or would move on to less important tasks to fight the boredom.
On a day when I'm working from home I will allow myself a couple of hours work in the morning and plan a break around 10:30 to stop and walk away from the work. I have some tea or play with the dog for a little while then head back to my office with a fresh mind. I do the same at lunch time and in the afternoon. The fresh mind makes for a much more productive session. Even if you're only working for 2 hours, a break in the middle to stretch your legs and refresh your mind works wonders!
4. Keep your work area tidy and surround yourself with the things you need
This rule matters to me a lot. Clutter makes me fidgety so I like to have a clean desk before starting whatever work I have to do. If I've been lazy the evening before and not tidied up after myself, I make sure I tidy before sitting down to work. Keep all your necessary things close by so you don't have to get up and wander around, and set your area up ready for your task.
For me, this means my desk is clear of clutter and has whatever task out that I'm planning to tackle. My work mobile is on my desk, along with my diary, which is usually open at the week we are on. A pretty candle is burning, my tea and water are both on my desk and I have pens, highlighters and post-it-notes within reach. I also need lip balm and hand cream (both are kept on my desk).
After a task is finished. I like to clean up before moving to the next one as it usually involves different paperwork or books.
5. If you're hungry. STOP AND EAT!
When I'm hungry, all I can think about is how hungry I am. This is not a productive mindset to be in, tasks drag on, I find myself staring out the window and my mind just wont focus on the work at hand. If you get to this stage, give yourself permission to stop. Step away from your desk and grab a quick bite, then when you return you'll be refueled and you can completely focus on the job at hand!
What do you do to make working from home more productive?