When WFH became the norm, I collected and applied many tips and tricks to improve my productivity and enjoyability while working in my home office. So in this article, I will share 23 of the best tips and tricks I’ve gathered to improve home office productivity and enjoyability.
The first tip I will share is about locking up distractions. And yes, I do mean locking them up literally.
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1. Lock up distractions
There was a period of time when I was hopelessly procrastinating on everything that I needed to do. Nothing that I did to try and stop procrastination seemed to work. I kept thinking of a solution and it eventually led to this.
I bought a box that had a latch, placed whatever that was distracting me from my main thing into the box, and worked away.
A distraction can mean anything that distracts me from doing what I need to be doing – books, mobile phones, tablets, etc, can all be potential distractions that I will need to lock in my distraction box.
The idea behind this tip is to significantly increase the barrier between me and my addictive distractions. As an added barrier, once I put my items into the box, I place the keys to the padlock far away from my room.
Using this method to improve my productivity when I worked in my home office, I found it more effective if I planned ahead with my time when I wanted to work because putting my distractions into a box takes intentional effort.
If I did not plan ahead, then I wouldn’t use my distraction box and wouldn’t reap the benefits of removing distractions while I worked.
2. Take regular breaks
As I am working, whenever I momentarily pause to take breaks, I sometimes ask myself the question – “on a scale of 1 – 10, what is my energy level”
If my energy level is low, I go and take a break to reset my mind.
A common mistake that I make when I take regular breaks is that I tend to use the time to browse social media / do online window shopping. When that happens, I find that my 5 minutes break can quickly turn into hours of time wasted.
To prevent me from turning a break into a waste of time, I set alarms as I am working to remind myself to check in on my energy level. Setting an alarm also keeps taking breaks more intentional.
Activities that I’ve found can help give me a quick refresh of energy include mindful breathing, reading a book, watching an inspirational video or any activity that makes me focus instead of spreading my attention too thin.
3. Work without breaks
There are also times when I’m working, I feel myself getting into a state of flow where what I need to get done is just seems to flow out effortlessly.
It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I forgo my breaks and just keep on working while being mindful that any distraction I choose to engage in can break me away from this state of flow.
4. Keep work desk tidy
I realised that if my work desk is messy, my state of mind tends to follow as well.
To prevent this from happening, I dedicate a specific space for each of my items in my home office.
I then make sure that I constantly keep my work desk tidy by keeping to the mise en place principle that chefs adhere which basically means that I am constantly putting everything back where I’ve previously decided it should be.
5. Stand up every hour
To prevent aches in my body, I try to stand for at least 1 minute every hour.
Regular standing like this is important to help me maintain my productivity as I work as aches/numbness in my body can prevent me from working as effectively as I want to.
Standing is also good body maintenance to prevent chronic problems from occurring as it improves blood circulation.
6. Keep the temperature comfortable
I’ve found it difficult to focus when I’m working in my home office if the temperature in my room is too hot/cold.
Usually, the problem I face is that the temperature gets too hot to work comfortably. To solve this, I have an air conditioner, a standing fan and a table fan.
If you live in a tropical country like me, you may want to consider getting a table fan for the fans to share the heavy workload of cooling you especially throughout this extended period of WFH. I’ve worked my table fan so hard that its motor burned.
7. Get an ergonomic chair
This time when I decided to revamp my home office, I decided to get a more expensive ergonomic chair because the office chair is where I will spend the most time – if you’re curious about which chair I got, I wrote an article about this.
Because the chair is relatively comfortable and “cool” I look forward to sitting on it and spending time in my home office. This indirectly contributes to my productivity in my home office.
8. Use a second monitor
I prefer having a second screen while working on whatever it is that I am working on because it helps me focus as I don’t need to keep switching between windows.
I can refer to a research reference on 1 screen and write my assignment on the other screen – it just makes every task, even those mundane ones quicker and more bearable to get through.
9. Use a multi device keyboard/mouse
Since I am working with 2 laptops, having a multi-device keyboard/mouse allows me to switch from using 1 laptop to another with ease.
In the past, before getting a multi-device keyboard and mouse, I used to have 2 wireless mice that I would have to switch back and forth with, and I would only use the keyboard on the laptop.
With the multi-device keyboard and mouse now, much time and frustration are saved as switching between my laptops is no longer a painful process.
A multi-device keyboard and mouse is definitely something good to get if you work with multiple laptops as well.
If you’re interested, the multi-device keyboard/mouse that I use is the Logitech K780 (affiliate link) and the Logitech MX Master 2S (affiliate link).
10. Use timer apps
I use timer apps to give me a sense of urgency, in particular, the Forest app – such timer apps helps a lot with my productivity in the home office. Because I am able to get more done, I enjoy the time spent in my home office more.
It doesn’t need to be a timer app though, a physical kitchen timer would work too. Because for some, they might find using an app too distracting as they would have to use their phones.
11. Use a vertical laptop holder
A vertical laptop holder such as this (affiliate link) helps me to set up a “home” for my laptops and find them easily. It is inexpensive and something you could seriously consider if your work demands that you work with multiple laptops.
12. Demarcate space
In my continual attempts at trying to make my work space more productive, I’ve found that if my space is clearly demarcated, it makes me feel organised and I can get things done faster.
One way I’ve done so is by getting a vertical laptop holder – it clearly demarcates that particular space for the placing of my laptops and allows me to get to them quickly.
Another product you can consider getting to demarcate space in your home office is with a desk pad (affiliate link). For me, I place my keyboard and mouse on the desk pad and it defines the main working area in my home office.
It also allows me to quickly move my keyboard and mouse away so that I can convert my work desk into a reading area if I want to.
One product that you can consider getting to demarcate space in your home office is a desk pad.
13. Consider a humidifier
I have a humidifier in my home office. Although I wouldn’t say that it is an essential home office item, using it with essential oils has made my work space smell fresh, creating a more enjoyable work environment.
14. Do things ergonomically
I put in the effort to do things ergonomically, but I know that I will not reap the benefits of it while I am young. Hopefully, doing things this way helps me to not experience any chronic pain in the future, and thus, helps to extend my years of productivity.
The best thing about this tip is that it doesn’t cost any money and anyone can apply it right away.
There are 2 ergonomic rules that I try to follow:
- Making sure that the top of my screens are at about my eye level.
- Ensuring that my seating posture is upright, with my arms at about 90 degrees and my feet pointed firmly on the ground.
15. Play some music
Just to make my work more fun, I sometimes play music while working.
I have found that instrumental music works better at improving my focus. That said,
16. Ensure adequate lighting
I keep my home office in a space where there is adequate natural lighting so that I can work solely with natural lighting in the day as this helps to increase my focus.
I also make sure that I have task lighting (basically table lamps) so that I can work in the night when needed.
17. Close the door
In my home office, if I open my door, I find that my family members sometimes barges in. This disrupts my focus.
Learning from my lesson, I now close my door and communicate to them that I am unavailable if my door is closed.
This has helped me to better be able to work without disruptions at home.
18. Display your availability
If you have too many people living with you in your household, or if closing your door and just communicating with your household members doesn’t work, then you could consider displaying your availability on your door with a do not disturb sign.
I found these do not disturb signs (affiliate link) on Amazon and they are pretty neat – I think I will be getting them soon.
19. Work 1 thing at a time
Working on 1 thing at at time is especially important if I am working at home, where distractions are every where.
I have a task system that helps me keep track of what I am working on now. Based on that system, at any one point I should only be working on 1 thing at a time.
While my system doesn’t always work, when it works, it really helps me to be productive.
Here’s something simple that could help you keep to a task at a time – keep a notepad and pen at all times on your work desk. At any point, if you feel that you are starting to multitask / get distracted, write down the 1 task that you want to be focused on.
20. Factor in cable management
Just as a messy table has an indirect relationship to a messy mind, I think that messy cables also has an indirect influence on my state of mind.
To keep the cables in my work office (and my mind) tidy. I use velcro strips (affiliate link) to tidy up my cables – they are inexpensive and can be reused.
21. Keep inspired
In front of my home office work desk is a wall and on the wall is a corkboard. On this corkboard, I pin things that keep me going.
While the things and people and keep me going has changed over the years, when I put in front of me always keeps me inspired.
Here are some things you can consider putting in a visible space in your home office – photos of significant ones, quotes, art, notes from loved ones, etc.
22. Keep floors clean
When I keep the floors in my home office clean, it makes me enjoy being in my home office more.
During extremely busy periods where I do not have time to keep my floors as clean as I want to, I feel a general sense of ickyness and discomfort.
It doesn’t need to be a heavy commitment too, for my home office, I clean my floors about once a week by sweeping and mopping and have found that this frequency is enough.
23. Get a robot vacuum/mop
I recently got a robot vacuum/mop for myself and have found that it does clean my floors quite well.
If you really do not have enough time to keep the floors in your home office clean, that you could consider getting a robot vacuum/mop.
While it works well, there are some areas that the robot cannot reach so I will still be doing some vacuuming or mopping at those hard to reach places every once a month.