Sometime in February 2017, I moved my office to the house and started working from home. And just like me, many people are starting to work from home these days. In fact, according to this report by the Bureau of Labour Statistics, 24 percent of employed people did some or all of their work from home.

Although I enjoy the flexibility and the freedom it provides, I have had to worry about how effectively I manage my time. This is mainly because I don’t have a supervisor monitoring what I do on an hourly basis.

If you are working from home, you will understand how challenging it can feel at times to manage your time effectively so as to increase your productivity. Below are eight points that can help you do that.

1. Prepare your to-do list every night before you sleep

If you really want to manage your time effectively, then you should wake up with tasks on your mind. And the best way to do this is to make a list of the next day’s tasks at night before you go to bed. That way, you can maximise your morning hours and achieve a lot more before the rest of the world get to work.

2. Prioritise your tasks

It is not enough to prepare a to-do list, you need to prioritise your goals. Divide your tasks according to what you must do, what you should do, what you want to do just because it’s nice, what another person can do for you, and what must not be done.

For instance, meeting your client’s deadline is what you must do. Updating a plug-in on your blog is something you should do. Leaving a comment on a valuable post you read online is nice. Picking up your laundry can be done by the dry-cleaning company. And watching the movie your friend talked about the previous night is what must not be done at work.

The secret is to never do what you should do until you have done what you must do. And to never do any nice thing until all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ are completed.

Also read: 5 habits for a productive startup team

3. Work out a schedule, and maintain it

I can’t count the number of times I have heard people tell me something like, “You are your own boss, Toby. That means you control WHEN you work.”

Don’t allow statements like that to get to you. You must create a schedule and stick to it.

Assuming you had to go to work, what would your schedule look like? Duplicate it for the house. If you decide to work from 7 am to 4 pm, so be it. Make the people you live with understand it. This means that there will be no running of errands around that time, neither would you decide to hang out with a friend that just came into town.

4. Define and own your workspace

A few weeks ago, I hired someone to redesign my office. I told him I wanted to have an ‘office feeling’ whenever I entered that particular room, and he did it. After that, I noticed that I work faster when I get into the office and focus on a particular task.

You should do likewise. This will help you more if you live with a someone. In that case, let them know that unless it is very important, your office is where you work and there should be no distractions.

5. Work when you are the most productive

We are all different. I am not a night person, for instance, so asking me to perform a task at night will be met with a lot of procrastination. Even if I decide to do it I will waste a lot of time on it, as I would be feeling very lazy. Give me that task by 3 am, however, and the story will be different.

Although you work at home, you need to find out when you are the most productive. The secret is to schedule your most important tasks at that period. That way, you will accomplish more in less time.

Also read: Can you have a productive morning if you are a night person?

6. Cut off distractions

Social media is particularly tempting if you work at home. Have you ever told yourself that you would check your social media page for just ten minutes, only to find out later that two hours have elapsed? Me too.

As I write this, my internet data is completely switched off, so I don’t get to be notified of anything, neither can I do anything on YouTube.

Cut off every distraction. This could entail telling your family, or the people you live with not to disturb you when you are at work. Make them understand your schedule.

7. Avoid clutter

This may look inconsequential but it matters. Personally, I make sure that the only thing on my work desk per time is the thing I am working on at that moment. And when I am done, I put away my laptop, and clear my desk, leaving only my calendar and my sticky notes. Also, the only things in my office are my workstation and my bookshelf. This helps me focus and avoid distractions. You should do the same. Don’t allow your workspace to be cluttered. This includes arranging your system files and folders and managing your email better too.

8. Take brain breaks regularly

You must try to avoid having burnouts at all costs. This is especially important if your job requires creativity. Work at a stretch for some time, but make sure to schedule breaks into your plan. This is the time you get to rejuvenate, listen to music, call a friend, or maybe just read a novel.

When you do this, you will come back rejuvenated and ready to take on more tasks.

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