Your alarm goes off, rudely jolting you awake and out of your peaceful slumber.
It’s way too early, and it’s a Saturday. But you have a pile of work to get done this morning, and once done, you can spend the afternoon with your family – work a distant memory.
So, you drag yourself out of bed and shuffle to get some coffee so you can get that caffeine kick you so desperately need.
And then you head to your home office.
The place of peace and quiet, the place where things get done.
Your fortress of solitude.
Only it’s not.
Because about an hour in, you’re pulled out of your productive mindset by a disturbance.
You sense all is not right in your fortress.
You quickly turn around and BAM, that’s when it hits you – a nerf football to the noggin.
And the chase is on, you finally catch the culprit in the living room, and laughter and games ensue.
Ok, it’s time to get back to work. But first, you stop to say good morning to your wife and chat a little.
And when you finally make it back into your office, you see you have two missed calls and five text messages.
You better respond to those before getting into it.
And before you know it, your morning is shot, and family time will have to wait until tomorrow.
Having an office in your home is excellent, but the distractions can severely limit your productivity.
If you let them.
Below are thirteen of the best productivity hacks and tools that I’ve come across. To help organize, eliminate distractions, and get through your to-do list like your life depends on it.
There are quite a few great hacks here, and most of them are ways to prevent or block distractions.
Distractions are frustrating, yes, but even worse, they are time killers, period. Not only do they distract you from the task at hand, but it takes 23 minutes to refocus after a distraction.
The definition of frustrating? Mark every distraction throughout your day today. And at the end of the day multiple it by 23.
Wake up Early
Everyone brings it up but waking up earlier than everyone else is still one of the best productivity hacks you can do.
When most are still struggling to get out of bed, you’ve already worked out, taken a class, and finished your proposal.
There’s just something so satisfying about that.
Have an early rising family? Set the alarm even earlier. You’ll be happy you did.
Set Your Office Hours
It can be hard, but the more you work from home (especially if you work primarily from home), the more you need to set office hours where you are off-limits.
Discuss it with your family and figure out the best approach. But you, and they, will happy you did. Because if you can focus, you’ll have a lot more time to spend with them.
Oops, Looks like You Forgot to Charge This Last Night
Well, I guess you can’t be glued to your phone this morning. It’s charging in the bedroom.
C’mon, aren’t phones the worst distractions? If you’re setting your office hours that are off-limits, shouldn’t your phone be the same?
Phones are a source of constant distraction, and you’ll get so much more done if you can turn the notifications off, or even put it in the other room.
Check it periodically, just like your email.
Just Say “No”
If you are trying to get things done, social media is strictly in the no-fly zone. Set certain times to view it if you must, but not when you’ve got work to do.
Start by turning off the notifications, and if you still struggle, try social media blocker apps for your phone and programs for your computer…
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is a game-changer.
It’s a time management technique in which you select a task, set a timer for 25 minutes, and focus only on that task. Then you take a short five-minute break. This is one Pomodoro.
After four Pomodoros, you can take a longer break of 15 minutes.
I use a simple app for this called Goodtime, but there are others as well.
Do the Hardest Thing First
We often put off the hardest thing until the last minute, and realize it or not, it’s on your mind all day, adding stress and overwhelm.
One of the best productivity hacks is to do the hardest thing first. Peel off the band-aid and go for it.
The rest of your day just got less stressful.
Treat it Like Digital Snail Mail
Don’t check your email first thing. It can be distracting and send you off along the wrong path. Focus on the most critical task right out of the gate. Get in a Pomodoro or four, then “walk to the mailbox.”
And don’t stop there. Turn the notifications off and check your emails at specific times of the day.
Just like text messages, the emails that pop throughout the day are a constant source of distraction.
Slow Down and Take a Walk
Slow your mind. Take a break and get outside, away from all the anxiety and mayhem.
Your brain needs a break too. Just ten minutes can help you relax and reset, getting you ready for the rest of the day.
Even better if you have one of those nagging problems that you just can’t solve. Often giving your brain a break can lead to an answer.
Have you ever been taking a shower, and you have an “Aha!” moment about something you’ve been working on for days or even weeks?
Yep – just like that.
Or Try to Meditate
Meditation may seem like it takes time, but it increases your productivity in the long run.
Just ten minutes daily of meditation can help you with patience, deep thinking, stress, and much more.
Calm and Headspace are two great apps to try, though they both require a monthly fee.
Or you could try Brain.fm (which is a great productivity tool anyway, which I discuss further down), they have some great meditation tracks.
All the apps and software out there now can be a handful, and often trying to get used to new tools can make the day — well, at the best, a wash.
But the tools below have been lifesavers for me. From helping with my to-do lists to forcing me to focus when I’ve needed it most.
Trello is my all-in-one productivity app.
Technically it’s a Kanban-based Project Management tool.
But I use it for everything, from project management to my daily to-do lists, to brainstorming lists.
Give it a try, there’s a free version that probably has everything you need. But if you want more, like me, you can try the paid version as well.
Oh, and it also has excellent business uses, like working with teams and built-in workflow automation, as well as connectivity with plenty of other business tools.
Brain.fm combines science with functional music and is all about helping you focus and avoid distractions. With different playlists curated to your specific goals, from creative focus or deep work to relaxation or meditation, this app has what you need.
I’ve been known to use it all day long. It has a minimal monthly fee, but well worth it in my experience.
And to get the most out of it…
Invest in Good Headphones
If you don’t already have quality headphones, now is the time.
Sitting alone in an office with my headphones on was strange at first.
But when I took them off, I was shocked at how much outside noise really did distract me.
Give it a try, you may feel the same.
Oh, and if you work in an office with others, then this is a must.
A friend recently turned me on to using binaural beats for focus.
A great way to drown out distractions while using science-based sound-waves to affect the brain in different ways, in this instance, to increase productivity.
(You can also select different sound-waves for meditative and relaxation states as well, but that’s a story for another post.)
Youtube is a great source, otherwise, there are apps as well. I prefer BrainAuram as it has background music with the binaural beats, but Atmosphere is worth looking into as well.
And Now, Enjoy Your Productive Morning
Frustrated by the distractions, you finally give up for the day.
You spend the rest of the day hanging out with your family, but you are stressed out because you still have so much to do.
Or you have to work mercilessly into the night to catch up.
I guess you’ll have to get up early on Sunday too, so much for sleeping in.
Life isn’t too much fun when you can’t escape the clutches of work.
Only it doesn’t have to be that way.
Next time you can get done with what you have to Saturday morning and enjoy a relaxing weekend with your family afterward. Stress-free.
Doesn’t that sound great?
Just pick some (or, if you’re like me, ALL) of the items from this list and implement them into your daily work habits.
And watch as your productivity increases and distractions become a thing of the past.