Many photographers work from the comfort of their homes. Whether it’s to edit and process photos and videos, create invoices, or update their website, a lot can be done while sitting in a home-office. I’m one of these photographers, and I thought it would be helpful to share some of the things I do regularly to keep myself productive while working from home.

Write lists

When I have a lot on my plate, even if it has nothing to do with work, it tends to clutter my mind. My reaction to this is to write out lists of all of the things that I need to accomplish to remove them from my brain and put them down some-place else. It’s also nice to have a visual of the things that I need to accomplish, and I find that I am MUCH more likely to get them done when I can see them listed out. Here are a few different methods I use to create lists:

  • Evernote. This is probably my biggest organizational tool for projects that I currently use. I list out my projects, and then list out every step/task/etc. that needs to be done to complete it.
  • Sticky notes. I use an iMac, and the area just below the screen is a great place to post sticky-notes on. I’ll write down tasks I’m working on for the day, or for the week, and then remove them and crumple them up when I completed that task or project.
  • White-boards. I currently have two whiteboards in my office: one big whiteboard with long-term and monthly tasks, and a second smaller “weekly” whiteboards, where I jot down the main things I want to do each day. Whiteboards have significantly helped me to streamline my work, and they also help me focus on one task at a time.

Focus on one task at a time

It’s unusual for me to only have one project that I am working on. As I write this, I have about two main projects, along with several smaller tasks that I would like to accomplish over the next few months. If I were to try and work on all of them at the same time then I would go nuts and something would suffer. So, instead, I group them into tasks and work on them individually. If I try and think about every single thing that I need to accomplish all at once, then anxiety and stress will overtake me and I will get nothing done. So instead, I look at everything based on deadlines and priority, and only work on one thing at a time. It keeps me sane.

Work away from home every so often

When I’m doing a lot of writing for a book, need to catch up on customer emails, or have some articles I would like to pump out, I find that leaving the house can be a very good thing. I will typically spend a few hours working at a local coffee shop and bring the laptop along, but I have also found that libraries are great places to work, too (they are a distraction-free, quiet, and they’re free!).

Another option is a coworking space, which is a shared workspace with other work-from-home types. I have tried one out here in Portland, but don’t really think they are for me. They can be a little pricey, depending on where you live, but if they help with productivity and you want to get out of the house regularly then it can be a worthy expense.

Take breaks (but not too many)

When it’s lunch-time, I typically cook my food and plop down in front of the TV to watch something while enjoying my meal. I probably spend 30 minutes on my “lunch break” before going back into my office. I try not to eat in front of the computer or at my desk, mostly because I want to take a mind-break from whatever I’m doing.

Create a distraction-free work environment

In my home, there’s not often a lot going on. I don’t have kids, so I won’t pretend to give advice on that, but I do have a husband that will sometimes work upstairs in his own office, and two dogs that are really good at giving me “guilty puppy-dog eyes”. And, I’m the type of person who likes to have little to no distractions when I’m in the middle of a project. Let’s just say that I don’t like it when people “pop in” on me when I’m doing something, which also includes text messages, phone calls, or anything that screams “look at me and give me attention!”.

To try and avoid this, I have a few things that I will do. Sometimes, if I’m in a really serious work-mood, I will disconnect the WiFi from my computer and silence my phone (I also flip it upside-down so I can’t see it light up). I will also shut and lock the door to my office and politely inform my husband that I need “alone work time.” Another option is to use headphones to block out distracting noises, and they also show people who might “pop in” that you are doing something and don’t want to be distracted.

Wear comfortable clothes

I’ve read other articles that talk about working from home, and they almost always say something like “shower first thing and dress like you’re going to work”. My response to that: Yeah, right. I’m not ashamed to say that I wear pajamas at home most of the time. I have no one to impress, no clients to meet with, and if I’m not leaving the house, why does it matter?

If dressing like you’re heading “to the office” works for you, then go for it! For me (and most other work-at-home people I know), comfortable clothes are my work clothes of choice.

Stop working!

When you’re home, it can be easy to work all day long. In fact, when my husband goes on short trips and I have the house to myself, my working hours usually increase by about 50%. This is why I do my best to stop working altogether in the evening. I also try to keep myself from “working while playing”, meaning I won’t do any serious work on my laptop while relaxing at the end of the day. Or brains need to rest and take a break, and if you never put the laptop/phone/tablet down then you’ll burn yourself out!