Living tiny but still need to work? Tiny house living might give you the kind of freedom and adventure you would’ve never experienced with a normal home, but one thing you can’t shake off is your work and responsibilities, whether that means writing the Great American Novel or continuing your online business.
But how exactly do you stay productive while living tiny? The most important part is setting up your home office and respecting your designated work environment.
With cramped spaces, multi-functional furniture, and family and pets running around you, being productive and maintaining the right work-life balance in a tiny house can be a challenge that many tiny house owners aren’t ready to tackle.
Why Being Productive in a Tiny House Can Be a Challenge
Productivity is a challenge wherever you might be – a home office, a cubicle, a school library, or anywhere else. But tiny houses present their own unique challenges that you might not experience anywhere else.
And like all other parts of your life, preparing for the transition from the “normal way” to the “tiny house way” is necessary to ensure that you don’t lose step as you start your tiny house lifestyle.
So what exactly makes living in a tiny house difficult or at least different for your productivity? The main issue, of course, is the space.
Unless you’re a computer, the transition from working in a wide and spacious work environment to working in a cramped tiny house space with areas meant for three or four other activities – such as a kitchen counter – can be pretty bumpy. This lack of space in tiny houses is the source for a couple of distractions and problems you might face, but there are definitely others.
Here are some of the distractions and issues you need to think about when trying to maximize productivity in a tiny house:
- Cramped quarters, whether in the loft or the living room
- Your family and pets in your “work zone”
- Your chosen work area being used for a number of other activities (particularly if it’s the living room)
- The lure of the outdoors
- The distractions of being in such close proximity with a number of items and gadgets
And more. Remember – maximizing your productivity is something you have to re-learn in every new space, and tiny houses are no exception. If you expect to start working like you’ve always done immediately upon moving into your tiny home, you’re in for a rough wake-up call.
Thankfully, with some preparation and tips, you can make that transition as smooth as possible and you’ll find yourself back up to your peak productivity in no time.
First Thing’s First: Your Dedicated Office Space
Unless you’re living off savings or passive income, you most likely will need a dedicated office space for your daily work needs. Let’s begin with addressing a few questionable expectations:
|You don’t need a dedicated office space – you just need a place to sit with your laptop, like your couch or the dining table.||This will never work as a long-term solution. You will have trouble developing and maintaining adequate work habits without a dedicated work space.|
|You need another complete space if you want a work space, which is impossible in a tiny home.||Not at all. While it can help to have another full space, you can also just slightly adjust a current space and turn it into a work environment.|
|I can use the outside area as my work environment.||While this can seem like a good idea at first, it’s not something you want to rely on in the long-term. Outside won’t always be an option (bad weather or during travel), and you will want a permanent solution indoors.|
So how exactly do you design an office in a tiny house? We go into an in-depth discussion on the topic in an earlier article (6 Ways to Incorporate a Tiny Office In Under 500 Square Feet) which you should check out, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that your work space must be its own unique space.
Productivity is all about convincing the mind to be productive, and a huge part of that is giving yourself an environment that is meant for work and only work. But this doesn’t mean you need to have a separate space meant for work – it simply means you need a unique environment that can help put you in the zone.
For example, in one tiny home built by Wind River Tiny Homes, the corridor is used as a home office, as it has tons of surface storage space for notebooks, computers, and papers.
All it took to turn this area into a work space was installing a nice slab of wood across the wall, as well as a bench to go underneath it. A single installation transformed this corridor into a workstation. With a simple hinge, you could pull the work station down to the wall and have your corridor space freed up again if necessary.
In this second example, we see an office space that is really just a chair and a shelf that hangs above the kitchen. This makes the office space something that barely takes up any extra space, and won’t typically be disturbed by other people.
What are the elements you need to turn a space into a working space? For most typical work – work done with paper or on a laptop, you would need the following:
- A comfortable chair: Don’t kid yourself with those articles that say standing is more productive than sitting. While standing can help your productivity over a short period of time, sitting is the only way you can get through several hours of work in one piece. And comfort is a must – you aren’t Superman, and even Superman would be exhausted after one hour or two on a stool.
- A blank wall or window: You need something immediately in front of your space to let your eyes wander without getting too distracted whenever you pause to think. A window can be great for this – just enough of a view to ease your mind, but not enough to take it away from your work. If you can’t work in front of a window, then make sure the wall in front of you is cleared and not cluttered with items.
- A table space: While it doesn’t necessarily have to be a table, it needs to be a physical board you can place your notes, computer, and arms on. Productivity means staying in it for the long haul, and working on your lap is not something you can sustain for several hours every day of the week.
- A separation: Your space must be at least partly separated from the rest of the home. This can be difficult to manage in a tiny home, but one way to do this is to make sure your space is set up at the end of your home, either the front or the back. This ensures that you won’t have people passing through every five seconds, pulling you away from what you have to do.
Tiny House Office Design: Dos and Don’ts
4 Productivity Killers to Look Out for and Their Easy Solutions
We know that a dedicated office space isn’t always possible or doable in all tiny homes. Whether or not you can successfully establish an office area in your home, here are 5 productivity killers you need to look out for while working in your tiny house, and the easy ways you can solve them:
1) Working Where You Sleep
Working where you sleep can be very tempting and very easy. Just roll out of bed, pull up your laptop, and start typing away with your head on your pillow or your laptop on your chest. The problem with this is that it blurs the line between rest and work, which can be dangerous and limiting for you over time.
You start training your brain to think of your loft as both a place of rest and a place of work. Before you know it, lying down to sleep after a long day will just wake up your work brain; or even worse, pulling out your laptop and lying in your loft can just end up with you passing out. Either way, you lose sleep and you lose productivity.
The Easy Solution:
If your loft is the best place for you to work in private in your home, then make sure that you change the environment enough that your brain understands the difference between “sleeping loft” and “working loft”.
Make up the bed and clear up the sheets. Install a small shelf beside your mattress where you can set your laptop, and sit on a small pillow on your mattress rather than lying on the back or belly. Listen to music that is specifically designated for work, something to help keep you in the zone. The goal is to teach your brain that there are two versions of your sleeping area, not just one.
2) Working Whenever You Want
If you’ve worked from your home before, then you know what this is all about. While going to work and spending your whole day at a business or in an office can be grueling and tough, working from home presents its own challenges, one of which is managing your own time.
When you work from home, it is up to you to create and maintain your own discipline and proper work habits. It can be so easy to fall into a routine of just doing work whenever you find the time. But work is work – it’s tough, challenging, and requires all your attention. Your brain has to know when to prepare for work, instead of treating work like it’s something you can do whenever.
The Easy Solution:
Give yourself a schedule like you would have at any regular job. Your work hours that you have to follow, barring only the most serious circumstances. Our tip? Your work should be the first thing you accomplish every day.
Not only does it allow you to get the hard part of the day dealt with before you have to think about anything else, but it also means you get a few hours to yourself without worrying about the rest of the family disturbing your rhythm.
Living in a tiny house with your family is several times more challenging than living in a tiny house alone (although also so much more fun and rewarding), and one of those challenges is juggling work with tiny house living and raising your family.
Working from (a tiny) home while having little people running around entertaining themselves is like Bring Your Kid to Work Day, every single day. How do you get anything done?
The Easy Solution:
Make it clear to your kids that work is work. While the previous point is about learning how to instill discipline and respect for your working habits in yourself, this point is about teaching those values to your children.
Make it clear to them that your designated work hours are “No Bothering” times, which makes the importance of setting up consistent work hours doubly important. Another tip: invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones to drown out all other people noises.
4) Too Much Preparation
The more obstacles you put between not doing your work and doing your work, the more your mind will procrastinate from actually getting your work done. And the problem when it comes to being productive while living tiny is that we often incorporate too much moving, adjusting, and setting up when designing our spaces.
If you have to adjust a dozen or two dozen things to clear up your workspace, then you will eventually convince yourself just not to use your workspace at all.
The Easy Solution:
When it comes to your home office, keep it simple. If you have to do different things with the space, try to make those different things as minimal as possible. Remember – respect your workspace to maximize your productivity.
Staying Productive, Living Tiny
The tiny house movement has helped countless people find a new way to live, and living means doing everything you would normally do, such as every day work.
Finding the best ways to incorporate your daily routine in your tiny home will keep you happy and satisfied in your tiny home for years to come.
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.