Having worked from home full time for 3 years now I’ve self-taught myself a skillset to be the most productive I can possibly be, minimise distractions and get my task list done. Some of you face working from home for the first time during this time of uncertainty and whilst it can be daunting there are a few things that you can do to ensure that you make the most of it, teach yourself how to maximise your productivity without having to maximise your work hours and most importantly keep a routine.
Set a routine
If you already have a routine, great, you must try and keep that routine as best as possible. Whilst the first few days working from home may be exciting and you think that a lie-in is great, try and avoid this habit-forming. Stick to the alarm you usually get up to. As your commute is only within your house then you’ll have a little longer in the morning to carry out your regular morning routine.
Ask yourself is there anything you can add where your commute would be, for example, if you usually spend 30 minutes driving to work can you use that 30 minutes to give your dog an additional walk or complete a 30 minute home workout?
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Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you don’t show up. Sitting in your pyjamas (in my experience) has a slowing rate on productivity, whilst getting dressed increases productivity. You don’t have to be wearing full business dress, even a sweater and jogger for comfort are better, but try and avoid the clothes you put on when you return from work usually as this will subconsciously have an adverse effect on your productivity.
If you have to take a video conference meeting, you can just switch your top half to business dress for the entirety of the meetings for professionalism. But whatever you do, working from home doesn’t mean that as comfortable as they are, pyjamas will help productivity.
Create a to-do list
This is something you should do daily as you sit down to begin work. Setting a DMO (or daily method of operation) when working from home will reduce flitting from one task to another. If you work in a team using a group board like Trello is a great way to plan your day. If you’re able to work on your own schedule then we highly recommend the ‘eat that frog principle’ whereby you complete the most important tasks first and filter them down by importance.
Your DMO doesn’t have to just be work tasks. Schedule in your lunch and 2 breaks too, if your lunchtime usually at your workplace is an hour, try and skim that down to 30 minutes (you can finish your working day earlier). But it is essential you make break times for yourself where you get some fresh air or even practice 5 minutes of meditation breathing.
What I like to do is when planning my DMO is to set (realistic) completion times by the task so I know how long I have to complete the task in hand to increase my productivity. Setting yourself goals and time constraints have been proven to help with productivity, which if you have a set task list to complete daily projects you’ll feel compelled to complete them in the quickest time possible.
Remember work is not a place you go it’s an activity you do, therefore you want to be completing the maximum work in the minimum time period. If you can try and complete other smaller tasks on your list whilst your main task is busy uploading, sending or processing. Instead of sitting around waiting for a task to complete, use that waiting time to add to your productivity.
As your co-workers won’t be around this will limit one of the biggest distractions to your new ‘workplace’ despite missing the office banter this is a beneficial factor as you’ll not be distracted by them every few minutes meaning you’ll be able to power through your daily to-do list quicker, resulting in your finishing your workday quicker.
Turn your phone off completely if you can or if not turn it to silent. Put it face down and out of reach wherever possible. This will stop you from continually picking it up and checking it unnecessarily, meaning you’re wasting less time and getting more done.
Social media is another huge distraction, perhaps your workplace has social media sites blocked but now you work from home you can access social media whilst you work. Try and avoid getting stuck in a scrolling trap. You’ll end up down a YouTube rabbit hole 3 hours later and you’ll still have your work to complete. Avoid social media and other distracting sites until your ‘break’ times.
Check your emails less frequently
One way to really increase your productivity is to check your emails less frequently, where possible. Instead of having your emails open at all times set yourself perhaps half an hour in the morning and half an hour after lunch to check and respond to emails. This way if you’re inundated every few minutes with mail it’s not going to distract you from keeping within your to-do list’s timings. Do make sure you schedule checking emails into your DMO.
Listen to calming music
‘Hey, Alexa play ‘acoustic playlist’ or ‘Sunrise Yoga’’, a gentle playlist like either of these 2 playlists is perfect for background noise and for stimulating your brain to work better in a calming way. The sounds of the ocean or music you’d hear in a spa such as piano and harp music have been proven to calm you down and increase operational ability. Try listening to music with no lyrics as this will be less distracting than songs you know.
Schedule food times
What you don’t want to be doing is becoming a fridge raider. Working at home has many benefits, but undoubtedly the largest downfall is the accessibility to snacks. Limit yourself to the same diet habits you’d usually have in the workplace. 11 o’clock cuppa and biscuit, go ahead but don’t have 10 more biscuits throughout the day, and a cheese, coleslaw and ham sandwich, 3 packets of crisps and a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s, just because you can.
Not only will you gain weight but your food bill will triple and in this current climate, it’s not advised to eat yourself out of house and home!
Keep to your dedicated food times that you’ve set out in your DMO (but do drink plenty of water).
Make time for self-care
Working from home doesn’t mean you neglect yourself. Make sure you’re washing and keeping your self-cleaning routine as normal. If you regularly exercise, factor in this exercise. If you ‘don’t usually have time’ get yourself out for a brisk walk to get fresh air and get some steps in as even your commute to your usual workplace offers some air.
Usually, I have a switch-off period from about 3pm where my mind hits a wall and I can get nothing done. I use this time to practice self-care whether that be lying in the bath for half an hour or learning a new skill, it’s essential that you make time daily to look after yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup and you can’t keep working if you aren’t looking after yourself.
Figure out when you have a ‘switch off’ period and schedule in your DMO an hour of you time to relax, learn a new skill, enjoy a hobby or exercise.
If you’re feeling anxious about anything why not set aside 5 minutes to practice breathing (and strengthen your lungs) here’s a video that I found really useful.
The most important thing is when you’ve finished for the day, you need to switch off. Take your work laptop and put it away. Out of reach as otherwise, you’ll sit with it on your lap all evening and you won’t be present with the rest of the household. You’ll also push yourself to burn out and that is counterintuitive of our self-care daily routine.
Of course, we’re all different and some of these tips won’t work for you but the principle behind them can still be applied, create a daily schedule and look after yourself. If at any point you feel working from home is getting too much and you need any other help then do contact me on social media or via email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be more than happy just to have a chat about how to enjoy this phase of working remotely as best you can.
If you do work from home and you’ve got any other tips you think will help people do drop them in the comments below.
As always, if you’ve found this article useful and think anybody else working from home would find it of value I’d appreciate you sharing it with them.