Working from home comes with a lot of obvious advantages: no commutes, no dress code, the perfectly stocked pantry. I’m sure you can come up with your own favorites.
But under that glossy veneer, there exist several less obvious challenges that don’t occur to us until we’ve been working from home for some time.
One of the most surprising challenges when working from home is staying productive. Sure, when you’re home, your boss and colleagues can’t as easily butt in and knock you out of your groove. But home comes with its own set of distractions.
Netflix a tap away, no one is there to judge us about being on our phone, and then there’s that comfy corner in the couch where we want to curl up and read.
Even if you aren’t tempted by the classic anti-productive vices, being at home seems to have a way of sucking you into all kinds of other activities that don’t have anything to do with work. Groceries, tidying messes, chores, roommates and family, even watering the plants – all these demands on your time don’t exist in the office.
It turns out that the office offers a kind of protective barrier between your work life and the rest of your life. The office provides a safe haven for getting work done. You don’t necessarily appreciate that fact until the barrier is gone. And losing it can result into a real hit to your professional productivity.
But fear not! Today we are going to discuss strategies for staying productive while working from home, even when you aren’t protected by the productivity force field that is the office.
If this is something you’ve had any trouble with, then stick around.
Alright, on to strategies for productivity while working from home:
1) Start with What You Least Want to Do
Yes, we all have one task hanging over our heads, the one we dread doing. Typically, we procrastinate with these onerous tasks until the end of the day arrives, at which point we do a sloppy, rushed job. Or worse yet, we punt the runt to tomorrow, which makes it that much harder to start work the next day, since we’re already dreading the task, and probably had a bad night of sleep as a result.
Enough of this silliness! Your boss is not there to whip you into shape, so it’s time for you to take the reins. The next time you start your workday, I challenge you to think about what’s most cringe-worthy on your to-do list, and do that task first, before you do anything else.
As soon as it is complete, you will feel a huge weight off your shoulders, and a deep sense of accomplishment that will fuel you through the rest of the day. Your willpower is strongest at the start of the workday, so that’s the best opportunity to attack these kinds of tasks.
And the funny thing is, once you get through them, you typically discover they weren’t nearly as difficult or daunting as you first thought. The mind has a funny way of playing tricks on you and blowing things way out of proportion.
2) Block Time
Time blocking, also known as calendar blocking, is widely touted and its acclaim is well deserved.
Time blocking entails breaking up your day into distinct blocks of time, during which you do exclusively the task you assigned to that block of time. So 9-10am is the nasty task. Then 10-11am is responding to outstanding emails. And 11-11:30am is checking in with that client.
At the office, this work is to some extent done for you by your boss, co-workers, and all-hands meetings. At home, there is more need for you to implement your own structure.
By dividing your day into discrete activities, you are forced to think holistically about what’s on your plate and strategically allocate tasks based on priority and urgency. And by sticking faithfully to those time blocks, you prevent yourself from being pulled off task by other distractions.
You can even take this a step further and pencil in *how analogue of me* everything you do in a day. This could be your workout, your coffee break, your journaling time, your meditation, and mealtime.
Of course, the onus is on you to stick to it 😊
3) Keep Moving
Plenty of research shows that regular movement, which gets blood flowing to your brain, improves your intelligence and productivity.
At the office, movement often comes in the form of meetings, lunch breaks, and trips to the break room. So it’s built naturally into your routine.
At home, you’ll need to be more deliberate about this, since all your meetings and meals are likely taking place at or near your desk. But being home, you have a huge advantage, which is that no one is watching. So this is a fantastic opportunity to get goofy with it!
Every 30 minutes or so, bust out some bodyweight squats, burpees, or jumping jacks. Or just jog in place. Whatever gets the heart pumping will do just fine. If you’re wearing business clothing that isn’t easy to move in, you can keep a set of workout clothes right next to you, and quickly throw them on for your 5 minute exercise break.
If you find you are forgetting to do this, set a repeating 30 minute timer on your phone. You’ll be delighted about the excuse for a break every time it beeps!
4) Don’t over-stuff your to-do list
This is a big one and it’s overlooked. Many of us like to compose elaborate, never-ending to-do lists because it makes us feel productive, as if we are for sure going to get through all of it. We are more likely to do this when we are working remotely, and there’s no one there to give us a reality check.
In actuality, this is a form of procrastination, and it sets us up for failure because there’s no real chance of that to-do list getting cleared. To truly be productive, build a to-do list of no more than three tasks. Does that sound like too few? No problem. Get those three done and then add three more to your list. Don’t let me stop you! Rinse and repeat and revel in the rarified glory of continuously completing your to-do list!
5) Rituals and Routines
You may not be someone who likes routines and systems, but the truth is, if you can establish a pre-work and post-work ritual, then you’ll help prep your brain and body for the work that’s to come. When you go to the office, your commute typically serves this purpose. But yeah, no commute at home.
So it’s on you to build your own rituals.
In the morning, have a set of activities you do that gets you into an energized, high-productivity mindset. Workouts are a great way to do this, but it can be as simple as drinking some lemon water and reading a chapter in your favorite book.
In the evening, once you sign off from work, do something that helps you unwind and disconnect, maybe some light stretching and a few minutes of deep breathing.
It really doesn’t take much. The most important thing is that you are consistent about it. Our brains are wired to latch onto routines, so take advantage of that to get yourself properly mentally situated.
Well there you go, five effective strategies for boosting your productivity at home.
- Start with the task you dread most to score an early victory
- Break your day into discrete activity blocks to make sure you get the important stuff done
- Stay active throughout the day to keep your brain fresh
- Limit your to-do list to three items, and don’t make another until you’ve finished that one
- Establish a pre-work and post-work ritual to wind up and wind down
The real trick to working from home is learning how to structure your day in a way that enables you to focus and get through the tasks that need doing. That includes breaks from work throughout the day, which don’t come as naturally when you are by yourself.
What works for one person might not work for another. So adapt this to your own needs. Experiment and when you have a particularly productive day, reflect on that and determine what it is that made it so productive. Use those insights to build a work-from-home system that enables you to be as productive as if you were at the office.
Oh, and when you do go to the office, perhaps spend a moment appreciating the benefits it offers 😊
So now that I've shared our thoughts, I’d love to hear your own ideas for being productive while working from home. What are some other things you can think of? What challenges have you encountered?
Share that with me and the Explearning community in the comments down below.
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With that, have an awesome week, Explearners.
Thank you so much for joining me and I’ll see you next time for your next Explearning lesson.
Happy Explearning ⚡