Struggling To Stay Productive While Working From Home? Try These Tips
As global coronavirus numbers continue to grow, many of us are back—or still—remote working. And for most of us that likely means not having a dedicated working zone set up at home, making it difficult to separate work life and home life. But, as our experts explain, it’s vital to get the balance right to remain productive and in the right headspace for both work and play. Separating work and home life may be key to success, but we also cover how to deal with distractions, dress-codes and the importance of setting a a routine. Read on to discover some useful tips on how to make working from home as productive as can be.
The Set Up
First off, you have to get your set up right. If you’re not fortunate enough to have an office at home, it's essential you make the effort to create a dedicated workspace.
Keep your workspace and living space separate
Educational consultant, public speaker, life coach and author Theresa Melito-Conners (Dr MC) says “Working from home can be tricky. It is very important that you separate your workspace from your living space as much as possible. In other words, don't do your work from the couch if that is where you relax in the evenings. This allows for some boundaries in a situation where boundaries are blurred.”
Don’t work from bed
If working from your coach is a no-no, working from bed is definitely something to be avoided. Life coach Nick Hatter notes how important it is to avoid working from bed, explaining that “This will otherwise condition your mind to think that bed equals work, which could lead to insomnia,” affecting both your productivity during working hours, and your relaxation time when the clock stops.
Digital wellness coach and founder of TTYL Liana Pavane seconds this, and recommends “finding an area of the house that you can focus on your work or projects that is separate from your area of leisure. If you’re in a tiny apartment, even choosing the kitchen table versus the couch can make a huge difference. For a further example, studies have even shown that it’s not productive to work from bed and it decreases sleep quality. Your brain will begin to equate those areas as the designated stations you’ve chosen them for—making it easy to switch into certain activities. Plus, make sure you also have a sacred space you can turn to in your home for when you feel anxious or just need to chill out."
Acquire the tools you need
Set yourself up for success and "acquire the tools you need to be productive, such as better lighting, printer paper, a stapler, highlighters, and so on. Whatever it is, you need to have it easily accessible in your home office set-up," says Theresa Melito-Conners.
And if you're contending with family members, flatmates or partners, Nettie Owens, a member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Specialists and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, recommends "Hanging a chalkboard on your door to let your family know when you are and are not available for interruptions."
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Put down your phone
Family members may not be the only distractions you have to face while remote working, with the lure of your phone and social media seeming hard to avoid. Nick Hatter offers some advice on how to avoid distractions, saying “you may want to install some tools to prevent this. I personally recommend ColdTurkeyBlocker, which only [allows the user] access to certain sites for a limited period of time. It can also be configured to block access to work emails and programs after a certain hour."
Along with getting distracted while working from home, an easy habit to fall into is working longer hours than you should, and not properly switching off from work, so setting a routine is a must to maintain a good work-life balance.
Set a consistent start and end time
Theresa Melito-Conners says that “It is important to set a schedule for the day with a consistent start and end time and lunch break built-in. Be sure to actually unplug in the evenings and do not check email after a certain time.”
Productivity performance coach, speaker and author Marcey Rader also stresses the importance of having a proper transition, and advises those struggling to “determine something that will be your transition behaviour from working to personal life at the end of the day. Go for a walk, meditate, write in a journal, do some push-ups, or have Google Home tell you a joke. I have Alexa play one of my favourite dance songs at 6pm every day. It makes me shut it off, dance a few minutes, and move on to relaxing for the evening!”
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Your start and end time are not the only important factors in your work day, but how you go about your tasks and the order you choose to work through them play a vital role in productivity.
Nettie Owens explains that "You are most productive and engaged for deep work about 1-2 hours after you wake up. Use your morning time to get set for the day and then prioritise 'thought work' and tasks that require you to focus... Use the afternoon for meetings and tasks that require a bit less focus. Your brain needs rest to be its most productive so be sure to plan your day with this in mind: Sleep, exercise, a healthy diet and water are not optional. Every time you take a 5-10 minute break to do one of these four activities you give your brain a boost."
Another common pitfall of working from home is not treating work like work. “While working in your PJs may sound grand at first, it's easy to slip out of the mindset of work. Dressing for work and putting boundaries on the work you do will help you create a state of productivity” states Nettie Owens.
Take regular breaks
As well as having “set times for doing work and relaxing”, Nick Hatter recommends ensuring you leave the house at least once a day. Try to go for a walk at the very least to give your body the vitamin D and exercise that it needs.
A productivity tool used by many and recommended by Liana Pavane is the Pomodoro Method, for “when you want to get in short bursts of focused work.”
“It's 25 minutes where you work on one task, take a five-minute break, and repeat that cycle four times," explains Pavane. "After the fourth session, you take a more extended 30-minute break. By following this method, you're setting a boundary with your phone for a prolonged period of time. With shorter, more structured breaks, it's challenging to take out your phone and endlessly scroll. Instead, you'll feel more inclined to take a breath, grab some water, or take a bathroom break. At the end of the cycle, you might want to grab food and spend some time scrolling, but these short segments will decrease your time overall on your phone by making you more conscious of the time you have to focus. Additionally, you're retraining your brain to sit still and focus on one thing at a time rather than bounce around to different tasks, which is what our phones are notorious for.”
Avoid a working lunch
Marcey Rader explains, a screen-free lunch is recommended. “Studies show that eating lunch in front of a screen—computer, phone, or TV—can increase mindless calories up to 30 percent later in the day! We blink less and breathe more shallow when staring at a device. Taking the break to eat lunch will not only help your waistline but your eye and lung health as well. It's also a great productivity booster for the afternoon.”
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