Whether you’ve benefited from working from home already, or have had it thrust upon you amidst the coronavirus craziness, millions of us are coming to terms with this new way of working.
Working from home right now isn’t quite what we’d normally experience and even under ‘normal circumstances’ it takes time to find and settle into a routine with practices that work for you.
There is a real skill and mindset required for being as productive as you can. But add in kids off school, a partner at home too, friends constantly texting you, the enticing draw of Netflix, an overload of everyone wanting a video call AND the emotional rollercoaster that comes with Coronavirus and you have truly exceptional working from home conditions.
So, first, let’s be honest, working from home right now will not be as productive as it could normally be. We’ll find more steady feet in the coming weeks, so just do what you can and don’t pile more pressure on yourself. But, if you did want to get the most from your day, there are things you can do right now to boost your focus and get work done.
Create a good routine to start and end your day
Routine is exceptionally helpful for fostering a productive mindset because it allows us to go on autopilot where we can and save our brain energy for more complex tasks. Sticking to a regular waking time, getting washed and dressed and starting work at a set hour helps our body and mind to prepare for being in work mode.
Equally, clocking off at a defined and sensible hour with a physical action like closing your laptop, stopping email notifications on your phone or closing your office door behind you gives your brain permission to stop being in work mode and helps us accept that work is finished for the day. Then you’ll be able to shift into a mindset that is conducive for relaxation and better sleep (which you’ll need for the next day to be as productive and emotionally balanced as you can).
Create a dedicated work space
In order to work well at home you do need a dedicated working space. It’s a physical, visual trigger to your brain that work is expected to be done there. It’s a zone of focus for you as well as being a place where all your essentials like laptop, stapler, notebook, charger, etc can be kept to enable you to be efficient while you work. If you don’t have a room specifically for working from home, anywhere will do (but try to avoid your bedroom; saving it for being a quiet haven of relaxation instead).
Whether you have the added pressure of family or a partner at home with you, or not, you need to set and agree some boundaries and ‘rules’ for being productive.
Some things to consider:
- What will your hours of work be?
- When will you have breaks?
- When will you respond to texts or calls? Can you save them to the evening? Or will you check every few hours?
- How do you expect or need others to respect your working time and working space?
In the early phase of being new to working from home and the added pressure facing us all right now, all this structure will likely be the last thing you have in place, but, in time, it will serve you well if you want to make a success of working from home.
Take imperfect action
Having said the above, any small step that takes you forward positively with your work is one sure-fire way to help reduce fear, overwhelm or stress. Accept things won’t get done as perfectly or as quickly as you’d normally like to do. But to get things done you do have to take action, so take it.
Do timed sprints
If you’re short on time, or if you want to be uber-productive, timed sprints are a great way to channel your focus. Decide on the ONE task you need to do. Set a timer for anything up to an hour and challenge yourself to get it done. It’s a bit of competition with yourself and it’s a proven way to be super focused. After the hour is up, take a break. That break is your reward for being an achiever (if the self-satisfaction and smugness from completing the task isn’t enough)!
Do ONE thing that needs to be done, every day
Amidst all the Corona-craziness, work priorities can feel overwhelming. But if you had to pick just ONE work task to achieve today, what would it be? Focus on that one thing, get it done and get it out of the way. Doing the timed sprint challenge would be a great supporting technique for this task. Plus research shows that you’ll be more productive and go on to complete more than your one task if you take this approach because your brain doesn’t feel as overwhelmed when it knows it only needs to focus on one thing.
Batch your time
Masters of Productivity swear by batching their time. They even schedule it in their calendars as a reminder to focus on the task in hand. Batching your precious time and doing lots of the same thing in a specific time frame is a great way to boost your focus and productivity. It stops you (or at least reduces) interrupting your brain by switching from task to task and helps you get into an efficient and productive flow.
As you get used to the home-working routine you’ll begin to notice when you’re most creative and energised during the day, or when you need more routine tasks or a break. Each of us works differently so tuning into our energy levels and listening to what our bodies need or are capable of at different times during the day will really build resilience, as well as productivity.
Are there two things you can do at the same time to balance life right now and feel like you’re getting more done?
- Video call a colleague while you both work ‘side-by-side’ for an hour = get stuff done and feel a bit of friendly support as if you were sat next to each other in the office
- Have a virtual coffee time with your team (or friends) = boosting everyone’s wellness, socialising and taking a break
- Cooking or exercising with your kids = living well and spending time with them (it makes sitting them in front of the TV for the next hour feel less guilty too!)
Reflect at the end of the week and plan ahead for the next
Spend 20 minutes reflecting at the end of the week to see what routines and practices worked for you and what didn’t. Research shows that people who reflect are happier and perform better. It takes time to get used to working from home so adaption is the key to being successful at juggling and blending your home and work commitments. In these early stages, we might plan a day at a time, but eventually, we will feel capable of weekly and monthly reflection and planning. All in good time, hey?!
Be kind to yourself
As I said at the beginning, these are exceptionally unusual times and not the normal experience of home-working, so be kind to yourself (there’s enough pressure on us all right now) as you begin to find (or re-find) your feet while working at home.
And if the morning or day goes awry, just pick up and start again with a fresh focus as soon as you can.
This article was originally written by Jo Hall for Poppulo and published on their website on 26 March 2020.