When someone learns that I work from home, they have one of two responses;
Option 1: “Wow, you must have so much free time”
Option 2: “You must be so disciplined. I would probably binge-watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S the whole day.”
The reality is somewhere in the middle. There are days when we are grinding at our to-do lists. And then there are days we get nothing done.
While we get rid of workplace distractions, at home they find us in different ways. Taking the form of mobile notifications that instil FOMO or comfy pyjamas that tell you to doze off. And sometimes in the form of your cute cat, sitting on your laptop.
With nearly 66% of companies allowing employees to work remotely, there is one question we should answer – how do we make the most of this opportunity?
Pack your worries and leave them behind! We have come up with five simple tips for working from home effectively.
Photo by Slava Keyzman on Unsplash
1. Use your energy to your advantage
To remove inefficiencies from your day, you must know what they are.
While working on repetitive tasks like researching or data entry, you must have noticed that sometimes you get them done quickly. And sometimes, it takes double the time.
That is because there are times when we are more alert, energetic and focused. While it’s easy to shout to the world “I am a night owl”, you might want to take a week or two to just experiment, observe and track.
Every day for two weeks, I recorded my level of focus, energy and efficiency at hourly intervals. I found between 6-8 in the morning is when I am high on willpower and focus (even my cat is in sleep mode). So, it’s the best time of the day for me to start working on that haunting yet important task.
Like almost everyone, I found the mid-afternoon hours are when I am most distracted. So I allocated this time for replying to emails, answering phone calls or researching.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day; the reason some people get more done is that they don’t focus on time management, they focus on energy management. They know their most productive hours and how to utilize them to their advantage.
2. A little planning goes a long way
When you’re working from home, it’s normal to wake up to a dozen emails ready to pounce from your inbox (thank you, different time zones!).
It’s easy to jump into reactive mode and before you know it, it’s 10 a.m. and you’re still in bed, responding to emails on the most inefficient screen you own.
To optimise the schedule, here are some pointers:
Define your productivity wins for the entire week: Every Sunday do a brain dump of things you need to do and highlight your MITs (Most Important Tasks). Or separate your urgent tasks from the important ones. For example, while I need to work on finishing articles this week, the next week is dedicated to researching for my upcoming book. Break these big goals into achievable daily tasks.
I will work on these tasks first before I jump into humdrum things like emails or managing finances.
Doing this ensures I don’t rely on just willpower to get these tasks ticked off. Because willpower is like a muscle, it too gets exhausted and before you know it, you’re yet again, putting that task off for tomorrow.
Schedule things the day before: To get writing first thing in the morning, I need to have a schedule ready the day before so I don’t waste my most productive hours on planning. I get stuff done. It also prepares me to complete my research the day before.
Save your interesting tasks for later: I love writing, I really do. But sometimes, I catch myself promising I’ll start after reading an article. Soon, that one article becomes five or six.
Why does this happen? When you schedule an important task right after an interesting one, it becomes all the more tough to start.
Think about it. How much effort does it take to resume work after surfing through Netflix? And is your mind really focused on work or wondering about the next episode?
Turn the tables.
Finish that boring/daunting/important task and reward yourself with Netflix and cookies.
Don’t overestimate the time required: The one question that comes up often is, “How do I know how much time I’ll require?”
Earlier, I would mindlessly put in some time limits when I set to write an article. Even if I was done, I would lurk around, doing some editing here and there. I fell victim to the Parkinson’s law which says that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash
3. Become a creativity magnet
No matter what you do, you need to be creative in some way. Be it for designing a website, writing an article, growing your business or even finding better ways to conduct your boring tasks.
But we all know, creativity isn’t easy. And it isn’t meant to be.
In any field, it takes years of struggle and most importantly, perseverance.
In fact, during a study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University, it was found that out of 500 popular musical pieces, most of them were created after 10 long years of the composer’s career.
But that doesn’t mean we should give up. Especially if your livelihood depends on it.
If you are a writer, make it a goal to write at least 3 pages every day, at a fixed time, say 8 in the morning. Stick to that schedule every single day.
In the midst of those crappy pages, you might find one good sentence. That’s a win.
You don’t have to believe me, just ask yourself: What is better - one good sentence or a blank page?
Above all, make it a point to step away from your desk and go out for a walk, at least once a day. One Stanford study found that walking boosts creative output by 60%.
4. Embrace the ‘Once a student, always a student’ approach
A professor used to tell us, ‘Everyone can do the same things again and again and become good at it, fast at it. But, it takes learning and educating yourself on a daily basis to find innovative ways to do even the routine things’.
We used to learn Excel while in school. It felt great to use those formulas and tricks to do things faster and show it off to our parents.
School might have finished, but the learning doesn’t have to.
In fact, whenever someone asks Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, “How did you learn to build rockets?”, his answer is simple... “I read books”.
Whichever field you are in, make sure you keep learning something new every week, if not every day. Talk to people, read the news, follow the best blogs in your niche.
This will not only increase your knowledge, but you’ll constantly discover ways to improve things, increasing your productivity.
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash
5. Socialise (cats are not counted)
Research suggests that we need other people to keep us sane, for our emotional well-being and to live a longer and healthier life.
While adjusting to working from home, we become more removed from the human aspect of a live, bustling workplace.
In fact, a report states that only around half of Americans have social, meaningful interactions on a daily basis.
Does that mean you have to go visit a friend every day? No.
All you need to do is build connections with people. While you’re out grocery shopping, chat with the workers or the manager there. Some days, you could even try working from a local cafe.
You could sign up for community events. You might meet people related to your field(bonus: you no longer need to talk about the weather). You can get caught up with the industry trends and learn something useful as well.
So, what are you waiting for? Hack these working from home tips for success to suit your needs and become the productive person you have always wanted to be.
This article was written in 5 pomodoro sessions using focus booster. Try the pomodoro technique to help boost your productivity while working from home.