7 Tips For Staying Productive While Working From Home
Those of us who know the joys of working from home also know the struggles that accompany them. Ditching the long commutes and slimming down on unnecessary meetings have been met with increased enthusiasm and focus from employees; but with distractions as prominent and enticing as the couch, tv, and fridge staring at us all day long, some days it’s a wonder we get any work done at all.
So how does one stay productive while working from home?
Put Your Pants On
Just because you’re not going to the office doesn’t mean your morning routine has to become a thing of the past. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to admit that the temptation to throw a nice shirt on top of your pajamas or sweatpants (or no pants...you know who you are) is a real one. And while that might be acceptable on the rare occasion that you wake up mere minutes before your first Zoom meeting of the day, it’s not good for the brain. Your mind needs time to make the mental shift between “I’m waking up” and “I’m at work”. That’s why routines and commutes are so important. So get back to your morning habits. Brush your teeth and take a shower. Eat a good breakfast. Ride your bike around the block or sit in your car for 15 minutes listening to your favorite podcast. And for goodness sake put your pants on. Your brain will thank you.
Have a Plan
Feeling overwhelmed happens to everyone. We’ve all had days where your workload seems to have reached an insurmountable size and every deadline seems to be coming at you in a full sprint rather than the standard one day at a time. If you’re anything like me, working from home has only added to those feelings. How do you fight back? Have a plan. Make a list. List out your top priorities for the day and get to work. And try not to get distracted for too long by things not on the list.
Stick to a Schedule
Equally as important as planning what you’re going to be working on is planning when you’ll be working on it. Without things like impromptu conversations with coworkers or in-person meetings to break up your day, you can be quick to burn out or lose focus. Establishing time frames for your work day can help. Knowing what time your day starts, when your lunch break hits, and when you’ll clock out helps you stay consistent and avoid burnout. So make a schedule, and stick to it. Don’t work before your decided start time. And yes that includes checking your email or Slack while you’re bruising your teeth. Those things can wait until you’re settled in and ready for the work day. When it’s time for lunch, close your laptop. Taking some time away from things will bring clarity and increased focus to the rest of your day.
This one’s simple. Just take a break. The easiest way to go crazy working from home is to think you can keep your nose to the grindstone for hours at a time. Instead, block out your tasks so you’re working an hour at a time with quick, but meaningful, breaks in between.
Even the biggest and brightest of home offices can feel suffocating at times. That’s why a change of scenery during breaks is crucial for keeping your mind fresh and focused. Whether that change of scenery is a walk around the block, a coffee break on the balcony, or just a crack of the window, your body will thank you for breaking up the monotony by inviting the outside world in.
Have a Dedicated Workspace
Not all home offices are created equal (he writes from a bar stool at the kitchen counter). In fact, most home office these days aren’t offices at all. They’re garages, spare bedrooms, walk-in closets, kitchen tables, or Ikea desks crammed into dark, forgotten corners. Truth is, it doesn’t matter where your home office is or what it looks like, what matters is that you have a space that is solely dedicated for work. Studies have shown that having a designated ‘go-to-work’ spot results in increased focus and decreased distractions. So pick a spot and stick to it.
Leave Work at the Office
When the work day is over, stop. Have a great idea for a project you’re working on? Jot it down on a sticky note and save it for tomorrow. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean your work now gets to take over your home life too. Few things are more important for you and your mental health than a proper work-life balance. So when the day ends, stop working. Close the laptop, silence the Slack notifications, and start focusing on things like what you’ll eat for dinner or which Netflix show you and your S.O. will be binging tonight. You know, the important stuff.