In response to the novel coronavirus crisis, a majority of the country has been asked to work from home—many for the first time and an extended time. You might have thought working from home would be ideal, but it has its challenges, especially when it comes to focusing and productivity. There is always something to distract you—that pile of laundry needing to be folded, social media, kids, Zoom calls, and more.
Here are a few tips and on how to stay productive while working from home.
1. Have a Clear and Inspiring Workspace
If possible, have a dedicated workspace that is separate from your off-the-clock space. Every time you sit in this space it sends a signal to yourself and those around you that it’s time to work. (You might have to get a bit creative if you live in a small apartment.)
Your space should also inspire you in some way. Working from home means you don’t have access to the same stimuli that would normally motivate or energize you throughout the day. You’ll have to generate this for yourself, which is why having a workspace that offers some inspiration is helpful.
Begin by clearing your space of clutter, whether it’s a room or your little spot on the kitchen table. A clear space creates a clear head. Once your space is clear, start to think of things to add that spark productivity or creativity for you. Here are some ideas:
- Inspirational quotes
- Good lighting
Once your workday has ended, get into the habit of straightening up your workspace so you can start the morning again with a clean slate.
2. Have a Schedule but Be Flexible
Keeping a regular work schedule is one of the most common suggestions for being productive at home. While this is true, it’s also important to recognize when you might need to change things up a bit. These are unprecedented times with lots of uncertainty, which can cause mental and emotional upheaval.
There may be days where you need more rest, which means starting work later. Maybe you need to lounge on the sofa for a bit while reading emails. Or, it might feel good to take a long lunch and read a good book. Your personal life comes first, so set boundaries where you see fit. It’s ok to make adjustments and nurture yourself in whatever way you need.
3. Work According to Your Natural Rhythms
Start to take notice of these cycles and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Perhaps early morning is your time to complete challenging projects while the late afternoon is when you can take care of work that doesn’t require so much thought. The early evening can be another period of alertness for some people for tackling difficult tasks. If you have some flexibility with your schedule, try to work according to your natural rhythms. Think of your normal working hours in the office and remember what works best for you.
4. Minimize Distractions
Kids are home, dinner needs fixing, laundry needs to be folded, and cleaning needs to be done—all while trying to work. Being quarantined and having significantly less social interaction has naturally shifted attention toward social media and news outlets as a way of filling that void. Unfortunately, it can also get in the way of concentration and work productivity.
Start to be conscious of your distractions. What can be regulated? What can’t? Consider putting your phone in a separate room for an hour or two. Try limiting your news watching and social media surfing to the evening hours only. Both can be time and energy suckers.
5. Use Tools that Aid Concentration
If you find it difficult to stay focused, use tools like the Pomodoro technique where you set a timer for 25 minutes, take a break for five minutes, and then continue with another 25 minutes. Each time you complete 25 minutes you place a check on a piece of paper and after four checks you can take a longer break. Depending on the work you do, this can be beneficial for completing tasks and getting regular breaks in—it’s easy to go through the day and realize you didn’t move much.
If you need a bit of background noise to help you concentrate, there are plenty of options available. If you miss the sounds of the office or the background chatter of your local coffee shop, you can find a website or application dedicated to providing those sounds or whatever sound you prefer.
6. Start the Morning Right
Your morning routine has probably changed quite a bit since the days of going into the office regularly. It’s easy to succumb to leisurely mornings, which can easily turn into leisurely days. Keep in mind that how you start your morning sets the trajectory for the rest of your day so try to stick to habits in the morning that are energizing. A good morning routine will help you stay productive throughout the day. Make it a family thing and have everyone start to create healthy habits. Here are a few suggestions to help you create your daily routine each morning.
This doesn’t mean you have to quit your leisurely mornings completely, especially if you feel like you are benefitting from them. But adding a little structure can help you keep those activities as priorities that don’t take over your day.
What works for one person may not work for you. Now is a good time to get to know yourself and your needs. Each day brings with it something different so what worked before may not work today. Build up your toolbox to set you on the path toward consistent productivity as you continue to work from home.