Tips to stay productive when working from home
Many people were told to work from home when the pandemic hit, some might have done so in the past but for many of us, this was a new way to work.
Some hit the ground running but for others, it was a struggle. Hopefully, those that want to return to the office will be able to do so very soon (if they haven’t already) but the time spent at home has given many people including myself a time for self-reflection which meant that a return to the office was no longer an option.
Here are my tips for working at home and the lessons I’ve learned and ways to stay productive.
Get ready for work
Just because you don’t have to keep up appearances for anybody else doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make an effort for yourself. It’s tempting to stroll out of bed at 8:58 am, turn on your computer or laptop, and start working straight away. Make time in the morning to properly get ready, eat breakfast, go for a walk, etc. Many people would have had a long commute to work but you can now use this time more effectively to start your day in the right way to make sure that when you start work you can now be fully focused on the task at hand.
Take regular breaks
This was something that I felt guilty about at the start because I felt like it’s counterproductive but it’s actually the opposite. Being at home opens up the possibility to allow yourself to be easily distracted and a sense of control is needed but that doesn’t mean that you should be at your computer the whole day and overwork. Find time to take mini-breaks throughout the day to allow your body to take a rest from the screentime. This can be something simple as making a coffee, playing with your cats, taking a walk/cycle or doing the dishes. I always remember the scenes in the movie franchise ‘Men In Black’ when they go ‘and get pie’, when you are stuck on a particular part of work and you take a break, you normally get the eureka moment on the break away from the computer. Not only are you looking after your mind and body by taking regular breaks but you are also helping to be more productive.
Make a ‘home office’ room
Not everyone will have the privilege of a spare room but if you do then make this your dedicated workspace. If you are living with other housemates make them aware that if you are in this room that means you are working and cannot be distracted, if you cannot use a room make them aware of your work hours to avoid those little distractions.
Make the office room nice, tidy, and organized. I decorated my office room recently which gave the room and myself a new lease of life. If you are going to be in the room most of the day it’s important that it becomes a space you enjoy being in.
Talk to people
Let’s not pretend that when you are in an office no one talks to each other. By being around people daily you create social bonds which turn into healthy professional relationships. It’s important not to cut yourself off when working from home, you might feel that this shows you are being productive but you are removing yourself from potential opportunities. Not only that but it’s important to have a network of people you can rely on if you get stuck on a particular task, it’s much better flagging things early on than losing sleep over a task. If you are freelancing build up a network of people and friends on social media platforms that you can share thoughts and ideas with and when possible join regular social events, not only will this give you potential business opportunities but it will help fill that social bar.
Of course, this also goes for family and friends, make sure you keep in regular contact. You’re never not too busy for them!
Being sat at a desk all day is really not great for physical and mental health. Book in time whether this is at the start of the day, lunch, evenings weekends for some form of exercise. This can be something as simple as going for a walk or hitting the gym. Keeping your body in a fixed position all day is not great so it’s important to get moving, get up and exercise. I’m lucky enough to live in a place where I have cycle routes and canals so I use them but I also have a 7 a side soccer team at the weekend which means I have a constant flow of social exercise at least once a week.
Be kind to yourself
Not every day goes as planned, some days you are super productive and another day it can feel like you hit a brick wall. Some days can go on a tangent where you get pulled on a certain task or if you are a programmer like me you might hit a bug that takes you all day to fix. We are all open to having bad days but I find it’s best not to dwell on them too much. Consistency is key if you are making small steps every day they can lead up to something pretty special in the long term and those bad days will be a small drop in the ocean.
Write a to-do list
Most of us use project management tools to track our time but I find these are more tools in understanding productivity in the past tense rather than being productive in the present. I find writing a to-do list really helps in understanding what I’ve done and what I’ve got to do but the key is to keep it simple or dread and burnout can easily creep in. Having a to-do list allows you to understand the tasks that you need to do the next day. This obviously changes throughout the day but if I read the to-do list at the end of the day when tomorrow comes I’m ready and set and go into the day fully prepared for the tasks at hand.
Get up early
This is a controversial one and might not work for everyone which is why I’ve left it on till last. But in my experience getting up very early makes me super productive because of the lack of distractions. If you start your day at 6 am, for example, you will get your work done much quicker because of the lack of distractions but the motivation is that you will be finishing your work earlier on in the day which will allow you to do the things that you want in the afternoon.