Work at Home Tips to Increase Productivity
Kids screaming in the middle of a conference call; answering emails in your pajamas; tripping over toy cars on your lunch break. These, among others, are all the little realities that may have been driving you insane since the COVID-19 outbreak has forced us all to start working from home.
If trying to simultaneously spend time with and care for your family while also staying focused and productive at work has been a challenge for you, read on: these simple modifications in your daily routine may change your life.
Have a Dedicated Work Space
This is at the top of the list for a reason. Having dedicated spaces for work, sleep, and play can really help your brain to establish cues for a routine. For example, your brain associates your bed with sleep. If you try to write a blog post under the covers and in your pajamas, your brain is going to prepare your body for bedtime…leaving you feeling drowsy and unfocused.
Likewise, if you normally play video games at the kitchen table and you suddenly start attempting to work there, you will find yourself distracted and bored. Having a separate space dedicated solely to work will help trick your brain into focusing more on the task at hand.
Get Ready to Go
It doesn’t matter if you don’t take a shower or brush your teeth if you won’t be seeing anyone, right? The past several weeks without outside interaction probably makes this sound tempting. However, even though no one else is going to notice your lack of hygiene, you will.
Just like in the above paragraph, following the routine you usually would if you were physically going to work will help to trick your brain into believing that this is still the case. Additionally, the longer you go without taking care of yourself, the more distracted by it you will become.
Follow a To-Do List
Either immediately after you wake up or just before you fall asleep, write down a list of everything that needs to be done the following day, in order of most important to least important. By placing items in priority order, you can ensure that the most critical tasks get checked off first, leaving you less and less stressed as you move throughout the day.
Additionally, if an emergency comes up leaving you unable to finish your list, you’ll have already gotten the most important things out of the way. You’ll also have a clear idea of when you will finish; having an end goal in sight can help keep you motivated and focused.
Schedule Time to be “Off Work.”
And keep these times as close as possible to the times you actually would have physically been at work. Let others in your household know that this is your “work time,” and to treat it as if you were actually away. Once this time period is up, this is the time they can come to you for non-emergent needs.
As well as keeping as many distractions out of your work time as possible, you should make it a priority to not do work during your “off work” time either. Make this a time to simply be present with your family or, if you’re living alone, to invest in some quality self-care.
Focus on One Task at a Time
When you’re trying to get a task done but your phone or email is dinging incessantly, it may be tempting to repeatedly stop and check it. However, each time you switch tasks, it takes your brain a second to refocus – and these seconds add up, leading to a much longer time to complete all tasks involved.
Instead, for each thing on your to-do list, silence all devices and don’t stop until you’re able to cross that item off. Then pause, answer all relevant emails, and move on to the next task. This decreases the frequency of interruptions, freeing you up to focus solely on whatever the task at hand is, while also allowing you to give your messages your full attention.
Invest in a Calendar or Planner
Different people have different styles of planners that work best for them, so this may take some trial and error to figure out. Some people work best with highly complex, hour-by-hour schedules, while others can do just fine with a few bullet points scratched onto some notepaper.
Whatever the case may be for you, taking the time each week to plan out the upcoming week’s events and tasks can free up your mind to focus on more pressing activities.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, taking short breaks can help you to stay focused and motivated while simultaneously avoiding burnout. Your brain can only focus on stressful events for so long before shutting down, so you’ll want to take breaks to avoid this. Similar to the planner situation, different people have different methods that work best for them.
Some people prefer to take breaks between tasks; others may choose to work for a set period of time and rest for a set period of time. One popular time method is the Pomodoro method, where you work for 25 minutes with 5-minute breaks in between.
Establish a Motivating Work Environment
Again, this may be unique to each individual. At your dedicated workspace, set the space up in such a way that is organized, motivating, and helps you focus. Some people do best with a completely clear desk; others, with a set of aesthetically pleasing office, supplies just within reach; yet others, with a wall covered in motivating pictures and quotes.
Taking the time to keep your workspace clear and personalized for you will help motivate you to get out of bed every day and start working.
There is a multitude of small changes you can make in your daily lifestyle to help keep you productive and focused during work. From taking a few minutes to set up a clear and dedicated workspace to set specific hours for work, to taking breaks and investing in self-care, these seemingly minor tips can really make a difference in your productivity and output on a day-to-day basis.