Maximize Productivity While Working From Home
Trying to get your job done when you’re at home? We’ve put together our top five tips to help you maximize your productivity when mapping your day working from home.
The Theory vs. The Reality
Ask anyone in a 9-5 office job, and the chances are they quietly yearn for that trademark flexibility of the home worker, self-employed, or business owner.
And of course, we know they’re partly right about the appeal; it’s great to have an hour here to take the cat to the vets, infinite ‘business meetings’ that involve Skype (and sharing stories), and — did I just take a nap at 4pm?! I definitely never take a 4 pm nap.
But one of the toughest challenges, particularly when working at home, often alone, is keeping yourself motivated throughout the whole day.
Suddenly the 9-5 you had seems comparatively productive — the whole day was carefully mapped out, and you got stuff done. Whether that was true productivity is another thing; when the lunches, coffee breaks and commute (oh yeah — remember the commute) are considered, and those hours where you were just filling time, you realize it was perhaps the illusion of productivity, rather than productivity itself.
Which doesn’t change the fact that you now have a whole day stretching before you, and probably a whole lot of guilt about how you should be using it.
Top 5 Tips for Maximizing Productivity
1. Choosing Location
If you thought about working from home before it was a reality, it probably went something like: “It sounds great, but I just wouldn’t get anything done at home”. But now you’re here, and hopefully seeing some of the benefits.
Your workspace is key to productivity. At the risk of sounding like everyone, ever, a clean and tidy workspace will really improve your overall mood.
Separating workspace from your living space – psychologically and literally – can also be useful. Have somewhere to ‘go’ (even if it’s a setup on the other side of the room) to focus on work.
You can try different places throughout the day, and why not make use of a garden where you can?
2. Setting Goals
Everyone needs daily goals. Setting them can seem daunting, but at home, you’re actually in a more advantageous position if you do it correctly.
No longer do you have to take lunch between 12 – 2. You’re actually able to tailor things to suit yourself — work around your foibles and idiosyncrasies. Pick out and space your goals as you always wanted to, but never could.
These goals will be your motivation, pushing you towards a realistic, time-bound achievement. For a ‘regular’ day (whatever that might mean for you), ensure your goals include several ‘hit points’ — points you are aiming for with approximate times, whether or not they mark the end of a task.
Also, subdivide the day into morning, afternoon, and evening working sessions to evenly spread your workload. Don’t want to work evenings? Spend more time in the morning and have them free! Only want to work two hours at a time with more frequent breaks? That can also be achieved.
Try ‘push days’ — days where you really strive to maximize your output by setting tough objectives that will take some doing to meet. Dispersing days like this with regular working days is key to their success — nobody can keep up with huge objectives every day, and trying for that is probably going to result in lower overall productivity.
‘Push days’ are useful when you need to make headway into big projects. Whether it’s launching into new ones, or pushing for the completion of old, lingering ones. We’ve all got to that stalemate situation, where a project has reached the point of moving forward in unenthusiastic drips and drabs. A push day will move it leaps-and-bounds towards finally being wrapped up.
Think of them as more of a ‘state of mind and determination’ than anything. Wake up early, and work continuously throughout the day — coffee is your friend!
You’ll make so much progress compared with an average day, you’ll almost certainly feel like the minor inconvenience and extra hours you put in were worthwhile.
3. Creating Variation
A varied workload might seem unachievable depending on the business (or job) you have. But there are ways to keep things interesting whatever you do, in the way you order your tasks.
Your morning could be reading emails, your afternoon, focusing on creative direction, your evening, engrossing yourself in analytics.
Building this kind of variation into your day automatically counters the tendency to stare aimlessly at a flashing cursor, praying for inspiration — instead, you just move on to the next pending task.
Avoid switching between tasks too much, though. You need to allow yourself time to really sink your teeth into things. To push through the initial time drain that naturally occurs when you start any new task — the ‘getting into it’ phase. Too much switching, and you’ll soon find a disproportionate amount of time is spent this way.
If tasks are long (several hours or more), try to spend a minimum of an hour per session. Working only five minutes here and there on it will drag these kinds of tasks out indefinitely, and result in more time spent overall.
Likewise, you have a bunch of smaller, five-minute tasks, put them together into 30 minutes of ‘quickfire’ tasks. By identifying how long a task you’re working on should take before you do it, you minimize the risk of accidentally spending an hour on, for example, replying to unimportant emails.
A good time to have these quickfire sessions is during your ‘afternoon lull’, or when re-introducing yourself back into work after lunch.
4. Distractions & Breaks
It wouldn’t be a day without the mandatory 15 minutes of falling for click-bait on Facebook and watching cat videos on YouTube (those cats owe me literally days of my life).
Of course, going cold turkey from social media and other distractions would be the best advice, but actually, it can be helpful to look away every now and then — to break the monotony.
Social media can be a great way to do this. But try to set a strict maximum of five minutes an hour — there’s plenty of time to spend on it after work, so save it for then. The good news is, social and cat videos aren’t banned, just rationed — use them wisely!
Many people find music helps them to focus. It can! But pick the right songs — make a playlist that inspires you to work, or use some of the ready-made ones designed for this on Spotify. Blasting out Mariah Carey power ballads that demand to be sung as a duet is unlikely to help concatenate an Excel file.
Breaks are as important when working from home as anywhere else, so don’t neglect to take them. Try to get away from your screen in these. Eat, read a book, watch Netflix – but mainly, enjoy!
Do whatever makes you feel great, but you will work better if you’ve gotten away from your screen for at least an hour throughout the day.
Without your commute, it’s easy to become stuck inside. Aside from obvious health implications, you might find that you find it more difficult to sleep. So, it’s important to use up that energy.
There are some great indoor workout videos available on YouTube if you are unable to go outside. Alternatively, get creative with other ways of exercising indoors, or use a garden or courtyard if you have access to one.
Find your perfect balance
Ultimately, you will decide what works for you; your personal habits and strengths. Our five are meant as flexible guidelines to be adjusted to suit you.
You may be a night-owl who finds focusing on one thing for the whole day helps you focus better, or someone who finds switching between tasks more regularly helps you stay focused.
Whatever you decide on, make sure the work pattern you create is sustainable. If it involves erratic waking hours, where sleep time isn’t a constant, you’ll probably lose productivity overall.
Also, consider that it’s often better for networking to be awake for at least some standard business hours, particularly if your company is trading.
Why Not #CreateFromHome
When you’re stuck inside, it can be a frustrating time. Turn that frustration into something good and #CreateFromHome.
Comment with your own suggestions, thoughts or advice from your personal experience — we’d love to hear from you!