Just when we thought it was safe to go back to the office… The new lockdown rules mean that for many of us working from home is going to continue for some time. Some of you may already be bossing this but for others, it’s a constant balance between procrastination and working all the hours God gives, with no boundaries between your work and personal life.
Whilst being productive is important, after all you’re being paid to work either by your boss or clients, it’s essential that you also stay sane! Here is a list of some of the best tips I’ve come across, feel free to try a few to assess which work for you but obviously don’t try to hit them all at once!
- Have a clearly defined workspace. Have a room or space that you dedicate to working. Try not to make this wherever you happen to be at the time. Either dedicate a room or a section of a room for your workspace. That way, when you enter it, you know consciously what you’re there to do: go to work. It changes the state of mind from “I’m at home” to “I’m at work”.
- Set a timetable. Be clear on what are working hours and what are personal. These may be set by your employer or the needs of your business but no-one can work 24/7! Agree how many hours you are going to work and stick to it.
- Dress up, show up. When working from home, it’s easy to get out of routine and stick on the comfy clothes (or stay in your pyjamas!). Change your mood by getting back into work mode and attire – have breakfast, have a shower and get dressed in your work clothes. Then make a plan of tasks for completion for the day and get going.
- Remove distractions. One of the most important tips I learned was to remove distractions from my working day. Turn off your email and social media notifications – I set up an autoresponder on my emails to advise contacts that I would only be checking my email twice a day and if they needed an urgent response to give me a call. Not only has this helped me manage client expectations but also has saved me at least an hour a day. The same with social media, by setting aside specific times a day to be online, I can avoid the temptation of constantly checking what’s going on with everyone else!
- The three Ds. In Life Leverage by Rob Moore, I learned that your whole ‘to do’ list can be separated into the three Ds – what can you do, what can you delegate, what can you delete. By applying this to your action list and identifying what’s the best use of your time, you can avoid hours of wasted time on tasks that either you don’t need to do or that you could outsource to others.
- Have a notepad or sticky notes by your side. As we are working, we can often come up with ideas that are not related to the task in hand. Rather than stopping work jot down ideas for blog posts, projects, new business ideas etc on your pad for you to come back to later. Then have a board to stick your ideas on. Look at it twice a week to refresh your mind of things that could be done at some point. Some of your best work/ideas will come from random bits of inspiration
- Take time out. We are not machines, we all need breaks in order to be productive. Split your day up to include regular 10-15 minute breaks and of course a longer break at lunchtime. Give your mind time to digest what it’s just done, then come back. Not only will you feel more refreshed, but you’ll significantly improve the quality of your output.
- Keep hydrated. It’s easy to get lost in your work and neglect your fluid intake. Ideally, you should be aiming to drink 2 litres of water a day – keep a bottle on your desk and regularly top it up.
- Set your mood. The bonus of working from home is that you can set the mood around you. What makes you the most productive? Some people feel more energised and productive with music on, others like the distraction of the TV, whilst others prefer silence. Whatever your preference, make sure that you create the optimum background for you to do your best work.
- Plan your work week. Set your schedule, you might plan your week to bunch up tasks. For example admin day might be Friday or marketing planning Monday. By setting aside set times for set activities ensures that you get everything done.
- Plan your food intake. One of the dangers of working from home is that you either don’t eat at all or you are constantly raiding the fridge! By planning your snacks, breakfasts and lunches in advance, you can save time in creating your meals and ensure that you make healthier choices that don’t see you having sugar highs and crashes.
- Set boundaries for friends and family. Schedule your work time and make sure your loved ones know that you are unavailable for playing, chores, etc. during this time. It’s easy to get into the habit of ‘can you just…’! By being disciplined, you can ensure that your work and personal time are not blurred.
- Don’t allow work to consume your life. Easier said than done when working from home. Make a contract with yourself to define the hours or times you will work and ensure that you work to stick to it. If you’re constantly going over your agreed hours, ask yourself why and whether you have too much on and need to delegate more or whether you just need to improve your time management.
- Be grateful! Think of three things each day you can be grateful for. Some days this might be harder than others. The fact that you have work or business to work in might be a start or that you have the option to work from home and are safe. Whatever you have to be thankful for, keep pressing in as that gratitude will motivate you to work harder and enhance your mood.
As working from home becomes our ‘new normal’, you can adopt strategies to make it work for you, maintain your sanity and be as productive as possible. You never know, you might even enjoy it!