Productivity is hard to achieve when working from home, and during these unprecedented times, it’s important to find a balance between working hard and self-care. Hopefully, this list will help you gain better habits and achieve goals while at home.
Work only spaces are essential when you work from home. That means if you have a desk or are working at your kitchen table, make sure that is only work-related. This also means avoid working from bed. I know, it is much more comfortable to do so, but it will be too comfortable and productivity will be low. Designate your space to a productive zone by organizing and keeping relevant items on your desk.
If your work includes deadlines and specific time limits, half the productivity is already done. If you feel pessimistic against planners after last year, still invest in one. Managing your time will be easier when you can physically see it, or if your laptop calendar works for you, set reminders. Working at home means you might have a better window of time to work in. It’s best to make sure all of your time is used wisely instead of waiting for the last minute and feeling overwhelmed.
Some people have been calling it time blocking, in which you schedule your assignments to certain times. For example, if you have an assignment due at 4pm today and it takes you an hour to work on it and a second hour to edit, schedule the work time from 1 to 3pm (earlier if it is a heavy project to work on and then split that time). This gives you plenty of time to work on the project and you will not be turning it in so late. The key to scheduling your day is scheduling everything you can, so if you were already used to a 9 to 5 workday, make sure your work still matches that timeline.
Like above, time is important. Timers may be the productivity tracker for you. Whether you already know how long your work takes or not, avoid burnout by making sure you do not overwork yourself. Use your phone if you don’t find it distracting, or a timer online. Even if you can finish your work in a short time, it is still better to pace yourself before trying to fill up your time.
Take a break or multiple breaks. Just make sure you use a break wisely. It has been said to take a 20-minute break every 90 minutes. This might depend on your personal work ethic, but start with something like this first and see what works for you. I give myself a 45-60 minute lunch break depending on my workload for the day. To clarify: breaks mean save any progress and move away from your workspace. If you can, have lunch away from your desk and call a friend so that you are focused on something else entirely. Treat it as if you were really in the office.
If you can’t get outside for your break, do a quick exercise. There are many “deskercise” routines for quick workouts online. This is just to make sure you stay fully focused and avoid falling asleep at your desk or distracting yourself. If you are able to get outside, try walking around for at least half of your scheduled break. Just make sure you’re not too tired to continue working after your break.
If you’re not the working out type, take a nap! The opportunity to nap during a workday does not come easily, so rest your mind for a bit. If you are someone that can nap for the rest of the day, try some yoga or meditation instead. Like with exercise, this is to make sure that your mind gets a break from staring at a computer screen or long meetings.
This will not work for everybody, especially after a year off of regular out of home work, but this could help your productivity. Keep your work routine, as in literally, from the moment you usually wake up, “commute” to work, and “clock out” at the end of the day. During your commute time, take your time getting ready, whether into actual clothes or nicer PJs, and have some breakfast. If you were already working a full-time office job, you most likely have to see your coworkers every day. Try to include some non-work talk with your coworkers as if it were a quick five-minute chat in the office. At the end of your workday, make sure you clear your desk from any work you don’t need to see after the end of your day. Remember, you are working from home, so whatever is not related to your home should not be available to you after you’ve “clocked out” for the day.
This one might be particularly hard for a lot of people who work from home. This is probably the hardest step for a lot of us, but it is possible to ignore your phone and social media. I was able to do this with minor changes. Firstly, I logged out of social media on my laptop and kept it essentially a phone app, as a lot of us already have. On my phone, I made sure to silence all social media notifications. You can change them to deliver quietly so that you can still find notifications easily, but you won’t feel the need to check it right away. I also made sure to keep my phone out of reach so that I can avoid moving away from work time to check notifications.
Now, this will be different for everyone. I personally find that multitasking with chores delays my productivity. Some people would rather take a break to do housework instead of exercising or napping. If that works for you, try to determine what chore you can complete during a scheduled break. If you find it distracting, try to work on a side project that is for something you will eventually have to do or something personal. Working from home also means having time to work on your own individual goals.
This is related to fixing up your workspace, but this can be a daily change. If you are someone who works in libraries and coffee shops when not at the office, this will help you. Since you are working from home, you will be immediately comfortable and that results in easy distractions. It may be hard to work in silence, so try playing some music that is not distracting, or if you know you can still focus, play some of your old school favorites. There is nothing wrong with working comfortably, so invest in some seat cushions or mug warmers to help you along your day. It’s the little things that make work from home bearable!
Make sure your workday has a definitive end time. This is very important for your mental health and will prevent you from overwhelming yourself. It’s okay to shut down your laptop at a scheduled time. Emails can be answered in the morning. After your workday is done, eat some dinner, play some games, watch a show, or read a book. Unwind as if you had a long commute home. This will take some time if you are someone that does extra work at home, but that can be scheduled in as well. Stay organized in your workspace and your productivity will skyrocket.
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