How’s the working from home thing going? If you’re a longtime work-from-homer, then you’re forgiven for feeling a bit smug. For years, many of your friends and family members treated your job like it was a “job.” How is it possible that someone ten paces from the washer and cuddle distance from a lap dog can actually get any work done? A job means bumper-humping traffic and airless offices.
Wow did 2020 alter perspectives! Lockdowns sent many into a remote-work rabbit hole with little preparation. They tried to do their job while also dealing with online learning children, pesky pets, and similarly situated partners. Yet despite the distractions and stress, a funny thing happened. To the chagrin of many remote-work naysayers (including a fair share of gobsmacked CEOs), these newbies were actually more productive than they had been in the office. In fact, productivity among remote workers has actually increased from June to December of 2020.
Working from home has some outsized advantages. If you have environmental concerns, it greatly reduces the need for hour-long commutes and energy-sucking commercial space. Poorly ventilated offices with cheek to jowl workers and unworkable windows aren’t just COVD-19 super spreaders, they easily transmit cold and flu viruses as well. Plus, the noise and “community” of open floor plans is incredibly distracting. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to up your game. So whether you are a vet or newly minted, here are seven ways to increase productivity at home.
1.Feng Shui and Kondo UpYour Space
That pile of clean laundry won’t fold itself. That box sure needs sorting. And why is there a stack of Tabitha’s middle school book reports in the corner? She’s in grad school! Yep, there goes an unproductive hour. If you’re freelance, there goes an unpaid, unproductive hour. Truth is, out of sight really is out of mind. You need to clear your space of clutter. Your desk or table needs to be devoted to job functions. As Marie Kondo might put it, are those unsightly piles providing joy? If not, toss it!
If you’re blessed enough to have a home office, don’t let family members deposit random stuff there. Keep chores out of the space as well. Schedule time to clear your space and yes, consider some Feng Shui principles as you orient your work space.
Many work-from-homers have just a corner. That’s okay. Stephen King wrote a bestseller in a laundry room with a typewriter balanced on his lap. The key is making the space single purpose. Know that when you sit down, you’ll be working. Some of us enjoy a moment or two staring out a window. If you are like that, then by all means give your area the prettiest view. However, if it keeps you from getting work done then your laptop might need to face an unadorned wall.
2. Get Rid of the Friendly Who Aren’t Really Friends
Okay, maybe “get rid of” is a bit harsh. It’s just some well-meaning, homebound types can derail your day. Seriously, when is the last time Gladys Kravitz wandered into your office building in a bathrobe bearing complaints and asking for coffee? Yet retirees, new moms, and the unemployed see nothing wrong with dropping in on your home office. It’s time to put your foot down. One cute habit many millennials have is texting their arrival instead of ringing a doorbell. If you have a porch-cam, you’ll know when you have packages. Otherwise, there’s no reason to answer the door or a ringing phone during the day (or whenever your standard work hours are).
One of the fastest ways to increase productivity at home might require an unpleasant conversation with Gladys. Because you don’t want her calling 911 when you don’t answer.
3. Turn Off Distractions
If you went from a tightly scheduled workday to freedom at home, it can be an adjustment. One solution is to limit your choices. Turn off notifications on your phone and tablet. In fact, let your phone sleep in a drawer. Unless it is really work-related, don’t peruse social media.
4. Don’t Multitask
You may think you’re getting more done, but science has a different opinion. We evolved to do one task at a time. The only way to do three things at once is to do them all badly. Instead, take the big tasks threatening you from your calendar and break them into smaller tasks. It will return your sense of control while helping you get more done.
If a job takes an hour or two, reward yourself with a short break when it’s completed. If a job requires more time, break it into smaller tasks.
Instead of wasting your first hour of work emailing, tackle the most daunting of your tasks first. Don’t wait until you’re tired and irritable to take on the tough stuff.
5. Learn to Like Lists
This is always go-to organizational advice, but lists are extremely helpful. Besides helping you block out your day, they provide a sense of accomplishment when it’s over. The key is not just listing huge, days-long tasks but rather accomplishable to-do-today items. Break down big projects into sections or action items.
6. Don’t Skimp on the Breaks or the Rewards
Yes, today’s remote workers are pretty productive. Sadly some of that is a side effect because they are working longer, seemingly nonstop hours. Unfortunately, this has contributed to a spike in burnout among remote workers. Your body needs breaks. Staring at a computer screen for hours will hurt your eyes. Sitting for hours will hurt your back. Make stretching and walking around your space part of your routine. You may find a timer or an app like Clockify helpful to make sure you stop when you should.
7. Set Boundaries
Your workday shouldn’t bleed into when you should be sleeping. It’s easy to become an always-working remote worker. Whether you are freelance or an employee, don’t answer emails after a certain preset time. Take off the weekends. Some avoid electronic devices entirely for one day a week as part of their faith. I think this is an excellent idea even if you aren’t particularly religious.
Regardless of whether you’re a night owl or a morning robin, you need to have times when you are not working. Putting in an extra few hours before sleep may affect your slumber –– which will affect your productivity. All those Zoom meetings are exhausting –– talking on the phone tends to take less out of people. So try to limit videoconferences as much as possible.
If you love remote work, keeping your productivity high is a good way to ensure you can still work at home even after colleagues go back to the office. Despite their initial skepticisms, many bosses plan to at least offer hybrid in-office/ remote schedules even when life gets back to “normal.”
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