Many of you may have never worked from home before. If you have, you know it has it’s pros and cons. While working from home for a single day may feel like a vacation, in order to sustain productivity, you must develop some new skills and utilize new tools. Because remote work can become isolating and full of distractions.
Here are our best tips for being even more productive at home than at work… and for keeping your sanity.
1. Morning Routine like usual
Getting ready for a virtual workday is all about your own mentality. So while it’s going to be tempting to roll out of bed at 8:45am, throw on sweatpants and get to work, it’s a bad idea for most people. When you get go through your normal morning work routine, your brain is also shifting into work mode. If you just open your laptop in bed, your brain is going to stay in weekend mode.
So stick to your normal morning routine. Most people find dressing like they’re going to work even helps. So while saving on the commute time might get you an extra 15 minutes of sleep, stick to your normal preparation.
2. Complete something right away
If you’re used to getting up at the last minute and not leaving enough time for any kind of morning routine, this one may be challenging. As soon as you wake up, complete a task. It could be as simple as 10 push-ups or sit-ups. Or as simple as making your bed.
Here’s why: At work, you must be productive because everyone is around you. At home, that accountability has to be self motivated. An object in motion stays in motion. Try to get into flow state as quickly as possible, motivate yourself early with little wins.
3. Stay away from distractions
I don’t just mean TV or social media. I mean the false positive distractions, like spring cleaning, or doing laundry, or organizing your shoes. When I first started working from home, I often fell into the trap of convincing myself, “I’ll be able to work so much better after that horrible pile of dishes are washed.” It’s a trap, don’t fall for it. Just because you’re doing something positive doesn’t mean you’re being productive.
One of the biggest keys to this is a reliance on systems and processes over willpower. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you have the willpower to turn the TV off after your lunch break. Work in a room where you can’t see or hear the TV, and don’t take a lunch break with the TV on.
4. Designate a home office
One of those systems and processes that can act as an insurance policy to your willpower is designating an area of your office as your new office. If you’ve got the luxury, set up your home work-space in “an area where you can be productive and [that] is separate from your private life,” says remote work consultant Lisette Sutherland. Don’t sit on the couch with your computer on your lap and think that’ll work the same as a desk. As a substitute, use your kitchen or dining room table where you can set up an office-like environment.
5. Structuring your day
You’re going to have less meetings, that’s just a fact. Which means you have more time to actually do your work. So how do you structure what to work on?
Make a list the night before or first thing in the morning and prioritize the most important things. “But all of these things are important,” you say.
One way to make sure you don’t work deep into the evening – ask yourself the question, “If I could only get one thing done today, what would be?” and that gets reserved for your most important task of the day. For tasks of secondary importance, identify two tasks whose completion will make the day even better. And for all of your additional tasks, only do those after you have completed the previous three tasks.
You’re never going to have enough time in the day to complete all of your tasks. But if you structure your work in this way, you’ll go sleep a heck of a lot less stressed, making you more productive the next day, and making sure you can still give your family the love they need.
6. Setting up time constraints
Because there is no longer a physical separation between work and home, you might be tempted to put off work until later in the day because the perception is that you have more time. Setting up tight time constraints are good for this.
Try using the Pomodoro Technique. First, identify your task that will take at least 25 minutes to complete, and give yourself a time limit for completing it. It could be creating a graphic image for social media, it could be writing or reviewing a communication plan.
A single Pomodoro is a 25-minute block of time. Start a timer, and begin working. If you get distracted or pulled into something else, the Pomodoro repeats, as there is no such thing as a half Pomodoro. During that 25 minutes, you’re laser focused on one specific task. For tasks that require a longer period of time, take the 5 minutes after a Pomodoro to get up, stretch, go to the restroom, refill your water or coffee. Then you’re back in it and timer begins again. This method will help you focus and get into flow state, creating more productivity than you could possibly get in the office.
7. Use virtual collaboration tools with your team: Here are some of the tools our team utilizes to perform in a distributed workplace that should be able to help you.
Slack: It’s basically an internal instant messaging platform, but highly organized by topic. (If you have Microsoft 365 for your entire organization, your organization may encourage you to use Microsoft Teams, which is a great alternative to Slack.)
Google Docs, Sheets, Slides: These are collaborative versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Meaning multiple people can work on the same document at the same time, and everything is automatically saved. No more worrying about “is he editing the most updated version?”
Trello: Little more of a learning curve here, but spend the weekend looking at it. It’s an easy-to-use project management tool. For any project my team is working on, I can take a peek at their “board” and see all the progress of each task and who’s working on it. (There are lots of alternatives here, like Asana or Monday.com, it’s just about finding one that fits your needs)
Zoom and Facetime: Working from home gets lonely real quick. So use these tools to actually see who you are talking to. It’ll be a little uncomfortable at first, but trust us, it makes a massive difference. For Zoom, use it for virtual meetings. You can share your screen with everyone else on the call and people will still be able to see you. For Facetime, use it instead of just calling one person directly.
Stay safe out there everyone!