Working from home is probably something new for most of the workforce. Hashtag #WFH and work from home products/solutions are flooding the internet space. If you’re lucky enough to able to work from home, you might have noticed that there are challenges that come along with the WFH lifestyle. If you’ve recently lost your job, be sure to check this blog post on dealing with being laid off. Although there are plenty of blog posts about this topic, I wanted to share some of my lessons learned on how to be productive while working from home. In the B.C. (Before Corona Virus) era, I had been working from home for the past 2 and a half years. My husband recently moved his desk into our office when he quit his job and started his own business.
Our situation is not nearly as challenging as some of the parents that I know. There are several parents who are juggling parenting and schooling, all while maintaining the same level of productivity expected of them before social distancing requirements had been enforced. Not all days are perfect for us. Jesse and I definitely argued more when we started working in the same office.
Use Your Nagging Thoughts to Your Advantage
It’s tough to be productive while working from home when your dog needs to be walked, or your laundry needs to be washed. I came across a tip on how to deal with these nagging chores through Harvard Business Review’s newsletter, Management Tip of the Day. You can click the link to visit their sign up page and sign up their daily newsletters. I like the Management Tip of the Day newsletter because the tips are relevant, short, and easy to read.
Maura Thomas, who is an expert and trainer on corporate productivity does a great job explaining the idea in the Harvard Business Review Article: “Is It Even Possible to Focus on Anything Right Now?”.
WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF DISTRACTED…
“When you find yourself distracted not by other people but by your home environment — nagging thoughts such as, “I really should put in a load of laundry,” “I think I need a snack from the fridge,” “Isn’t it time to walk the dog?” — use these to your advantage. Physical movement, like walking the dog or emptying the dishwasher provide relief after spending time doing mostly “brain work,” like reading, writing, and collaborating with others.From: Is It Even Possible to Focus on Anything Right Now? by Maura Thomas, HBR
Plan for these breaks and use them as a reward. For example, if you’re having trouble starting the article you need to write, decide that “as soon as I identify the three points of the article and draft the introduction, then I can take the dog for a walk.”
Reduce Meeting Frequency–As Much As Possible
I’m no stranger to a calendar that is completely filled with scheduled conference calls and meetings even during the B.C. (before Corona Virus) era. I already felt like I was spending too much time in meetings and not enough time important business items. Working from home has caused meetings to increase 10 fold. With in-person collaborations not being an option anymore, and so many people who are telecommuting, it’s no wonder that meetings and call times have increased substantially.
Due to the increased number of meetings, I’ve spent time parsing through my calendar to trim any arrangements not require my presence in order to be productive while working from home. I’ve started to parse through my calendar thoroughly to combine my meetings that have similar purposes. I’ve also made it a point to check with the meeting organizer to see if I’m required on a conference call.
Give Yourself Breathing Time in Between Meetings
The bleak reality is that there will be days where you have a ton of scheduled calls throughout the day. On those days, you should schedule as much breathing time in between calls as possible. Use this empty space on your calendar to: write down notes, update to-do lists, meditate, take a quick walk, or just close your eyes for just a minute. These quiet moments are extremely important to me as I gain experience. I use these moments to reflect on the conversations and realign to my intention for the day.
Set Boundaries for Work Space and Hours
One of the challenges (and benefits) of working from home is that there are no set hours to when work starts and when work stops. With your office and computer being a few steps away from your bedroom, it’s easy to find yourself working at odd hours of the night. But, it is extremely important for the mental health that you set physical and mental boundaries between work and your personal life. There will inevitably be nights where you work past late evenings due to an unforeseen deadline. But, try to set a daily start time and a stop time.
If possible, try to set strict work hours where you will focus 100% on your work, and then set time for yourself to step away from your work. You might have to work for a few hours this weekend. I recommend doing that work in your office rather than on your couch. Separate the space that you use for work and for your personal life. Having time for rest will help you to be more productive while working from home during your regular work hours.
Write Down the 3 Most Important Tasks at the Beginning of the Day.
There are days where I look at the clock at 4:30 PM, and I’m think: “I didn’t get anything done today”. Truth is, I was probably busy working all day. I just didn’t finish any of the important tasks that I needed to complete that day. Something that helped me with this is creating a list of my 3 most important tasks for the day. My husband bought me the two minute mornings journal a while ago. The last part of the daily prompt asks you to list the top 3 things that you need to complete that day. I know that even if I don’t get anything else done that day, I’ve completed the items that matter most.
**Bonus: If there are metrics that I use to track my productivity, I will include that into my top 3 tasks for that day. For example, say I need to follow up with a few clients regarding projects that are in my pipeline. I make sure that “call x# of clients” is on my top 3 tasks.