Many people are being asked to temporarily work from home, if possible, during the current COVID-19 outbreak, and some are choosing to do so voluntarily. Working from home does have its benefits, including no commute, the ability to wear pajamas “to the office”, and being a little more flexible in your schedule. However, it also comes productivity challenges.
With several schools being closed and kids also home, some people might fall into the trap of it feeling like a “weekend” or holiday. But most people still have work deadlines to meet and projects to complete. If you are prone to procrastinate, struggle with staying focused or have trouble sticking to a routine or schedule, we have some strategies that can help you get over these hurdles and get your priority work done from wherever you may be.
- Pick or create a space where you can focus on work. If you don’t have a dedicated “home office”, select a spot that you can clear of all other things and “claim” for work. Make sure it’s clear of clutter, that you have some basic office supplies nearby, and that it’s in a quiet part of your home so that you can focus, participate in calls or video conferences with colleagues on your team, clients or business partners without background noise, and stick to a “work” schedule as much as possible.
- Do your toughest task early in the workday. We call this strategy “Eat a Frog for Breakfast” (concept of doing the hardest, highest priority work first to “get it down” and over with, originated by author and speaker Brian Tracy).
- Set a timer to stay focused for blocks of time throughout the day. It can be tempting to go refill your coffee, toss in a load of laundry, check the mail or any other at-home-task you may use to procrastinate, but use these things as planned breaks, in between bursts of focused work. Try the Pomodoro technique of 25-minute work periods separated by 5-minute breaks, or 50-minute work periods separated by 10-minute breaks.
- Make a short-list of your top three priorities. Set yourself up for success by identifying the things that really (and realistically) need to be done in a day. Commit to doing those tasks before anything else.
- Engage an accountability partner. Connect via phone or email with this person at the beginning of each week or daily, declare what you are going to get done that week or day, and find out what they’re committing to. Check in at the beginning of the next week or day and report in on how you did on your commitments and what your commitments are for the new week or day. Accountability does wonders for productivity (link to a post where we talk about why).
- Do what you can to discourage or minimize interruptions. Tell others in the house that you’re working and when you’ll be available to them so that they can know what to expect. Turn off phone and computer notifications to make it easier to stay on task and not be distracted.
- Keep your routine and schedule as “normal” as possible. Set your alarm to wake up and go to sleep at the same times you usually would. If you typically work out before going in to work, keep that routine up even if you are doing it from home.
Another element to working from home is strategizing how to maintain communication with your work team or employees, including a social and collaborative connection. Many schools are embracing the concept of online learning, which can also be applied in a work from home/business setting. Leveraging technology and making use of remote work tools, such as conducting virtual meetings via Zoom or other services, is just one example (however, we recommend you don’t wear your pajamas if you are doing that). Yes, you do need to stay professional and business appropriate even if you are telecommuting!
It is also important that you plan breaks to step away from your work at regular intervals. For example, take a half hour a couple times each day to get outside for some fresh air and take the dog for a walk around the block – it’s a win/win for you and for the dog! Remember the same good practices you use at your office for how often you are checking text messages, social media and the stock market.
Once you finish your priority work for the day, leave “the office”. Remember to maintain work/life harmony and not work past your usual hours just because your office is just down the hall. Shut down your computer and spend some extra time when you would otherwise be commuting to connect with your family in whatever way is meaningful for them and for you.
And remember, working from home doesn’t mean you need to live in total isolation (unless you are under quarantine). If everyone is healthy, you can still meet up with your work team in small groups, if necessary, or get together outside for a hike and some team building time in nature. Just be sure to practice smart habits like good hand-washing and consider alternate greetings to shaking hands.
It’s About Time – your time…
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by learning new work-from-home habits, your Email, tasks or demands on your time, through our virtual “It’s About Time” program and community, we can provide support and accountability to help you work smarter, not harder, and be more productive with the time you have each day.
Our members love the accountability that comes from their fellow members and the Simply Placed team. They’re accomplishing things that they wouldn’t on their own and it’s about time. Time for what matters most!
If you’d like to learn more about strategies to be more productive when you are working from home, check out the link below and register today!