Well, 2020 has been one for the ages, hasn’t it?
Without going into detail because – who wants to hear that here? – one thing is for sure, it’s probably changed your home life and your work life.
In fact, they’ve probably somehow morphed into one, when before you could count on them being separate.
And with all of that, things have never been more…chaotic.
It’s stressful, overwhelming, and beyond frustrating at times.
So, we’re taking a little detour this week to talk about ways to make your home a more productive workspace.
We’re going to talk about some ways to up your work from home and productivity game to help ease your mind and get a win for the day.
Oh, and still find the time to relax and spend with your family.
All in a day’s work.
Get Started Early
Do you know the days that I feel the best?
Those days that by the time most people pour their first cup of coffee, I’ve crushed two solid hours of work. Two solid hours of undisturbed, stress-free, butt-kicking work, before the sun even makes its ascent.
On many days, I knock more off my to-do list in those two hours than the entire rest of the day.
Stuck working from home and constantly distracted? Nail those first couple hours while everyone else is sleeping, and the rest of the day will be a breeze.
Pretend You’re Going to The Office
It’s a weird effect – but working from home for me always used to mean…somehow getting up later (and still struggling mightily), stumbling out of bed to put on my most comfortable but also most I don’t want anyone to see me in this outfit.
Instead, treat the morning as if you’re going to the office. Get up early, make breakfast, get that coffee made, and into your coffee-stained to-go thermos.
Then go to your dedicated workspace (below).
In doing this, there are a few rules you should implement.
Make Sure Others Understand Your Expectations
Rule #1 – and it’s a tough one. Whether you live with family, friends, or your significant other, they should treat the day just like you – like you are in the office and not even there.
It’s a hard thing (especially if you have kids running around), but it’s best to try your hardest.
Even constant minute-long distractions can add up and ensure you’re not leaving work anytime soon, and the next rule goes out the window pretty quickly…
Pick a Quitting Time
One thing I’ve found is often I work more when I’m working from home. It’s essential to set a finish time and still have time “away” from work.
It’s easy to put work off and take care of it later, or to get so involved in a project that you just keep going, burning the midnight oil.
But all of that will get old quick.
So pick an ending time and stick to it, for the sake of your mental health.
Purposely Get Distracted for More Focus
I take far fewer breaks now that I’m working from home every day. Many days I never take any.
And the truth is, you still need them for so many reasons.
Contrary to popular belief, taking breaks and getting away from your desk refuels you and prepares you for what’s to come.
Even if you have to plan it out, get in a few breaks during the day to do something other than work.
Prepare Your Lunches As You Used To
Just because you’re home, don’t waste time making a 3-course meal.
Prep your meals the night before, or even over the weekend, just like you used to.
While it may seem convenient that you can make whatever you want, it’s ultimately a huge distraction.
Choose Your Dedicated Workspace
It’s crucial to find a dedicated workspace that will propel you to more productivity and keep you away from distractions.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a spare bedroom that you can call your office. But if not, then find a good place for your desk – just make sure its as far from distractions as possible.
And when you get it nailed down, make sure you do the following.
Get Some Vitamin D
Ideally, you’d have a good source of natural light close by, that’s the best-case scenario. But if you need a little more, get the lamps or lighting you need to focus on your day.
If you can’t find natural light, a natural light lamp may be an excellent investment.
Plant a Tree
Plants are healthy for you, and they spruce the place up a little bit. A little color goes a long way. Find a plant or two that you like and space them around your newly appointed work area.
Make Sure You’re Comfortable – But Not Too Comfortable
Do whatever you have to do to be as comfortable as possible.
I don’t mean the kind of comfort that makes you fall asleep.
I mean the kind of comfort that helps productivity.
- Stand-up desk – you can find decent deals on stand-up desks now, if that’s your jam, get one for your new workstation.
- Stand-up mat – if you like to stand up, save your feet, ankles, and knees with a stand-up mat.
- Stay cool – If you are in a warm client, make sure you can stay cool. Whether that’s an AC unit nearby, a fan, or a portable AC unit. I lose focus fast when I get too hot.
- Mouse and mouse pad – I got a new mouse, and wrist-saving mouse pad, and I couldn’t be happier. Put a little extra down for the comfort of both. It can make a world of difference.
- Bluetooth keyboard – the same goes for your keyboard. I find typing on my ergonomic Bluetooth keyboard much more comfortable than trying to use my laptop keyboard. I even bring it with me when I work from the coffee shop…what can I say? I’m spoiled.
Get More Productive by Leaving
Get ouside. Take a walk, sit somewhere with a grand view, or go take in the ocean for thirty-minutes (if you’re lucky enough :)).
Getting away from it all and enjoying nature helps you reset, and come back mentally prepared to finish the day.
Start Your Day the Night Before
One of the best ways for me to wake up and jump into my day is just that – for me to wake up and jump into my day.
I can’t do that if I don’t know what I’ll be doing.
So I take ten minutes the night before to map out my to-do list and figure out what I’m going to target first.
I used to spend the first thirty minutes of my day at my desk looking through lists, going through emails, and generally avoiding work while trying to plan out how my entire day would go.
But now, I’m already thirty minutes into the first item in my to-do list.
Just Say “No” to Social Media
I was hit with a Facebook message the other day, and when I looked up from my phone, two hours had passed.
It seemed I had time traveled.
But no – I was staring at my Facebook feed for two hours. What the heck was so interesting?
So while it’s not a distraction solely related to working from home, I bring it up because it’s a distraction that’s everywhere.
If you have to do it, set a time and a place, but don’t let it distract you through all hours of your day.
Try This Distraction-Free Method
All your pesky distractions can be solved in one fell swoop with the Pomodoro method.
Once I got comfortable, it became one of the most productive things I’ve added to my ever-growing repertoire.
You can change it to fit your needs, but the base method is this:
- Choose a task to set your mind to.
- Set a timer to 25 minutes.
- Remove all distractions (shut your phone off, put headphones on), and hit start.
- Work on this task until the timer rings (this interval is known as a Pomodoro).
- Take a 5-minute break between Pomodoros.
- Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer (15-30 minute) break.
Find Your Zone of Productivity
Some people are more productive right away in the morning, some later in the morning, and some after lunch. Whichever is your zone of productivity, block that time out for yourself.
If you can nail a two-hour window of prime focus, you’ll get done with more than many do in a day.
Nothing is That Urgent – Ditch Your Phone
This one is a little unorthodox, but even above and beyond being more productive and less distracted, I’ve found it cathartic.
I turn my ringer off, turn my phone over, and turn off my email alerts whenever I do a Pomodoro.
Even the two-second distraction of looking at my phone gets me out of my flow, and I have to readjust to get back to it.
The bonus – I realized rarely is anything that important that it can’t wait for one of my breaks. Most of the time, people can wait.
And when I take a break, that’s when I respond – in my time.
Listen to whatever music or noise gets you into the rhythm you need to be for your work.
It can drown out background noise that can distract you and can instead help you focus.
I use different music for different things. But one that I always fall back on is brain.fm – an app that has different music for everything from creative focus to learning, and meditation to sleep.
Lastly – Don’t Isolate Yourself
Go outside after a long day, go meet up with some people, or just take a walk.
Or change it up and work from a coffee shop for a while.
Do something to get human interaction. I isolated myself for so long, trying to remain productive, that I forget that we need other social interactions.
Don’t do what I did.
Be Productive Working from Home – Be Happy!
Working from home used to be a privilege, now everybody wants back in their offices.
If you’ve been paying attention, it seems working from home will be a lot more common in our society, even after this pandemic.
So it’s best if we get used to it.
Go through some steps above, find a way to be productive, and still have that work-life-balance everyone talks about.
And you can. Ultimately, once you set up a workspace built for success, you can be more productive than ever, even from home. With the bonus that once you’re done, your family is only a few steps away.
So let’s enjoy the privilege while we can!
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