Productivity has always been a challenge that most of us struggle with, but the pandemic adds another layer of complexity for those of us who are working from home. In the beginning, we saw a multitude of advantages of working from home; no time wasted on commuting, a chance to work uninterrupted on projects, and a change of environment. However, as working from home guidance starts to drag on into another year, most of us are already feeling the side effects of remote working. From blurred working time to increased screen fatigue and the struggle to maintain relationships, it is evident that these issues (and more) are becoming factors that prevent us from being productive.
Here are some tips that can help you boost productivity when working from home.
Plan your workflow
From your morning rituals to how you end your workday, make sure to schedule each event in your calendar. Concentrating for hours on end is almost impossible and could stand in the way of your productivity. Scheduling breaks in between your work hours can help you recharge and focus better. A good method to organise yourself would be the Pomodoro Technique – the method consists of taking at least a 3-minute break for every 25 minutes of concentration, followed by a 15-minute break after every four 25 minute intervals.
It’s also important to schedule in a dedicated time to check and respond to your emails and messages. The reason email overwhelms us is because we let it run us and not the other way around. If you are constantly needing to check your email every few minutes, it’s better to turn it off.
Set rules with people in your workspace
Most of us share living spaces. Whether you live with your partner, parents, children or even roommates, being surrounded by people can often give you positive energy and motivation but it can also create unwanted distraction. The key to maintaining productivity is minimising different types of distractions. It’s important to set up a schedule with those around you or decide on a system where others can be notified when you are working or when you are in a meeting, or even when you can get away from your desk for a few minutes. Designating a workplace where you can physically keep people out is also a healthy practice.
As much as we like to think we can multitask, we cannot. When we divide our focus into several tasks and objectives, our minds are distracted and are unable to process or retain new information. This inability to concentrate can impact your professional and personal life. You start to make more mistakes at work and find it hard to form deep connections with others. Another major downside of multitasking is feeling overwhelmed with anxiety because you are not getting your tasks done properly.
Start to break down your task into small chunks and label the ones that are a priority. Communicate with your manger if you feel like you can’t decide which tasks require your immediate attention. Remove any other tasks and distractions from your vision and focus solely on the one at hand.
Virtual team bonding sessions
Remote working can get lonely, especially when you are used to casual social interactions with colleagues throughout the day. So how can you fight the boredom and loneliness of working from home? Set up a virtual lunch break with your team, reach out to them through video chat apps, engage in topics that are not all about work during break times or maybe create a virtual bonding session like yoga, trivia quizzes, multiplayer game activities and fun competitions.
Remember, interacting with other people during the day is allowed, even if they're not your colleagues. It’s a good idea to see another face during the day when most of your workday is solitary.
Set realistic goals
It’s easy to fall into the trap of aiming high and striving towards that overachieving goal but doing so can often result in a quicker burnout. We are all going through very difficult and stressful times so stop aiming for perfection and aim for progress. Set up small weekly realistic goals and break it up into day-to-day targets that are feasible to achieve. Communicate your goals clearly with your managers. Make sure to reward yourself for hitting your weekly goals and if you missed your goal, make sure to write down what you can improve upon next time. The most important thing is knowing that you are making progress, whether it’s big or small.
Unplug after work hours
Don’t extend the workday too far beyond what you planned, at the risk of burning yourself out. It’s important to set up a work schedule similar to how you would if you are working from an office. If you start work at 8am and get off at 5pm, make sure to turn off all your email notifications and work messaging apps. For example, if you like to take evenings to spend time with family, make sure you communicate that you won’t be checking emails after a certain time. And then hold yourself to that commitment.
Take care of yourself
Productivity happens when people reduce their stress levels. Build self-care into your daily routine, whether that is a walk in the sunshine, contact with loved ones or spending virtual social time with colleagues. It’s also important to keep your mindset and attitude in check. Your greatest power is your perspective. It can victimise you or empower you. When you look for the upside in a negative situation and figure out what you can control and what you can't, it's easier to accept the outcome.
Productivity is about the actions you take. It’s not something you are born with, it’s a skill that many of us continue to learn and often struggle with. During these uncertain and stressful times, it’s easy to feel burnout and lose motivation but with the tips above you can start today to make smarter choices, change your behaviour and improve your productivity.