The pandemic has forced countless employees to change their schedules entirely, but working from home has been a trend that's been on the rise for quite some time. With office space running at a premium and virtual communication tools improving every year, it's more than just possible to work from home — it's become downright practical.
There's a lot of uncertainty when it comes to what the future workforce will really look like, but it's entirely possible that people who didn't work from home before will make the switch now that company leaders realize it can be done.
Some people legitimately thrive in this situation. The controlled environment gives them tunnel vision that quickly snowballs into maximum productivity. But not all of us can be so lucky, especially when we find ourselves endlessly distracted by everything from what's on TV to what's in the fridge. Whether you're working from home on a temporary or permanent one, we'll give you a few tips to find your groove.
1. Try the Pomodoro Techiqune
Millions of people use the Pomodoro technique to kickstart their productivity when they've lost their motivation:
- Pick a task and commit to it for just 25 minutes.
- Fully immerse yourself in the task until the timer is up
- Place a checkmark next to the task and then take a short break (around 5 minutes)
- For every four tasks, try a longer break (around 20 minutes)
Named after the Italian word for tomato, the idea of the Pomodoro is not to overwhelm your brain with any one thing. By breaking the day into half-hour blocks, it makes your workload easier to chew (proverbially speaking). It's ultimately designed to help you get more done in an hour than you normally would in two.
2. Set Start/Stop Times
Before we get into this oft-repeated bit of advice, we'd like to make it clear that there are some benefits to breaking your schedule (especially if you're liable to be inspired at odd hours of the day). But the vast majority of evidence points towards the value of consistency. When you have a routine, the normalcy will trick your brain into helping you out — if only a subconscious level.
As an aside, many people find that when they first get to work, they're better off tackling the most difficult tasks. Doing this can give you a sense of accomplishment while simultaneously taking a lot of pressure off of you as the day goes by. These kinds of good feelings can really help you knock off the last few tasks by the time you're ready to call it quits.
3. Try Exercising in the Morning
If you switched from office to home because of corona, you don't really have an excuse anymore that you don't have the time to exercise. Even if your commute was only five minutes, that five minutes could be put toward jumping jacks when you spring out of bed. No matter how uncoordinated you are in the morning, exercising releases neurotransmitters that make you happier and give you an overall feeling of control.
Most of us like to blame our lack of productivity on general laziness, but that's usually because we don't want to admit that we're really anxious about our abilities to finish the work and meet our own high expectations. Exercising won't eliminate all of your nerves and stress, but it can go a long way toward regulating it. Just think how good that will be when your boss gives you a talking-to immediately after you sign-in.
4. Focus on Your Morning Schedule
Similar to many of our other suggestions, this is all about creating a schedule that fits in with your daily goals. So maybe you roll out of bed without hitting the snooze button, do 20 jumping jacks, hit the shower, and grab some coffee. Or maybe you prefer to meditate for five minutes and set an intention for the day before you dive into the practical business of getting ready.
We whole-heartedly recommend working gratitude into your morning routine however you can. No matter who you are, expressing how thankful you are can add to momentum by giving you a sense of control over the situation (much like exercise). Like all of our suggestions, gratitude doesn't have to be complicated. Maybe you list three things you're grateful for aloud while you're washing your hair or typing up one thing before getting started.
5. Watch Your To-Do List
The more you overload yourself, the more likely it is you'll reach burnout. This tip can be frustrating for those with exceptionally demanding jobs, but it's an important one because no one is immune from it. You can probably chug along for years (even decades) with an insane degree of work, but it will catch up with you eventually. If you find yourself staring at a laundry list of tasks, it's no wonder you're struggling with productivity.
Because there are no clear boundaries when you work from home unless you set them, you might find yourself taking on more responsibility because you think you can handle it. Before you let that happen, consider how your brain will thank you when you can find a way to delegate or say no to the never-ending demands. And if you're still not convinced, consider how cutting back could help you avoid costly mistakes.
6. Make Checklists
We covered checklists a little with the Pomodoro technique, but it's worth highlighting just how effective they are for establishing the flow of your day. Having small, manageable goals that you can accomplish throughout the day is the secret to happiness. It might not be the most glamorous solution to productivity, but it is one of the most effective.
Everyone's checklists will look a little different depending on their responsibilities. Some people break down major tasks into tiny steps, while others will list only the main tasks to be crossed off upon completion. Based on what we know about productivity, it may help to focus on the former tactic over the latter.
If you need someone to help you manage your workload, there's no shame in letting another professional take the reins. A virtual assistant might not be able to do your job, but they can lighten the burden enough for you to really step up your game. When we're in the middle of so much tumult, sometimes having someone you can truly count on is more than just helpful — it's priceless.