Working from home and productivity can go hand in hand.
Working from home is no longer taboo. In fact, it’s become extremely common for millions of people – thanks in part to technology that’s made it possible to communicate and collaborate with anyone around the world.
While working from home can be a blessing, it can also be curse if you’re not prepared. That’s understandable if you’re new to this lifestyle.
If you’re in that situation, I’ve put together these 11 productivity hackers for work-from-home newbies.
1. Know when you're the most productive
While there is evidence that waking-up early can influence success. The truth is that not every everyone is cut out to wake-up at the ungodly hour or 4am. Some are not built to exercise, send-out emails, and start diving into work before 8am.
The secret to working from home is knowing the best time of day to work. This will ensure that you’re not only productive, but that you can do more quality work.
Not sure when this is?
Here’s a couple of pointers to figure that out.
Ask these two questions; When do I have the most amount of energy and concentration? and When are there the fewest interruptions and distractions?
Carve out one to three 90-minute periods, which will be your productive bursts.
Prioritise your tasks. Do your most important and challenging tasks first when you have the most energy.
Embrace interruptions at the right time. For example, use your lunch break to run errands, do household chores, respond to emails, or play with your dog. You’ll be energised when you get back.
Be creative with your schedule. If you want to sleep-in until 10am and work from noon to 8pm, do that. Work when you are at your best. Remember, you’re not tied to the traditional 9-to-5 workday anymore.
2. Keep your days like traditional work days
This doesn’t mean that you start work at 9am and stop at 5pm. After all, we’ve already established that those may not be your most productive times to work.
What this means is that like a traditional 9-to-5 gig, you keep a consistent schedule where you start and end work at a specific time. If not, you’ll be on call 24/7. It’s the ultimate guaranteed ticket to a place known as Burntoutville. I don’t recommend visiting that place anytime soon. Don’t. Just don’t.
If you start work at 7am, take a break around 3pm if you want to spend time with your kids when they get home from school. Even if you go back to work, make sure that you shut everything down around 6pm so that you can eat dinner and put your kids to bed.
3. Learn keyboard shortcuts
This may not seem like that big of a deal, but this hack can save you time, boost your productivity, improve your efficiency, and prevent your arms from getting tired. This is a big deal when you’re writing on a daily basis.
Different operating systems have varying shortcut keys, but the fine folks at Computer Hope put together a handy list to get you started.
4. Use the tools that work best for you
There’s no shortage of tools that can assist you in time-tracking, scheduling your day. Jotting down to-do lists, communicating with clients, and even blocking out distractions is helpful. The trick is to find a mix of tools that work for you.
For example, my colleagues and I used Insightly to collaborate with each other and check off completed assignments. I’m sure that it’s a great tool for larger organisations.
But for our small team it was too time-consuming. We switched over to Slack, which was more ideal, and less time consuming, for us.
When starting out, think about what areas you need assistance with. For instance, do you have hard time keeping track of all of your passwords? Then compare tools like LastPass and experiment with them until you find the tool that works best for you.
5. Set social media and email check-in times
Unless your job involves staying connected to social media, only schedule specific times to check your social media accounts and emails. If not, you’ll be constantly distracted whenever you receive a notification.
Most successful people check their social channels and emails at set times. Choose first thing in the morning, during your lunch break, and at the end of the day.
Also, don’t check your phone for messages directly before bed. This can have a negative impact on your sleep.
Again, shut down your workday at a specific time – and that includes checking into your social channels and email accounts.
6. Schedule meetings
This might seem counter-intuitive. After all, meetings can tend to be a waste of time -- especially when you work remotely.
In reality, scheduling meetings can be beneficial since they’re a quick and effective way to either solve a problem or build a process.
Instead of going back-and-forth via email or playing phone tag with a client or colleague, schedule a one hour meeting. Everything that needs to be discussed regarding a project can usually be covered.
This way you will complete the project sooner.
7. Follow the two-minute rule
If there is a task that’s going to take two-minutes or less to complete, then do it immediately. Don’t waste your time or energy writing down these tasks down either.
Just get them done immediately so that your attention and energy is saved for more important jobs.
8. Don't rule out all distractions
Peace and quiet sounds like an ideal work situation, right? In actuality, we all need a little background noise and distractions from time-to-time.
For some of us, white noise can be beneficial, like improving productivity and boosting creativity. It just depends on the type of noise and how loud it is.
In other words, a little bit of background noise and minor distractions can be an assist when you’re working from home. The TV on is generally not recommended.
9. Take proper breaks
Speaking of distractions, taking micro breaks throughout the day. Your brain needs short periods of rest. This prepares your brain so that it can regain focus and recharge.
A study from Emily Hunter, Ph.D., and Cindy Wu, Ph.D., associate professors of management in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, found that the most beneficial time to take a workday break is mid-morning.
“We found that when more hours had elapsed since the beginning of the work shift, fewer resources and more symptoms of poor health were reported after a break,” the study says. “Therefore, breaks later in the day seem to be less effective.”
Additionally, the research found that better breaks involve activities that people enjoy.
“Finding something on your break that you prefer to do -- something that’s not given to you or assigned to you. [These are the] kinds of activities that are going to make your breaks much more restful. [They] provide better recovery and help you come back to work stronger,” Hunter said.
10. Harness the power of flexibility
While you should create and try to stick to a schedule, the fact of the matter is that you have a flexible schedule. If I decide to take the day off and go to the beach, I can afford that luxury. It just means that the next day I may be putting in 10 or more hours.
11. Design an inspiring home office
Whether if you’re working from the kitchen table, cafe table on the patio, or in a dedicated home office, your workspace should be free of clutter, comfortable, and be inspiring.
This means that is should be free of distractions, has the proper lighting and colouring, and contains items that spark your productivity. Items like plants and knick knacks that display your personality provide all kinds of benefits.
This is a surefire way to maintain a healthy work-life balance and prevent you from getting burnt out.
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