Working from home has increased in popularity with freelancers and companies investing in cloud-based platforms. However, working from home isn't always easy, and forcing yourself to focus on a difficult task without the help of coworkers or motivation of others can be a struggle. If you struggle with productivity when you're on your own, tips and tricks are available to help you perform better at tasks and get more done during work hours.
In order to avoid the pitfall of distraction, carve out domestic space for work. You need a surface large enough to spread out on, an electrical outlet nearby, good task lighting, and some kind of barrier, like a screen, large plants, or strategically placed furniture to create a bit of privacy. If you can possibly avoid it, don't use the workspace as a recreation or play area, or to serve food. But if that's not possible, make a ritual out of switching your home office back to family use at the end of the workday.
Social media might be the worst time consumer there is when you’re trying to focus on something important. Many businesses have blocked access to social media sites when employees are onsite, but having access to every cat video out there is a serious temptation when you’re working from home. There are plenty of apps and PC installations that can block social media sites. Consider turning off notifications, too.
It will be tempting to work in your pajamas or slop around in track pants all day. Try to resist, even though this is often the most attractive lure for office workers dreaming of working from home. Get dressed for a regular Casual Friday at work each morning and keep the sweats and jammies for post-work day relaxing. You'll find it will impact your mood and your attitude to both modalities.
Investigate Zoom, WeChat, Skype, Slack, Evernote, and the host of other communication or team organization apps and tools out there to see what might work best for you and your co-workers. Adapters, headsets, noise-canceling headphones, and other types of hardware can also make working from home more efficient and comfortable.
Your breaks should be spaced properly and suited to your work style and attention span. The human brain can only take so much information at once, and an overload leads to certain regions shutting down and a lapse in decision-making skills. So before you tackle a pile of emails, think about setting an alarm for 30 minutes and taking a 5 or 10-minute break before resuming work. Another method, called the Pomodoro Technique, focuses on 25-minute intervals of work or study with five-minute breaks in between.
Even if you’ve been taking breaks and still feel fresh by six o'clock, it’s important not to overload yourself when working from home, especially during the first few days. The temptation to get as much done as possible to lighten the load later won’t pay off in the long run and could lead to burnout. Set specific hours for work, and don’t push yourself to continue past the end of your work block. Pacing yourself will help you keep a good work-life balance.
When you’re at the office, much of your day is scheduled ahead of time. Meetings, lunch breaks, conference calls, and status updates all need to be conducted in a timely manner and often in person. When you’re away from the office, however, your schedule may become less structured. Create a planner that fits in leisure and professional responsibilities and stick to it.
Single employees working from home might notice days passing by without interacting with another person. Isolation can be mentally draining, so try to spend some time with at least one other person during your work-from-home venture. If you can’t be in physical contact with another person, phone and video calls can unite you with friends and family.
Some studies have shown that listening to music before beginning a task can improve performance, and others have shown that music during a task is more effective. Listen to different types of music to see what genre and listening style works best for you. Sounds of nature or podcasts might also improve your focus.
Innocent interruptions form family members might be alright once in a while, but too many of them can disrupt your concentration. Share your work schedule with your family so they know when you're socially available. Keeping the lines of communication open with your family can prevent arguments and irritability, especially if you’re all cooped up together.
This means taking care of your mental and physical health. Resorting to delivery or take-out can be a time-saver, but might kill your healthy habits. If you don’t have the chance to head to the gym, try to stay active in some way or another, whether it’s by walking down the street or doing a little indoor cardio.
Breathe. Stretch. Build time into each workday to center and focus. There are plenty of online resources for guided meditations or short yoga routines, so schedule a few of these throughout the week. You'll feel and work better for it. If you have access to outdoor space, simply going outside to breathe fresh air can be restorative.
After implementing numerous productivity tips, you might feel a little constrained. Working from home should be an enjoyable experience and, just as you might treat yourself to a latte on the way to the office, finding ways to indulge a little at home is important. Allow yourself to order a pizza on Fridays, or make a special type of coffee drink in the mornings. A reward system for your hard work will encourage you to keep being productive.
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