Since so many of us have been thrust into new (and possibly distracting) work from home situations due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s been a challenge faced by many to find ways to increase productivity and lessen distractions while remote working.
Implementing small changes into your daily routines will do wonders for your work-life balance, so after doing some research I have compiled a list of the best (and my personal favourite) tips for working from home to increase productivity. Remote working is an art. Getting into a good working headspace can be a challenge, especially if your workspace is always changing due to being on the move, or you have to work somewhere other than your usual working environment. Whether you’re a digital nomad and your work station is constantly changing, or simply have to work from a home office, these tips are sure to optimize your productivity.
Here are my 7 tips for transforming your productivity when working from home.
1) Make your bed as soon as you get up in the morning.
Charles Duhigg writes in his book The Power of Habit, “making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.” He classes making your bed in the morning a “keystone habit”, which is basically a catalyst that starts other good behaviour patterns throughout the day.
Keystone habits can be anything from making your bed, to brushing your teeth first thing in the morning, to eating a healthy and balanced breakfast. As Duhigg writes, they can spark “chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.” The idea is that after one task is checked off the list that small sense of satisfaction will encourage you to do another task, and another and another. Which leads me nicely onto my next point;
2) Create a morning routine you can stick to.
Figuring out a realistic morning routine that works for you is key for a productive day. The more simple it is, the more likely you are to do it and thus reap the benefits. Developing key daily routines can produce a cascade of positive effects. Doing a simple 3-step morning routine every day such as making your bed, making a coffee and sitting down to read the news for 15 minutes can significantly improve your productivity throughout the day.
Sure, being a boss and crossing 17 things off your todo-list first thing when you wake up is a satisfying feeling, but a morning routine should be about more than what you can accomplish. Begin your day as you intend to go on. Taking time to meditate, workout or whip up a nutritious breakfast can do wonders for your mental health and overall mindset.
Be aware next time you have a super productive day of how that day started, and note it down. I know that if I make my bed, eat a bowl of fruit, then go and workout all within the first hour of waking up my day is TENFOLD more productive than if I wake up late and scroll on instagram for 3 hours!
Habits are great for productivity, and keep you centred while on the move and working from different locations. Develop a morning routine that works for you (starting with making your bed) and I’m sure you’ll start to notice how much more effortless the rest of the day seems to flow.
3) Get ready as if you’re going to work.
This may sound insane, but dressing in something you feel confident and powerful wearing has been shown to increase cognitive ability and influence your thinking and negotiating skills.
Getting dressed and ready for work puts you in a working mindset. Sure, it can be a fun change for a while to wake up whenever you feel like it, roll out of bed (or not even), flip open your laptop and start working away, but studies have shown that wearing something you feel powerful in can influence your abstract thinking, positively impacting your creativity and long-term strategizing.
This research even shows that when wearing a white lab coat, subjects “made half as many mistakes on an attention-demanding task”.
4) Create a workspace within your home.
Having separate spaces for different tasks within the home is key for productivity. Separating your working and sleeping areas means you are more likely to develop mental associations with each place, meaning you’ll be able to focus better while you’re working and have more quality sleep.
Much like how a consistent morning routine mentally prepares you for your day, so does a change in location. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard backs up the idea that work and sleep areas should not be the same. They say, “Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.” By separating your work and sleep areas, you’re more likely to work more productively AND sleep better. It’s a win-win.
Having a dedicated workspace within your home means you’re more likely to be able to focus and not succumb to distractions. Try putting your phone in another room or using noise cancelling headphones. I just gifted myself some noise cancelling headphones and I am IN LOVE!
5) Work to deadlines.
Setting a deadline for tasks throughout the day creates structure and mentally prepares you for the amount of time you’re going to be working for. Working to deadlines has been proven to make you more productive. This is due to something called Parkinsons Law, which argues that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”, basically, if you give yourself longer to do something, it’s likely to take longer. By narrowing the time available to complete a task, we are controlling that expansion. We end up scaling our efforts and prioritizing tasks depending on how long we have until the deadline, making us more productive.
Sure, this is a fluid thing, especially for digital nomads. Some days you may end up crushing your to-do list in your scheduled work session when others days you may only manage a couple of things. Stopping yourself from working at a set time encourages a healthy work-life balance, which is key for stress management and in turn, you guessed it… productivity!
6) Take short breaks throughout the day.
Research has shown that taking study breaks increases mental focus and creativity. I’m a strong supporter of the Pomodoro Technique created by Francesco Cirillo which breaks down work into intervals, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for ‘tomato’, after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.
I love timer apps like Forest which allow you to set a time limit for a pomodoro, after which you can take a break. If you’re THAT guy (spoiler – I am that guy) you could even write topics for each pomodoro so that you evenly distribute your time between tasks.
Since I’ve recently been trying to spend less attached to my phone I bought myself a pomodoro timer which I’ve been loving! Something about turning off the shrill ringing seems so much more satisfying than pressing stop on my phone.
7) Schedule your work periods.
At the beginning of each week, I find it helpful to sit down for a couple of hours and plan out the week ahead. I schedule in sessions dedicated to working on specific tasks, for example “Blogging” 10am-12pm, then write bullet points for everything I need to get done that day in that area. This helps me to get out of bed and get my morning routine over before starting work, and there’s nothing more motivating than ending a work session having crossed everything off my list.
The more specific I am with what I’ll be doing that day and what tasks I have to complete, the more likely I am to get the most out of that work session. I’m a big believer in writing to-do lists. Research has shown that “writing tasks down will make you more effective” as it frees us from the anxiety of an unfinished task, and we can focus on the tasks ahead. Once we have completed the task and can cross it off, we are likely to forget about it. I recently purchased the Best Self planner and have been absolutely loving how it’s helping me to structure my day.
Another technique I love is front-loading my day, meaning I get the boring tasks done in the first half of the day, and schedule the more exciting things in for later in the afternoon. This way you feel somewhat rewarded when you’ve crossed all the hard parts of the list, and are more motivated to go back to work in the afternoon because you only have the fun parts left to do!
To sum up:
1) Make your bed as soon as you get up in the morning
2) Create a morning routine you can stick to
3) Get ready as if you’re going to work
4) Create a workspace within your home
5) Work to deadlines
6) Take short breaks throughout the day
7) Schedule your work periods.
Don’t forget, every little helps! Even one small change can make a world of difference.
Comment your favourite tips for remote working/working from home!