15 ways to stay productive working from home
Working from home has become the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, but are you making the most of your time? Here are 15 tried and tested ways to stay productive when working from home.
1. Create a work space
Find a room in your home where you can work and turn it into a workspace where you feel calm and comfortable. Customise it with a picture or two on the wall, a pot plant and some nice lighting to make yourself feel at home. There have got to be some benefits of working in your own home, right?
2. Invest in a chair
Ask your employer if they’ll buy you a proper office chair to use at home. If not, consider using the money you’re saving on train fare to invest in one yourself. You’re going to need the lumbar support, and a real desk chair will help put you in the right frame of mind for a productive day of work.
3. Stick to a schedule
Create a morning routine for yourself, and stick to it! Get up at the same time every day, get washed and dressed (for work - not back into your pyjamas), brush your teeth and have some breakfast. Don’t sit down at your desk until you’ve woken up and got ready for the day. While it’s tempting to stay in your pjs until lunchtime, you’ll be more productive if you’re up and dressed.
4. Take breaks
Regular breaks are really important for concentration, so schedule these in if you have trouble remembering to take them. Get up from your desk and stretch your body, and maybe take a short walk outside if you can. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, take a coffee break outside and don’t automatically pick up your smartphone - give your eyes and your brain a rest. Make sure you’re eating regularly (nutrient-dense snacks such as nuts, fruit and yoghurt) and staying hydrated (with water - endless cups of coffee don’t count!)
5. Switch off your social media
Log out of your social media accounts and turn off the notifications on your personal phone. Consider using a browser such as Google Chrome, which allows you to create multiple accounts - one for personal use, and one for work which doesn’t have any tempting social media tabs saved.
6. Track your time
Try to create a schedule for yourself to break your day into segments of different tasks. You can use an online calendar for this, which can send you automatic reminders when it’s time to start a new task. Segmenting your day like this can help you stay focused and help you get everything you need to do done. You could spend a few minutes at the end of each day setting your schedule for the next day to make sure you remember what needs to be done.
7. Set boundaries
Let your family or your housemates know what hours you’re working, and ask them not to disturb you during this time. If you have kids, it’s important they know you’re not available for playing or activities during your workday. Close the door to your workspace if you can, to create a physical barrier to distractions, and use noise cancelling headphones if your house is noisy!
8. Listen to music
The chance to have background music on during the workday is another perk of working from home! Pay attention to what you’re choosing though, you don’t want anything too sad or emotional, too relaxing or sleepy. Spotify has lots of great playlists available aimed at concentration or work if you’re not sure what to go for.
9. Know your rhythm
Pay attention to your circadian rhythm - are you a morning lark or a night owl? If you’re able to, customize your workday around the times of day when you’re most productive. Try scheduling more difficult talks for the part of the day when you know you’re at your best, and leaving more monotonous jobs for when you know you’re usually in a slump. Some prefer to save all meetings and calls for the afternoon, when they’re most energised, chatty and confident.
10. Stay connected
Take the time to respond properly to emails and phone calls to help you stay connected with your colleagues. If they ask how you are or what you’ve been up to, tell them! The social aspect of working in an office has disappeared during the pandemic, so it’s important to maintain your relationships with the people you work with. Say yes to the quizzes and the virtual coffee catch ups - it’s important to stick together.
11. Prepare meals in advance
When you’re at home it’s tempting to lovingly prepare elaborate meals for yourself during the day, but this might end in longer breaks than necessary. Try making your meals and snacks for the day in advance (as you would for the office), so you can spend your breaks resting and recharging, rather than cooking.
12. Make lists
Keep track of all the thoughts flying through your head during the day by writing them down. Three lists could be helpful: essential jobs for today, things to do this week and long term tasks. That way, you’ll always be able to see where you’re at in a glance. Keep an ‘ideas’ notepad to hand as well, and write down the fleeting thoughts and ideas that occur to you, and could be added to your list at a later date.
13. Declutter your desk
You might find the clutter builds up on your desk over a few days or weeks, so make time to keep it clean and tidy to help you stay focused. File your paperwork away and take the empty glasses back to the kitchen. Clean your keyboard and mouse with an antibacterial wipe regularly, and keep some hand gel nearby. Water your plant (if you have one!) to keep it green and fresh and let lots of light and air into the room to keep you bright eyed and bushy tailed.
14. Don’t stop socialising
Working from home can be isolating, so it’s important to make sure you’re keeping up with your social circle as well. Make sure you’ve got some plans with your friends and family in the diary, and something to look forward to. It might even be nice to get together with your colleagues too, if it’s safe to do so of course.
15. Practice gratitude
Lastly, don’t forget to be grateful. You’re safe at home, with little to no risk of catching coronavirus there. Lots of people don’t have this luxury, so take a moment to be grateful for this privilege. Practicing gratitude is often one of the top recommendations from mental health professionals to help improve mood, so it’ll help keep you happy too!