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10 Things You Need to do to Successfully Work From Home

10 Things You Need to do to Successfully Work From Home

You’ve done it! Congratulations! You’ve finally escaped the clutches of everything you’ve been secretly plotting against for way too long. The grumpy boss. That sardine-like commute. The burning smell of the world’s worst instant coffee drifting from the kitchen. Office politics. Work that didn’t really matter to you.

But somehow it’s 6pm already. Another day has drifted past in a flash. Your feet are still bare because you didn’t feel the need to put socks on today. You’re in familiar surroundings and you don’t have to spend an hour getting home, but what have you really achieved?

Here are ten things you need to do in order to work from home like a boss.

1. Give yourself routine

If working from home is new to you this is going to take a little while to adapt, but the sooner you set parameters for the working day the better. Know where you’re going to work: this might change from morning to evening depending on how light shifts around your home office  –  let’s call it a hoffice. Make sure you’re at the desk by a set time and embrace getting up early, this is ok if you’re the one who decides you have to. Yep, you can play the snooze game, but boy it feels amazing to have nailed a ton of work before 10am.

Map your day according to how you think you’ll feel if you complete a certain set of challenges and let your measure of success revolve around tasks, not time.

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2. Get up, shower, put clothes on

Don’t work from bed. Beds are for sleeping and other kinds of magic, let them be precious and special in their purpose. Wash the night away before doing anything. Getting straight to work because you can, doesn’t mean you’re on fire, because after a while you’re going to start itching. A sweaty homeworker is a silently disgruntled homeworker.

Blast your head with water, get fresh and don’t forget that you’re still a human even if you don’t have to spend your day with others. Now, put some clothes on. Yes, there’s a temptation to wander around in the nude and make phone calls, because you can. But don’t. Wear what you like as long as it’s not pyjamas, but wear something. Now, you’re ready to get started…

3. Focus: read, don’t type over meals

This is about honing your focus and ability to juggle different actions. If one of your hands is holding a spoon or a fork or a knife or a jar or a mug or a piece of fruit, you simply can’t type properly. Stop trying to do everything at once, we’re trying to make you into the most efficient working-from-home-beast possible. Open up a couple of blogs, articles or news pieces and read –  this is stretching for your brain before you start doing cartwheels towards your own work.

4. Prioritise: Write a To Do list, yesterday…

Thinking ‘what do I do now?’ is the first step to potential boredom, and boredom kills dreams. Don’t be a dream killer.

To Do lists sound like they were invented by a cruel master, but they’re the key to self-motivation. This is your list and the summation of the day you’ve decided you’d like to have. Take ten minutes before you sleep every night to make the next day’s list  – give yourself something to be excited about. Prioritise no more than three biggish tasks, and don’t be afraid to have a secondary list on a different page with things that need to be done, but not necessarily tomorrow

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Know what you have to achieve and give yourself a timeframe to realistically do it well.

5. Set the musical mood

Your working environment is key. Be in a room with lots of light. Move your working space and direction around until you’re happy. Don’t have your back to the room, face it.

Working in silence is a distraction so get Spotify premium (other services are available) and find a Focus playlist. Vivaldi is scientifically proven to aid concentration but most classical music is perfect to start your working day (this isn’t about musical preference, it’s just clever ambience). If you’re writing don’t choose tunes with lyrics, you’ll only be tempted to sing along.

My personal favourite is Ludovico Einaudi  –  there’s something special about letting your mind switch off from everything other than what you’re focusing on  –  I’ve written three books to Einaudi, he never fails.

6. Destroy distraction

This is the difference between a good day and a bad day. Put your phone out of reach when you’re working or at the very least put it on Airplane Mode. A WhatsApp notification is distraction. So is a new match on Tinder. Or a new tweet or instagram or Facebook or advert or reminder. Stop it!

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Save direct messages for break time and give your focus a chance to be relentless. Struggling not to automatically click onto Facebook to see how many likes that video of a kitesurfing squirrel has now? There are a couple of self-control apps that will physically stop pages like Facebook opening during the times you choose.

Basically, if anything during the day takes your eyes off the prize at any give moment make sure that you find a way to stop it happening in the future.

7. Work on, work off

If you’re running for a whole day with no stops to refuel, drink or rest, the person who chooses to run for only 45 minutes each hour will go further than you. Be a tortoise and rest your way to victory.

There are a bunch of ways to do this, but here’s a starter: at the beginning of each work session set your phone timer to go off in 50 minutes. As soon as it beeps, stop working for ten minutes. Stand up, move around, drink water, breathe. Try not to look at a screen but if you must, this is your window to check and reply to WhatsApp. Then after ten minutes set the timer, and get going again. Three or four hour-long sessions might feel productive, but you’ll do more if you have multiple rests in that period. Be smart, not relentless.

8. Be email clever…

For years I had a thing: my inbox is my To Do list  – my work isn’t over unless it’s empty. At heart, this meant I got things done, but there was a downside because I never closed it. If you’re an inbox nazi just breathe. Every email you send out is potentially asking for another one back and if you’re in the swing of things you could spend all day on email without time for rest. A productive day is not a day spent online. An open email inbox is a destructive taunt and temptation, and the moment I tried a new technique I started getting more successful.

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So now I only check email at certain times. The first window is 10-10:30am, which gives me two hours on a typical work day to write, create and not get waylaid. Half an hour is enough time to reply to urgent messages and to get a feel for other work or opportunities, but don’t get sucked in. If there are pressing issues another half hour of email in the early afternoon is ok, but I save the bulk of my email clearing until after the working day for most people who email me is over. This way they’re not going to be replying immediately, letting me get on with other stuff.

If you have a remote team and use whatsapp, slack or a similar app to communicate, try not to let it take over your life. Treat it like email, or only engage with it every hour.

9. Group similar activities

Group your skypes, conference calls and in-person coffee meetings. Block out a couple of mornings or afternoons each week for chats and leave the rest free for unbounded, undisturbed work.

10. Get Outside

Don’t forget to exercise. You don’t get it done on your bike commute any more and now that you’re in charge of your own destiny there might be a feeling that if you stop working you’re harming your chances of success. Here’s a newsflash: getting pale and porky in your home office is just going to make you tired and, in the long run, ill. Get some vitamin D, ride a bike, go read on a park bench, smell fresh air. Spend at least one day a week out and about. Go and see real people and get inspired by conversation.

For all the freedoms of working from home, if you don’t make it count that freedom might one day have to get shelved. It doesn’t have to be this way. Be good to yourself, work smart, learn as well as do and base it all on creating a habit to get things done. If you try and cook an elephant every meal, you’ll end up never eating* so break down the big stuff into smaller chunks and tick off hundreds of little tasks a day. Build momentum, be nothing but a doer and when you finally get to bed at the end of the day, make sure that you’ve made it count.

* Never, ever cook an elephant…

Featured photo credit: Neourban Hipster Office/Markus Spiske via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

But what does being productive actually entail?

Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

2. Turn off Notifications

According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

3. Manage Interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

4. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once famously said that:

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“if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

5. Cut Down on Meetings

Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

6. Utilize Tools

Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

Some examples of tools that could be used:

Communication
  • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
  • Samepage for video conference software.
  • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
Task Management
  • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
  • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
  • Wekan for an open source option.
Database Management
Time Tracking
  • Clockify for a free tracker.
  • TMetric for workspace integrations.
  • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

7. Declutter and Organize

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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9. Drink Water

Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

The Bottom Line

The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

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