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7 Daily Habits To Be More Productive Working At Home

7 Daily Habits To Be More Productive Working At Home

It’s the dream, right? Waking up whenever you want, not having to get dressed and squeeze yourself onto mass transit or sit in traffic for several hours just to sit in a cubicle for another 8 hours or so.

Working at home is the ultimate lifestyle — until you actually do it.

More than 23% of Americans report working from home at least some of the time according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number has increased by nearly 25% since 2005 and continues to grow as the “workplace” takes on a more ambiguous meaning.

But it’s not all late starts and TV in PJs while checking email. Working from home, while an important perk in a culture with increasingly blurred lines on the work-life spectrum, can be a stressful experience if you’re not accustomed to self-motivating and driving productivity in a new setting.

Home is where you rest. It’s where you relax. It’s where you spend time with family. Your mind and body are trained to act a certain way when at home. Throw work into the mix and no matter how productive you are in the office, you can find yourself suddenly unable to focus nearly as well, overcome with distractions you didn’t even realize were there.

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It doesn’t have to be that way, though. By installing new habits specific to how and where you work while home, you can be as productive as you would be in the office — if not more so.

Set A Clearly Defined Start Time On Your Calendar

How long does it take when you get to the office to start working? What does that transition look like? Most of us have trained ourselves to almost instantly shift into work mode when we walk in the door. There is a very stark transition from home to commute to the office and those lines make it easy to shift gears.

It’s a lot harder to shift like this when you never actually leave the house. So, this transition needs to be simulated. To do so, use a calendar. Set a clear start time and know that when that time arrives, you are “at work.”

If this remains difficult, go for a walk or visit a coffee shop just before work starts to simulate that gear change and prepare your mind for the work day.

Build An Office Space That Is Unique Within Your Home

Dedicated space is a must. Whether you work at home once a week or are a freelance consultant home every day except for meetings, you need a space that’s only for work.

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This does two things. Not only does it provide a private space where you can be productive with minimal distractions; it also physically separates you from the space in your home in which you relax. While you may technically only need a warm seat and a laptop to get things done, it’s much harder to be productive when sitting on the couch where you typically unwind at the end of the day.

Maintain A Lunch And Break Schedule

Much like a start time, your body is trained to follow a certain rhythm each day. Work for several hours, go for lunch, work for a couple more hours, take a break.

Maintain this schedule as much as you can. Sure there will be days on which deadlines overlap or calls push back a normal lunch time, and it can feel weird to take a “break” and walk 10 feet to your kitchen, but the familiarity of it will help you stay in that work mindset.

Build In Emergency Breaks To Avoid Distractions

Home is full of distractions: family, pets, TV, books, video games. You name it and there’s something on a shelf across the room from you begging to steal your attention.

Create a system in which you have a response when this happens. A Pomodoro timer is highly recommended as it will force you to stay focused for 25 minutes at a time in short bursts of productivity. Sure, you can get to that next Game of Thrones chapter, but only after you’ve completed one more short work session.

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By creating a habit of focus and measured breaks, you can avoid falling down the rabbit hole of distractions that your own possessions can create.

Use Dark Periods To Stay Focused

One of the great benefits of working from home is that it’s much easier to go dark. In the office, you can turn off your WiFi, but if your boss really needs your attention, they can just walk over and tap on your desk.

At home, unplugging really means privacy, and that privacy can lead to your most productive hours of the week. If you work for yourself, this is even more important. It allows you to focus on large tasks in spurts of 1-2 hours during which nothing can distract you.

Set A Clear Stop Time

We’ve talked about start times and we’ve talked about break times, so of course we need to touch on when to stop.

When I started working from home less than a year after graduating from college, I worked for upwards of 12 hours of day. To be more accurate, I sat in front of a computer for more than 12 hours a day. A large chunk of that time was spent surfing eBay, watching music videos, and playing video games. I was a procrastinator, because I knew I could be.

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Parkinson’s Law says that when given a set period of time to complete a task, we will fill that time. Imagine what happens when the time given is infinite? You never quite finish.

So create deadlines for yourself. It might be different every day, but set a clear cutoff time in your schedule when you plan to be done for the day. Whether this is 5 pm or you opt to take advantage of your newfound productivity and clock out an hour early, mark it on your calendar and build your daily to-do list around it.

Identify Work Triggers And Surround Yourself With Them

Work isn’t something we “just do.” It’s a state of mind we must create and maintain to remain productive. It’s not like you’re a paragon of productivity in the office either. Facebook is just as distracting. Friends are just as likely to drag you out for coffee.

The difference is that there is a certain social pressure to be productive. Everyone can see you, your deadlines are more visible, and an inefficient day means a long night.

The goal of working at home is to be less stressed, not more, but consider bringing home a handful of triggers that will help to put you into work mode and keep you there.

Notebooks from the office, a coffee mug from the company, even a toy with the company’s logo on it — these will all remind you what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It seems small, but with the right nudge, you can more effectively stay in work mode even when the entire world seems to conspire against you.

Featured photo credit: picjumbo.com via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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