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Published on March 18, 2020

How to Be Productive When You Work from Home

How to Be Productive When You Work from Home

If your job doesn’t allow you to work remotely, it may soon. With that privilege comes a responsibility: you have to be productive when you work from home.

Remote work is coming to companies across the country. A study by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics[1] showed a sharp upward trend in the number of Americans working from home. Between 2005 and 2017, remote work grew by 159%.

The comfortable, quiet environment of your home can make remote work challenging. Staying productive while you’re working from home is a matter of spotting and stopping distractions before they hurt your output.

Productivity Barriers at Home

Even if you have a home office, all sorts of distractions can make it hard to stay productive when you work from home. Common ones include:

Digital Devices

Your phone buzzes: surely, you think, you only need a minute to check out that Facebook notification. Without even realizing it, you get sucked into social media for the next half an hour.

When you work from home, it’s all too easy to fall down a digital rabbit hole. Your computer can access any gaming, social media, or entertainment site you so choose. On your television are daytime shows you can’t typically watch while you’re at work. These can all be tantalizing distractions when you’re working from home.

Children and Pets

Do you have pets? Does your husband or wife work different hours than you do? Are your kids still too young for school, or are they on break?

Unless you live by yourself, you have to learn how to be productive while working when others are at home. Even if you ask them to avoid bothering you, they’re still going to move about the house in ways that may distract you.

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Lack of Accountability

When you’re working remotely, there’s nobody looking over your shoulder to make sure that you get your work done. Staying productive while working from home is a matter of sticking to the task at hand.

One way or another, you have to hold yourself accountable. Different productivity hacks[2] work for different people. Some people dress for work even when they’re working from home. Others use the Pomodoro technique, and still others drown everything else out with music.

Household Chores

If you’re a “Type A” person, you know how distracting a sink full of dishes can be. Even a dirty carpet can be difficult to walk across without hauling out the vacuum cleaner.

If you struggle to be productive when working from a dirty home, set aside time before or after your working hours for chores. Getting a few chores done before the workday begins can make the mess feel less overwhelming. Doing them immediately after you shut your computer for the day can be a great chance to de-stress.

Whatever the Work, Productivity Is Key

When you have a boss to report to, staying productive at home is tough enough. But how are you supposed to be productive when you work at home in other ways? What if you’re a homemaker, or simply someone with an at-home hobby?

Even if you don’t work a traditional job, you have to learn how to be productive when you work from home.

Stay-at-home parents, for example, have more on their plate than you might think. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey [3] shows that the average stay-at-home mother spends 30 hours per week on housework and another 18 on childcare.

Staying productive when doing any sort of work from home lets you take more time for yourself with leisure time or simply educating yourself.

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How to Create a Focus-Friendly Home Workspace

Creating a home workspace where you can focus isn’t hard, but it does take some amount of self-control.

1. Leave Non-Necessary Tech at the Door

If you work from home, you likely do so from your computer. Aside from the tools you need to do your job, it’s important to minimize the amount of tech in your workspace.

Don’t just put your phone on silent or turn it off; put it out of the room altogether. Do the same with your television. And don’t even think of leaving a gaming console in your workspace.

2. Get Comfortable — But Not Too Comfortable

Your work environment has a lot to do with how productive you are when you work from home. Create a space for yourself where you feel relaxed but energized. Whether you have a dedicated home office or not, try to do the following things.

Use Bright But Not Harsh Lighting

Shutting yourself in a cave won’t help you be productive when you work from home. A dim workspace can cause sluggishness and eye strain, especially if you need to read physical documents.

To maximize your productivity, make sure your environment is bright. Choose a space with lots of natural light. Augment it with warm light from an overhead light or desk lamp.

Beware, though, that too much light can also cause eye strain. If you start to experience headaches, blurry vision, eye irritation, or pain in your neck, try drawing the blinds or moving your lamp a little further away.

Choose Firm and Supportive Furniture

Yes, it feels good to sprawl out on the couch or lay in bed, but if your goal is to be productive when you work from home, it’s important to sit at a desk or table.

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The furniture in your home workspace should be firm and supportive. Your chair should encourage you to sit up straight. Your desk should have plenty of space for your computer and other necessary tools. Keep only one chair in the room to discourage visitors.

Close the Door

A closed door signals that the person in the room does not want to be disturbed. It also dampens noise and prevents you from seeing distractions, such as the television or dirty dishes in the sink.

Creating a bubble for yourself is key. If your office doesn’t have a door you can shut, can you don noise-cancelling headphones and hang a curtain? As best you can, keep visual and auditory distractions out.

Maximize Connectivity

Assuming you work from home via your computer, you need access to two things: electricity and internet.

Place your desk near a power outlet. If you need access to more plugs than are available, get a power strip.

Think, too, about the strength of your Wi-Fi connection: even if you pay for high-speed internet, you won’t get those speeds if the wireless connection is weak. Either move your router closer, or move your desk closer to your router.

Keep It Clean

A messy workspace can feel chaotic. Minimizing messes boosts productivity when working from home, not just because it means less time spent picking up, but because it promotes focus.

Take a moment before you begin work to pick up your office. Once a week, do a deep clean: dust, wipe down your workspace, sweep the floor, and take out the trash.

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Think About Air Quality

When you work from the same space all day, you’ll start to notice that the air quality affects your productivity. Dry, dusty air can irritate your respiratory tract. Overly humid air can promote mold and bacterial growth.

If the weather allows, open a window. If not, get an air purifier. Be sure to change the filters regularly. Depending on the climate where you live, you might find you need a dehumidifier in the summer and a humidifier in the winter.

3. Set Expectations for Others at Home

Many people who aren’t used to working from home don’t understand just how much of an issue everyday interruptions can be.

Explain to your children and spouse that you need to be just as productive when you work from home as you do at the office. Tell them where you’ll be working and what your core, no-distractions-allowed hours are.

If you have young kids, either get a babysitter or keep them occupied with things like coloring books. If pets won’t stop bothering you, put them in a room with their food, water, and litter. Consider hanging a “do not disturb” sign on your door if others at home repeatedly drop in.

4. Keep a Stress Relief Source Nearby

One advantage of working from home is that you have access to all the stress-relief tools you would after a long day at the office. Take advantage of them.

A cup of chamomile tea can do wonders if you’re feeling restless. Easing anxiety is one of the key benefits of CBD oil.[4] Placing an exercise mat by your desk can encourage you to fight stress with a set of pushups.

One stress reliever to avoid? Alcohol. Although it’s true that a beer can help you relax momentarily, alcohol can actually induce anxiety [5] due to rebound effects.

Final Thoughts

Staying productive while you work from home is hard. As with anything else, practice makes perfect: remind your boss of that, and he or she might let you do it more often.

More Tips on Working From Home

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

When it comes to being effective vs efficient, there are a lot of similarities, and because of this, they’re often misused and misinterpreted, both in daily use and application.

Every business should look for new ways to improve employee effectiveness and efficiency to save time and energy in the long term. Just because a company or employee has one, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is equally present.

Utilizing both an effective and efficient methodology in nearly any capacity of work and life will yield high levels of productivity, while a lack of it will lead to a lack of positive results.

Before we discuss the various nuances between the word effective and efficient and how they factor into productivity, let’s break things down with a definition of their terms.

Effective vs Efficient

Effective is defined as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” Meanwhile, the word “efficient ” is defined as “capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials).”[1]

A rather simple way of explaining the differences between the two would be to consider a light bulb. Say that your porch light burned out and you decided that you wanted to replace the incandescent light bulb outside with an LED one. Either light bulb would be effective in accomplishing the goal of providing you with light at night, but the LED one would use less energy and therefore be the more efficient choice.

Now, if you incorrectly set a timer for the light, and it was turned on throughout the entire day, then you would be wasting energy. While the bulb is still performing the task of creating light in an efficient manner, it’s on during the wrong time of day and therefore not effective.

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The effective way is focused on accomplishing the goal, while the efficient method is focused on the best way of accomplishing the goal.

Whether we’re talking about a method, employee, or business, the subject in question can be either effective or efficient, or, in rare instances, they can be both.

When it comes to effective vs efficient, the goal of achieving maximum productivity is going to be a combination where the subject is effective and as efficient as possible in doing so.

Effectiveness in Success and Productivity

Being effective vs efficient is all about doing something that brings about the desired intent or effect[2]. If a pest control company is hired to rid a building’s infestation, and they employ “method A” and successfully completed the job, they’ve been effective at achieving the task.

The task was performed correctly, to the extent that the pest control company did what they were hired to do. As for how efficient “method A” was in completing the task, that’s another story.

If the pest control company took longer than expected to complete the job and used more resources than needed, then their efficiency in completing the task wasn’t particularly good. The client may feel that even though the job was completed, the value in the service wasn’t up to par.

When assessing the effectiveness of any business strategy, it’s wise to ask certain questions before moving forward:

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  • Has a target solution to the problem been identified?
  • What is the ideal response time for achieving the goal?
  • Does the cost balance out with the benefit?

Looking at these questions, a leader should ask to what extent a method, tool, or resource meets the above criteria and achieve the desired effect. If the subject in question doesn’t hit any of these marks, then productivity will likely suffer.

Efficiency in Success and Productivity

Efficiency is going to account for the resources and materials used in relation to the value of achieving the desired effect. Money, people, inventory, and (perhaps most importantly) time, all factor into the equation.

When it comes to being effective vs efficient, efficiency can be measured in numerous ways[3]. In general, the business that uses fewer materials or that is able to save time is going to be more efficient and have an advantage over the competition. This is assuming that they’re also effective, of course.

Consider a sales team for example. Let’s say that a company’s sales team is tasked with making 100 calls a week and that the members of that team are hitting their goal each week without any struggle.

The members on the sales team are effective in hitting their goal. However, the question of efficiency comes into play when management looks at how many of those calls turn into solid connections and closed deals.

If less than 10 percent of those calls generate a connection, the productivity is relatively low because the efficiency is not adequately balancing out with the effect. Management can either keep the same strategy or take a new approach.

Perhaps they break up their sales team with certain members handling different parts of the sales process, or they explore a better way of connecting with their customers through a communications company.

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The goal is ultimately going to be finding the right balance, where they’re being efficient with the resources they have to maximize their sales goals without stretching themselves too thin. Finding this balance is often easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important for any business that is going to thrive.

Combining Efficiency and Effectiveness to Maximize Productivity

Being effective vs efficient works best if both are pulled together for the best results.

If a business is ineffective in accomplishing its overall goal, and the customer doesn’t feel that the service is equated with the cost, then efficiency becomes largely irrelevant. The business may be speedy and use minimal resources, but they struggle to be effective. This may put them at risk of going under.

It’s for this reason that it’s best to shoot for being effective first, and then work on bringing efficiency into practice.

Improving productivity starts with taking the initiative to look at how effective a company, employee, or method is through performance reviews. Leaders should make a point to regularly examine performance at all levels on a whole, and take into account the results that are being generated.

Businesses and employees often succumb to inefficiency because they don’t look for a better way, or they lack the proper tools to be effective in the most efficient manner possible.

Similar to improving a manager or employee’s level of effectiveness, regularly measuring the resources needed to obtain the desired effect will ensure that efficiency is being accounted for. This involves everything from keeping track of inventory and expenses, to how communication is handled within an organization.

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By putting in place a baseline value for key metrics and checking them once changes have been made, a company will have a much better idea of the results they’re generating.

It’s no doubt a step-by-step process. By making concentrated efforts, weakness can be identified and rectified sooner rather than later when the damage is already done.

Bottom Line

Understanding the differences between being effective vs efficient is key when it comes to maximizing productivity. It’s simply working smart so that the intended results are achieved in the best way possible. Finding the optimal balance should be the ultimate goal for employees and businesses:

  • Take the steps that result in meeting the solution.
  • Review the process and figure out how to do it better.
  • Repeat the process with what has been learned in a more efficient manner.

And just like that, effective and efficient productivity is maximized.

More on How to Improve Productivity

Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: effective and efficient
[2] Mind Tools: Being Effective at Work
[3] Inc.: 8 Things Really Efficient People Do

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