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10 Tips to Help You Be More Efficient Working From Home

10 Tips to Help You Be More Efficient Working From Home

Are you  an expert at working remotely? You will be if you apply these 10 simple tips to your daily routine.

Being efficient working from home can be a challenge. There are tons of distractions, less accountability, and less communication than when you’re working in the office. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. There are lots of ways to keep yourself working productively from any location.

Whether you work from home every day, a couple of times per week, or even if you’re just working from home while you recover from an illness, these tips can help you to get the most out of your remote work hours. You won’t believe how much you can get done in a day!

1. Keep yourself to regular work hours

Work From Home Clock

    This is the first step to ensuring productivity while working from home. It’s tempting to give yourself total flexibility as to when you get started, take breaks, and call it a day. But you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t keep yourself to at least some amount of consistency. Setting yourself consistent hours keeps you accountable to yourself and to your boss. It makes you more likely to get all your work done, and it makes it easier to get in touch with you.

    Here are the important factors to consider when you’re setting an at home work schedule:

    • When your boss needs you to be available
    • Communication with your coworkers and customers
    • Time of day when you are most productive

    This doesn’t mean that you need to work 9-5 every day. You should work at the times of day when you’re most productive. However, it’s a good idea to find out when your boss really needs you to be at work. For example, it might be important for you to check your emails each morning, or to be available by phone in the afternoons. Other than that, choose times of day when you’re likely to get the most work done. Communicate those hours of availability to anyone that might need to get in touch with you, and you’ll be on your way to productive, consistent work days.

    2. Keep work time and personal time separate

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    Work from Home Watch

      Just as it’s important to work when you say you will, it’s important to give yourself time off when you’ve promised it. Don’t extend the work day too far beyond what you planned, at the risk of burning yourself out.

      Keeping work time and personal time compartmentalized also helps you keep productive while you’re at work, and reduces stress when you aren’t at work. In the same way that you scheduled your work hours, schedule, communicate, and plan when you will not be available to work. For example, if you like to take evenings to spend time with family, make sure you communicate that you aren’t available for work during that time. And then hold yourself to that commitment!

      3. Plan your workflow

      Work From Home Planner

        One surefire way to keep productivity up is to get smart about planning your work day. Before you even start working, make sure you know what your priorities are for the day, how long you think it will take you to get everything done, and what you will work on if you have extra time.

        You might find it helpful to take a few minutes before you go to bed to plan for the next day. You may find that you sleep better without the stress of planning in the back of your mind. If you find that planning before bed actually keeps you awake, try making a plan for the day while you eat breakfast or exercise before work.

        In your planning, consider the following:

        • Do the highest priority tasks first
        • Plan your day around your own natural cycles–do the hardest work when you have the most energy throughout the day
        • Plan yourself rewards and breaks throughout the day

        4. Break up the day

        Work from home snack

          If you followed the last step, then you’ll have already planned breaks for yourself throughout the day. Make sure you get up from your desk during those breaks–get some fresh air, grab a healthful snack, and talk with another human being if at all possible. All of these activities will help you reset, get your blood flowing, and make sure you’re ready to tackle the next chunk of tasks.

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          Try planning how you’ll spend your breaks ahead of time, so you have something to look forward to. Just make sure you decide how long you will spend on a break, so you don’t get too distracted. Ten to 30 minutes is great for shorter breaks, and an hour or two is perfect for lunch.

          5. Dress like you are at work

          Work from Home Clothes

            Even if you won’t be interacting with another person all day, it’s important to dress for success. This includes showering and brushing your teeth! This will tell your brain that it’s work time, not relaxation time, and that will give you a lot more energy. Sweatpants and a T-shirt might be more comfortable, but you may also feel sluggish, sleepy, or unmotivated.

            It’s also a good opportunity to give a new outfit a test drive–risk free!

            If you have a hard time motivating yourself to get ready in the morning, try laying out your outfit the night before, or planning an outing during the day so that you have to get dressed.

            6. Create an at-home office

            Work from home office

              It might be tempting to work from your couch, easy-chair, or even from your bed, but this could take a huge toll on your productivity. Try to always work from a consistent room, desk, or chair, to tell your brain that it’s time for work, not relaxation.

              You are likely to feel more alert, more confident, and more organized. Try setting up a desk where you always work. Set yourself up with a comfy, supportive chair, a spacious desk, and consistent workplace tools. Make sure to personalize your space. After all, you will be spending a lot of time there!

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              7. No roomies allowed

              Working from home kids

                Being efficient working from home is all about boundaries, as we have previously discussed. This also means setting boundaries for kids, pets, and your spouse or roommates. Try to encourage them to leave you alone while you are working so you can stay focused.

                Try to keep the boundaries friendly and playful, but make sure you stick to them. One fun idea is to make a sign for the door of your office that indicates whether you’re working or not.

                8. Be your own janitor

                Work from home mess

                  Unlike in the office, you don’t have a janitor to clean up after you, which means you have to do it yourself. Keeping your home office clean helps you stay focused, get organized, and be productive. Even if you’re someone who isn’t bothered by a messy desk, keeping some semblance of order helps ensure that nothing important falls through the cracks (or gets lost in a stack of paper, as is more likely).

                  However, this tip goes beyond just keeping your home office clean. Having a messy home could inspire you to procrastinate on work tasks in favor of cleaning–which is bad news for your productivity.

                  Setting yourself a weekly cleaning schedule can help you keep on top of cleaning your home, so you won’t be tempted to clean during work hours. Make sure to schedule regular tidying of your home office!

                  9. Tune in to inspiration

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                  Work from Home music

                    A great advantage of working from home is that you can’t distract your coworkers. Go ahead and play those pumped-up jams loud and proud, if that’s what gets you moving. Or try a more soothing soundtrack, with nature sounds, instrumental music, or even by leaving the windows open to let the sounds from outside come in. If you’re doing repetitive tasks, an audiobook or podcast may even be what you need to keep moving.

                    Try a few things to find what works best for you.

                    10. Stay in the loop

                    Work from home call

                      One of the best things about working in an office is the potential for collaboration and socialization. You don’t have to lose this just because you are working from home. Try to check in with your coworkers at least a couple of times per week, whether by email, phone, Skype, or even in person.

                      Make sure you keep up on a personal level as well as a professional level. You can do this without taking a lot of time–just share the things that are most important, and encourage your coworkers to do the same.

                      If you can master these 10 tips, you will be a work-from-home wizard before you know it. You might even find that the days you work from home are your most productive days!

                      What are your tips for being efficient working from home?  Let me know in the comments.

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                      The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                      The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                      It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

                      Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

                      “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

                      In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

                      New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

                      There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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                      So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

                      What is the productivity paradox?

                      There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

                      In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

                      He wrote in his conclusion:

                      “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

                      Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

                      How do we measure productivity anyway?

                      And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

                      In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

                      But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

                      In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

                      But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

                      Possible causes of the productivity paradox

                      Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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                      • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
                      • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
                      • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
                      • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

                      There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

                      According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

                      Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

                      The paradox and the recession

                      The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

                      “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

                      This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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                      According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

                      Looking forward

                      A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

                      “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

                      Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

                      “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

                      On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

                      Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

                      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                      Reference

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