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A Quick and Dirty Way to Optimize Your Productivity

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A Quick and Dirty Way to Optimize Your Productivity


    When you are faced with 101 things to do in a day, productivity and streamlining processes becomes essential. One way to optimize productivity is to use routines.

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    Doing things in routines allows you to do them quickly with a minimum of thought. You can group several similar tasks, or tasks that need to be done concurrently or sequentially into a routine so that you do them consistently and efficiently. This works very well for things that need to get done daily, and chances are you already have a routine for your personal hygiene, such as: shower, brush teeth, do hair.

    When you take a little time to create a routine for a daily task, you can consider the best placement of items, where to keep supplies/equipment or how to declutter your workspace and keep it primed for that daily task. For less frequent jobs, you can create the best way to quickly convert your workspace for that task.

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    Is there something important in your life that you wish you did more often or more consistently? Make a routine for it, and tie it into something essential or something you naturally do often. For example, if you want to exercise more often, why not group it with your daily routine of going to a coffee shop for that mochaccino you find you need every day! Re-jig your morning routine to include a quick, light bite to eat and a big drink of water, jump into your workout clothes, grab the bag of street clothes you packed the night before, head to the gym, do a fast-and-intense workout (Crossfit is excellent for that), do all your personal hygiene at the gym, get dressed, drink a protein drink, and then head to your favourite coffee shop on the way to work (or to start your day). In this way, you have streamlined your process for exercising and tacked it onto an already established routine.

    Let’s look at something you would like to do weekly. How about calling your grandma? Every time you visit, you vow to call more often, but then seem to forget. You feel it’s important, but somehow it never gets done. Why not create a routine for several weekly things, to group them together and streamline your processes? You might try something like calling your grandma every Saturday morning, right after you tidy the phone desk — you can water the plants and wipe down the bathroom sink while you chat.

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    Everything you consider *important* should be made into a routine. You are far more likely to do something when it’s a routine, and therefore far more likely to do the important things.

    What about something you find takes too much time, like checking Facebook or email? Create a routine for it. You check your Facebook while the coffee brews and when it’s done, so is your FB time. Close the tab, walk away. Email is tougher to tackle, but luckily, Lifehack has a new Lifehack Lesson for that!

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    Do you feel like your life is too routine already, and you don’t want to add more? The routine of life can sometimes get us down, no question. Why not add some fun routines? You could give yourself one or two nights a week do something you enjoy, and you wouldn’t have to pre-plan exactly what it would be; if the weather’s nice, it could be a bike ride in the river valley, and if it’s rainy, you work on a favourite hobby or go out with a friend. Perhaps there’s a weekly meetup you could join, with people with similar interests. Maybe your life is so routine, you’d like to try something really different or challenging — volunteer at a soup kitchen, go rock climbing, or join a volunteer fire department (if possible). I know being on the fire department certainly ruffles up the boredom in my life!

    No matter how you do it, making routines for the important things can really streamline your productivity and make sure you stop wasting time, too.

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    (Photo credit: Full Potential Speedometer via Shutterstock)

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    Teresa Griffith

    Teresa is a passionate writer who shares about productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Published on September 21, 2021

    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

    The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

    In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

    1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

    Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

    But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

    Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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    Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

    Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

    While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

    Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

    2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

    At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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    Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

    Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

    Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

    McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

    From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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    3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

    An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

    McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

    Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

    Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

    Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

    So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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    The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

    If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

    Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

    Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

    Reference

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