How To Be Productive When Working From Home
Working from home is a double-edged sword. You either get distracted and productivity drops, or you work overtime long after you would have called it quits at the office. For those who are easily distracted, the lure of the TV calling out your name to watch your favourite Netflix show, or a spouse or children who need your attention, or a pet that needs to be fed can easily derail your train of thoughts.
Below, we've compiled a bunch of great work-at-home tips and tricks with some feedback from our awesome co-workers.
Get started early
Procrastination can be your worst enemy. Whether it’s hitting the snooze button for five more minutes in bed, waking up half an hour later than you usually would, or starting work after a longer-than-usual breakfast, all these little “time thieves” will push your schedule back, and soon you will find yourself at the end of the work day, with little work done. Make sure to wake up at the same time you usually would and dive into your planned work schedule.
Structure your day as if you were going to the office
Habits and schedules ensure we can get things done. Wake up at the same time you usually would as if you were still going to the office. The time you save on commuting can be used to catch up on “me time” activities like a quick 15-minute meditation session (try Headspace, we love it), or maybe a having a cup of coffee and catching up on the latest news, and not forgetting, sending a WhatsApp to loved ones (say hi to mom and dad!) to check in. Although your time spent commuting is now time spent to better your emotional health and state of mind, do make sure to start work at the same time you would if you were in the office, and keep to that lunch schedule.
Don’t let social media or WhatsApp messages derail you
It’s so easy to get distracted by scrolling thru Facebook and Instagram. Before you know it, 30 minutes has passed watching Uncle Roger mock Jamie Oliver’s fried rice, or watching highlights from last night’s football game. It’s easy to fall into the social media rabbit hole, especially when videos auto play, one after another. The same goes with WhatsApp messages, especially for friends and family WhatsApp groups. It could be quiet all morning and suddenly everyone is free and message after message keeps coming in and your phone is constantly vibrating. Make sure to mute non-work-related groups and get back to them during lunch or after work.
Tell everyone at home your schedule
Whether its your spouse, your children or even your parents, make sure to communicate and tell them you need your space and quiet time to work. Children may not understand this as well as adults, but telling them you need 15 more minutes so you can finish a task will work if you consistently enforce it. Just as we would tell co-workers to “DND” when we need to focus, the same lines should be drawn when we work from home. Just because you are home, doesn’t mean “you are home”, and anyone staying with you should respect that.
Location, location, location
One of the most important, yet easily overlooked elements of a productive work-from-home setup is “where”. Just because it’s our home and we would be comfortable working anywhere, whether it’s the bed, the sofa or the dining table, doesn’t mean we should. Not choosing the right space can subconsciously affect our motivation, so setup a work desk away from distractions. Look for a quieter space, maybe further away from the front door where you can hear noisy neighbours going about their day, or a room where you can keep out pampered pets and hyper-active children. Having this work space will help keep you in the right frame of mind and focused on the task at hand.
Don’t stay at home
Yes, as cliché as it sounds, just because you were instructed to work from home, doesn’t mean you have to stay within the four walls of your house the entire day. If you find yourself feeling “locked in”, then take a breather. Nearby coffee shops (check out Eight Ounce Coffee Co., we love the environment there, and the coffee definitely helps), libraries and other similar Wi-Fi-enabled spaces can help you simulate the energy of an office so you can stay productive even when you don't sit in an official workplace. Just remember to set a to-do list before you head out to make sure your mind doesn’t wander and you stay focused.
For lunch, opt for meal prep or deliveries
Just because you are home, don’t give in to the urge to prepare a fresh meal for lunch. “Time thieves” are lurking everywhere and while it may seem easy to “cook up a 15-minute meal”, all that chopping and washing and cleaning will eventually take more than 15-minutes and end up draining your energy and focus. Preparing food ahead of time (i.e. the night before) ensures you use meal time to actually eat and taking a breather rather than working on food preparation.
For even easier food prep, you can try ready-to-cook pastes (check out Krung Thep’s green curry paste, our personal favourite) which will significantly cut down on cooking time, and if you ran out of ingredients and don’t have time for grocery shopping, don’t fret, there are many delivery services like MyLokal.Store, Tapestry and Krung Thep that can get a meal on your table in no time.
Make sure to write down your to-do list for the next day
As the work day comes to an end, make sure to take 15 minutes to plan your to-do list for the next day. A major productivity killer when working from home is not knowing where to start or planning what needs to be done. With a to-do list in hand, you can dive straight into work, and following Newton’s law of inertia, if you are in motion, you will stay in motion, and soon you will be checking off that to-do list faster than you know.
Set an alarm to remind you when it’s time to stop working
In the office, colleagues packing up to leave at the end of the work day will usually trigger us to do the same. At home, without these triggers, it is easy to get caught up in work and you will soon find yourself at dinner time still staring at your laptop. To get around this, set an alarm on your phone to signal the end of the work day. You may not necessarily stop working immediately, but that reminder certainly helps to set the pace and encourages you to stop working once you complete the task you were working on half way.
Keep in mind, work never ends (or we would all be out of a job), so fight the urge to continue working until dinner, or even continuing after dinner. If you have a lightbulb moment and an idea hits you while you are cooking dinner, write that idea down on a post-it and stick it on your desk, it will be there tomorrow. So make sure to take time to do your meal prep, finish your household chores, watch some TV and spend time with family or pets that wanted your attention throughout the day.