Welcome to the new reality! COVID-19 is a thing that we certainly did not expect but here we are. I’m hoping that the pandemic will soon be over and the virus will be gone for good. However regardless of what will happen with the virus, some of the changes it caused in our lives are here to stay forever.
Working from home is a huge revolution in many people’s work lives and a great challenge to what we were used to. Personally, I know many people who have always worked in an office and most of them had not yet been given a chance working from home.
I quit my last 9-to-5 job in 2012 and since then I mainly worked from home. Apart from being a tour guide which obviously is not a thing you can indoors, most of my work-related tasks involve sitting in front of a computer. I’ve never had a steady office; I do rent a co-working space sometimes but it’s only during the hot summer Barcelona months and mostly because I need an air-conditioned room to think.
So, without further ado, here are my 5 tips to being productive when working from home. Remember those are my personal rules and while they work for me, it’s important to remember that all of us have different work preferences so I encourage you to fit and mend those rules so you can be as productive as you can.
Work where you feel like working
Contrary to what most people say you can get shit done almost anywhere. If you’re really in the mood for work it doesn’t matter where you are, you don’t even need a desk. My “work space” for today is a reclining beach chair with laptop in my lap. And don’t ask me why I have it in my living room 😉
Obviously it’s better to have a dedicated work space because it helps you to focus and it can be better for your health in long term but it’s a totally different matter.
Speaking of focus
This is by far the most important aspect of any work really, be it at home or not. But how do you achieve it?
The most important thing is shutting down everything around you. You can’t have a good day if you’re distracted, period.
For example – I never work with my TV on unless I’m doing some menial repetitive job like copy pasting emails, filling out some forms etc. Whenever I’m trying to do something creative TV is always an obstacle that pulls me away from completing the task.
So if you need to think (which hopefully is required at your job!) try shutting down all the social media first. It is our generation’s biggest time waster and it’s so easy to just look at your screen and suddenly boom, half an hour has passed. We know this is not an easy task – all social media are DESIGNED to keep us distracted, but once you put away that phone there’s less temptation to interrupt your actual work.
Also, what I do is close all tabs in your browser which you don’t need. I found that the more I have the more time I waste jumping from one to another and there’s a bigger chance you’ll get distracted and pulled away from your actual work as well.
It seems like a part of focus and „not getting distracted” part but it’s much bigger than that. Music helps me cut the noise from outside and rhythm can sometimes put me in a work groove (it is a hard to explain mood that I get sometimes when words come out naturally and kind of automatically).
As far as the type of music I presume this would be a very individual thing.
For me, I’ve noticed music with less words is better. Think classical, electronic music with clear rhythm rather than hiphop. I think that words, especially in rap, have 2 disadvantages: they destroy the natural flow of the music itself and make you think about them which can lead to you enjoying the lyrics instead of focusing on this article you’re trying to write.
As far as the tempo I don’t have a clear preference but slower, more chill music will help you calm yourself and put you into a focus, work mood while a more uptempo track can wake you up and provide that needed boost of energy if it’s early in the morning or you simply don’t feel like doing anything that day.
Some people like to work with playlists LIKE THAT which are supposed to be specifically designed to help you think but for me this ominous monotone tunes are more likely to give me anxiety than actual help.
Multitasking is your enemy
Sometimes you could hear people boasting about the amount of tasks they can do at once and hey, maybe there are people who can talk with a client on the phone and write emails at the same time but my mind simply doesn’t work that way. Hell, it’s been scientifically proven that most of the people’s brain isn’t. I actually became a WAY MORE focused and driven person once I stopped multitasking altogether.
So let’s say you have those emails to answer (first task) and you have those phone calls to make (second task). Instead of juggling two balls at once and risking both will fall on the floor organise and focus, on the emails first and then pick up the phone second. It’s part of being focused – once you start thinking about other things you can kiss your productivity goodbye.
If you don’t feel like working…
Now this is something all of us can relate to because let’s be honest – how many of us actually like their work and feel inspired by it? Not that many. If you enjoy your work, don’t fall asleep while doing it and don’t daydream about quitting and running away as far as possible you can count yourself lucky.
But even if you love your job there are still moments or even days when you don’t feel like working and it’s perfectly normal. Some days are better, some are worse, some jobs are more exciting and some are just there to be done with.
In those cases, start with…
It may sound strange but trust me, it’s not. If you dread doing something it will only get worse if you keep on postponing it.
I’m a natural born procrastinator. And I’m lazy. Those two things lead to a few catastrophes in my life including flunking university and wasting my very own first ever business opportunity.
So if I get one of those bad moments when I don’t feel like doing anything I start with a 5-minute rule. Basically, I just tell my brain “Ok buddy, let’s try doing this for 5 minutes and we’ll see how it goes”. Then I try to trick it into another 5 minutes and then another. Usually once I actually start doing something instead of hating the idea of doing it, the brain just naturally shifts to do what they are asked for.
If you’re interested, you can read more about it here.
There are times however when the rule doesn’t work. There might be something else on my mind or I just feel like not working altogether and that’s perfectly fine. I think that all of us have those moments from time to time but not all of us can actually admit it out loud.
Sometimes what you need is just a break. Don’t force your work unless there’s a clear deadline.
So those are my few rules to being productive and I really hope at least one of them will help you be more productive. Again I urge to you to experiment because what works for more doesn’t have to work for you.
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