Tribal Habits has been a remote working organisation since inception. So we have a lot of experience in being productive while working from home. In this article, we summarise five key tips to boost productivity while working from home.
In other articles in this series, we review strategies to overcome the top four challenges of working from home as well as our dedicated ‘How to work from home Checklist‘.
1 – Pretend like you are going into the office
When working in an office, your commute can help you wake up and feel ready to go by the time you get to your workplace. At home, however, the transition from your bedroom to your computer can be much more sudden.
If you are ‘going to work’, then it can be useful to actually ‘go to work’. The mental association you make between work and an office can make you more productive, and there’s no reason that feeling should be lost when working from home.
- When working at home, do all the things you’d do to prepare for an office role: Set your alarm, make (or go get) coffee, wear work clothes, say “I am off to work” and so on.
- If you need to, then ‘recreate a commute’. Drop the kids at school and pretend that’s your trip to work.
- Go for a walk around the block, ‘leaving’ your home and ‘returning’ to your office. Do the same in the afternoon. Those short 5-10 minute walks can help build a routine, allow your mind to refocus on your next activities and keep your health!
2 – Structure your day like you would in the office
When working from home, you’re your own personal manager. Without things like an in-person meeting schedule to break up your day, you can be quick to lose focus or, more likely, burn out. It’s very easy to just work solidly without breaks or distractions and suddenly find a lack of energy come upon you around lunch.
To stay on schedule, segment what you’ll do and when you’ll do it over the course of the day. If you have an online calendar, create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears, get a coffee, go for a 15-minute walk or start on new tasks.
3 – Work when you’re at your most productive
Nobody sprints through their work from morning to evening – your motivation will naturally ebb and flow throughout the day. It’s the same when you’re working from home.
However, it is even more important to know when those ebbs and flows will take. If you want to remain productive while working from home, you need to place and plan your schedule around your most productive periods when you are at home and don’t have the energy from colleagues around you.
To capitalise on your most productive periods, save your harder tasks for when you know you’ll be in the right headspace for them. Use slower points of the day to knock out the easier, logistical tasks that are also on your plate. Those “small acts of success” can help build your momentum for the heavier projects that are waiting for you later on.
For some people, you may need the opposite. Some times your greatest productivity while working fro home can be to Jump into your to-do list as soon as you wake up. Simply getting a project underway first up can be the key to making progress on it gradually throughout the day. Otherwise, you risk prolonging breakfast and letting a slow start to the morning wear away your motivation. Many veteran at-home workers get some work done, then stop for breakfast, and then return to work.
4 – Plan out what you’ll be working on ahead of time
Spending time figuring out what you’ll do today can take away from actually doing those things. And, you’ll have planned your task list so recently that you can be tempted to change your schedule on the fly.
It’s important to let your agenda change if you need it to, but it’s equally as important to commit to an agenda that outlines every assignment before you begin.
Try finalise your schedule the day before.This makes it feel more official when you wake up the next day to get started on it. This is a good tip, regardless of where you work, but it is extremely useful when working at home. It lets you hit the ground running every morning.
5 – Pick a definitive finishing time each day
You might be under the impression that working from home establishes more work-life balance, but be careful with that assumption.
Working from home can also feel like being at a casino – you can get so caught up in your activity, in a relaxing environment, that you lose complete track of time.
In the absence of coworkers, whose packing up and leaving the office reminds you to do the same, set an alarm at the end of the day to indicate your normal workday is coming to an end. You don’t have to stop at exactly that time, but knowing the workday is technically over can help you start the process of saving your work and calling it quits for the evening.