I am fortunate to have a job that gives me flexibility to work from home when I want. While idealist may see working from as an excuse to stay in pajamas and have breakfast in bed, in reality, working from home is far from glamorous. It can be a challenge to completely switch into work mode in an environment where you usually are relaxing or catching up on chores. Below, are my tried and true productivity hacks to crush it on your work from home days.
Develop a ‘work day’ routine
It is important to try and create a ’normal’ work day routine as much as possible. Take the time to get ready in the morning. Washing your face and putting on real clothes helps tremendously to get you in the business mindset. Trust me, that extra effort makes all the difference.
One of the biggest hurdles when working from home is feeling lonely and detached from your team. The best way to combat this is to look at your team’s schedules and set up designated times to engage with your team. Whether it’s responding to slack messages, work emails, or setting up conference calls, it’s important to connect with your team throughout your work day.
Create an “office space”
Working from home is challenging because your work/life balance is compromised. Working from your bed can be very tempting, however, it can have a major impact on your sleep quality. According to The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard, work shouldn’t happen where you sleep. They recommend, “Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.”
Meaning that working from your bed can make it harder for you to fall asleep, since your brain associates it as a place of work. When I work from home, I either work at my desk or create my “bootlegged” version of a standing desk, which essentially is a bunch of books stacked on my counter with my laptop on top of the stack (standing desks are ridiculously expensive so this works for me!) Creating my own “office space” allows me to set boundaries between work time and home time. Struggling to envision how to create an office space in your tiny apartment or home? This article gives great inspiration!
Put your phone in another room
Having your phone next to you during your work day is detrimental to your productivity. Recently, Harvard Business Study released the results from an 800 participant study on how smartphones affect people’s cognitive abilities. In one task, the participants had to memorize random letters and do math problems, in the other task, participants were shown an incomplete pattern and had to choose the photo that completed the pattern.
During the experiment, all participants were asked to turn their phones on silent and turn off all notifications. Participants were also instructed to either keep their phone on their desk, keep it in their pocket, or keep it in another room. The results? The people who had phones in the other room performed the best, followed by the people with phones in their pocket, and in last place were the people with phones on their desks.
During the work day, I turn off text notifications. I notify my family when I am going “dark”, and tell them to call me if there is an emergency. I put my phone in my kitchen so I have to walk to retrieve it. My calls still go through, so I know I’m not missing that important client call or that emergency call from my son’s school. It makes all the difference not having my phone next to me. I get so much more accomplished when I don’t have that temptation. Highly recommend you try this!
I talked about this in my 3 Holy Grail Career Tools I Can’t Live Without but time blocking is a game-changer! Time blocking is the practice of scheduling appointments on your calendar when you’re going to work on a particular task or project. For example, if I have a sales presentation to complete, I will create a task on my calendar that says “Prepare sales presentation” for however long I think it will take to complete the task. During that allotted time, I am only working on my sales presentation. I’m not checking my emails or taking breaks to scroll through LinkedIn. I am head down only working on that designated project. I love this time blocking cube from Amazon which has the increments 5, 15, 30, and 60 minutes on its faces for this purpose.
The cube keeps me accountable and focused. Once the timer goes off, I am allowed to move to the next task. Time blocking makes large tasks seem more manageable and keeps me focused throughout my work day. I take time blocking a step further by trying to schedule similar tasks on specific days.
Let's say I have a client meeting in the morning on Wednesday. I will try to schedule other meetings or conference calls on Wednesday because they are similar tasks. I wouldn’t schedule blog writing or campaign development on Wednesday, because it isn’t productivity switching back and forth between tasks that require different skill sets. It’s amazing just how much time and energy it takes to clean up one task and set up another. By doing similar tasks on the same day, I am able to seamlessly move between tasks because there isn’t the mental and physical ‘clean up’ required moving from one task to the next.
Time blocking is a ‘no excuses’ way to get things done and achieve your goals. Want to try it? You can buy the time blocking cube I suggest here: https://amzn.to/2C74Ur8
Getting fresh air
It is easy to feel cooped up and reclusive when working from home. I try to leave my home at least once throughout my day. Whether it’s eating lunch on my balcony, picking up a prescription, or taking a 30 minute walk on my lunch break, it is essential to get out of your home. Even if it’s rainy and you live in an apartment building, get up and walk up and down your building’s staircase for 15-20 minutes. It is important to get out of your bubble and connect with the outside world at least once during your work day. It will give you the mental clarity and the boost to finish your day strong.
I hope these productivity tips were helpful. Have any other great work from home hacks? Please leave them in the comment section below.