Recent statistics show that up to half of America’s workforce is working from home as a result of social distancing orders aimed at slowing down the coronavirus pandemic. This represents more than double the number of Americans who worked from home pre-COVID-19. The emergence of new technologies like Zoom and the broad availability of high-speed internet has made it possible for businesses to adapt quickly to this ‘new normal’.
But working from home comes with its fair share of challenges, especially if you have children and pets to deal with at home. These distractions can quickly derail your productivity and make you achieve less than you would in an office environment.
So how can you make sure you stay motivated and productive while you work at home during these difficult times?
Create a schedule and stick to it
Humans are creatures of habit, and that’s one thing office spaces capitalize on. In this environment, your day is rigidly defined from morning until the time you punch out. You have a set amount of time to do specific tasks, and there are consequences if you fail to complete it on time. The same can’t be said of home where your day is less controlled and more fluid. It can also be difficult just to sit down and do work without anyone holding you accountable.
A solid schedule will keep you motivated and productive. But it has to be tailored specifically to you and your needs. For starters, you’ll have to figure out what time of the day to do your best work. This depends on whether you are a morning person or an evening person. Schedule the most challenging tasks for when you’re most productive and the lighter ones when your focus is not at a hundred percent.
Invest in a comfortable workspace
While you’re free to work in your jammies on the couch, chances are they inhibit your productivity. Offices, like schools, have a sort of atmosphere or ‘vibe’ that makes it easier to sit and focus. For example, just seeing your colleagues working will have you pressurized to work harder, sometimes even unconsciously. Your mind needs to get into work mode if you plan on doing stellar work, and an ideal workspace will do that for you.
A few options to consider are your home dining table, a simple desk set at the corner of your living room, or you could even convert one of your rooms into a home office. Any time you occupy this space during the day, it should signal to the people in your household that you’re there to work. Where possible, talk to them so they can support you by shutting down the music or in the case of children, going to bed or engaging in an activity that allows you to focus on your work.
But if you still need more privacy or your home is just not working out for you, consider renting a furnished apartment to serve as your personal office. Most of these homes come with a designated office space or furniture, which will come in handy for those important Zoom calls. Whatever you go with, ensure that it’s comfortable and adequately lit. If you can buy an ergonomic chair, do it. Your back and neck will thank you later.
Have a to-do list
Once you have a working schedule, it’s time to plan out what you’ll be doing during your workday. If you have a lot of work, the best thing would be to break them down and spread them out over a couple of days. This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and consequently postponing your work.
Prioritize your tasks based on their importance and urgency and set goals for completing them. Something like “I’ll do this amount of work by this time” will keep you motivated for the day. Most importantly, make sure your goals are realistic and achievable too.
Random distractions are your worst enemy if you work from home. If you live with either friends or family, you’ll have to find a way to deal with disruptions. For starters, you could put your phone away every time you’re working. Using an incognito tab or a different browser for work will prevent you from accessing social media. Other effective tactics include working in a separate room with no TV or anything that could disrupt your focus. A pair of noise-canceling headphones should also help if you work in a noisy environment.
You can also set breaks for when you need to interact with friends or family. Finally, if you feel like your concentration is slipping, take a short break to recharge.
Take care of yourself
Your overall productivity depends on your energy levels. The latter, in turn, hinges on what you eat, your exercise patterns, and the quality of your sleep.
Make sure to squeeze in at least 75 minutes of vigorous cardio every week. Try to do exercises that target your lower back and your core (abs) as this will eliminate any lower back pain and improve your posture. Eat healthy, balanced meals too and drink plenty of water.
This routine of regular exercise and healthy eating, coupled with plenty of sleep, will leave you feeling good, energized, and productive.
Working from home is gradually becoming the ‘new normal’ especially during this COVID-19 pandemic where social distancing is required. Learning how to remain productive and healthy will help you stay on track with your goals.
What have you been doing to make your workdays more productive? We’d love to hear in the comments.