How to Increase Productivity While Working from Home
Whether you’re a seasoned pro at working from home or the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown you into the deep end, navigating the blurred lines between your personal and professional life can be a daily struggle. A recent Mercer survey of 800 employers found that 94% have been happy with their employees’ level of productivity during the pandemic. Behind the scenes, however, many home-based workers are anxiously managing looser schedules, frustrating technology complications and countless distractions that leave them feeling like their wheels are constantly spinning in place.
Working From Home
Learning how to be productive working from home takes some upfront work that pays off in time and effort saved along the way. There are dozens of techniques to boost focus and output; they range from making to-do lists and tracking time spent on projects to working on one task at a time and figuring out your peak performance hours. Although these life hacks to increase productivity are valuable tools for streamlining your work habits, you also need the right mindset to succeed.
How do you define productivity? Take a few minutes to really think about your answer. In action, being productive looks like focus and efficiency. Most of us measure productivity by the quantity of work we generate rather than the quality. Brainstorming, planning, and reflection are essential parts of a successful project, yet we don’t view these quiet activities as being valuable enough to tally as daily achievements.
Highly productive people invest 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each day to identify the priorities and actions that best support their goals. A formal prioritization system keeps you focused on today’s urgent tasks, preventing you from indulging in all the other distractions. Your tangible output will soar when you build these micro check-ins, along with longer weekly planning, project prep, and post-assessment sessions, into your calendar.
Level Up Your Skill Set
There are hundreds of technology tools, applications, and methods that can help in your quest to become more productive. Popular productivity software includes talk-to-text dictation, note-taking tools, time-tracking apps, and web-blocking extensions. Others focus on mapping workflow, assigning team tasks, and collaborating with remote colleagues. Experiment with various systems since your work environment, technical skills, computer equipment, interactions with co-workers, learning style and a range of other factors that increase productivity will determine which tools provide you with the best support.
Another skill that directly impacts productivity is your ability to stay organized. Creating structure in your day gives your brain a clear pathway to focus on, and it frees up time you would normally waste chasing information and resolving problems. Build 30 minutes into your weekly calendar to declutter your desk, file away paperwork or emails, and check-in with your team about upcoming deadlines.
To stay focused while working from home, you must set clear boundaries with yourself, co-workers, and housemates. Routines calm the brain, soothing the edges of uncertainty and making space for clearer thinking. Even though you’re walking 30 feet to your office, continue to kick-start the day with your typical morning ritual of showering, getting dressed, and eating breakfast.
Defining your workspace is another necessary boundary because it helps cut down on the chaos swirling around you. Entering a confined, work-only space also sends a visual cue to your brain that it’s time to pay attention. This activates the concentration center, elevating your ability to focus. Avoid sitting in places where you normally relax, such as the sofa or bed. Even if your defined space is in the corner of a room, you can put up cardboard dividers, hang a curtain or face the wall to block out temptations. A simple “Do Not Disturb” sign politely lets others know it’s not the right time to interrupt.
It may seem counterintuitive to step away from your work if you want to achieve more, but brain breaks are necessary to sustain creativity and productivity. While brief bursts of intense attention can pay off, that continued pace quickly leads to burnout, stress, and disconnection from your work. The swiftest way to sharpen your focus is to take a short break. When you find yourself working on autopilot, it’s time to take 10 minutes to grab a snack, go for a walk around the block, laugh with a friend over a joke or meditate quietly at your desk. These few indulgent moments of self-care often produce a second wind or suddenly make a muddled problem seem clearer.
What is one change to your daily habits that you can make this week to shift toward a productive mindset? If you could use some help getting started, check out some of my other tips on increasing productivity or leveraging neuroscience.