Do you work from home?
If yes, then like me, you have to do a lot of things to keep your focus ON work.
It’s hard to battle against common distractions, and we all know that work won’t miraculously finish itself.
Being productive means I have to commit to a few non-negotiable rules.
1. Designate your own workspace
Make a space in your house that’s only for work, and your brain will be in work mode the moment you enter it.
There’s a psychology behind this – your brain recognises areas in your house and responds to the actual purpose of it.
Working in your bed is a bad idea because you’ll get sleepy. When you work in your dining room, you’ll feel the need to munch on something – and this will distract you.
Pick a well-lit area in your house that you can turn into a comfortable workspace. Build it with the necessary gadgets and tools, like an actual office.
You could buy office furniture or decorate it in your own style. The point here is to make the area as visually stimulating as possible, to trick your brain into getting ready for work.
It also helps that you mark this area as a “Do Not Disturb” zone. This way, you make people in your house understand that you cannot be bothered while you’re getting work done.
2. Invest in good internet technology
Use the best internet service provider because having good internet is crucial to being efficient. Regardless of the business, working from home relies on an uninterrupted internet connection.
If your budget allows, get a backup internet connection. In case your primary provider goes down, you can do business as usual.
3. Plan your day
Start your day by creating a list of things you will get done in a day. This way, you set realistic expectations for yourself and feel more accomplished.
While you can always rely on sticky pads, it helps if you put your daily tasks on a cloud-based task app like Trello, Asana, or optimise your Google Calendar.
I’m using Trello to keep track of the tasks I need to do. Trello is a collaboration tool that organises your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in the process. Imagine a whiteboard, filled with lists of sticky notes, with each note as a task for you and your team. I added the management team to monitor their task and accomplishments.
Allot time for answering emails in the first few hours of your work and make sure that whatever comes after that time will be dealt with on the next email schedule. Do the same for your phone calls. There are a few exceptions to this – but don’t stretch your time that it overlaps with the task on hand.
The important thing is to have a visual plan for your daily tasks and organise work based on its priority. This way you’ll never lose sight of your goals.
Even though I use Trello, I also put the major actions I want to achieve into my calendar, because if I don’t block out the time, the job doesn’t get done.
4. Handle one task at a time
Start one task, and finish it before you move on to the next. This sounds easy, in principle. But sometimes, you’ll find yourself having to deal with multiple things at once – or at least that’s what you think.
Let me give you an example.
Say while you’re working on Project X, an email for Project Y pops up from your screen. You either got curious or felt that it’s urgent and so you open that email, only to find out that you cannot or do not have the answer for it at the moment. So, you close that email and mark it for later.
You go back to the task you’re working on and a Skype message pops up, just like the email, you pause to read it, “try to act” on it but felt that it might need some attention that you can give a little later. Something comes up again. This goes on and on until you find yourself procrastinating for Project X because you spent time squeezing things in between.
Is this the right way to “multi-task?”. No, no, NO!
Get rid of the pop-ups! For example, turn off Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Dropbox, Google Drive, or any other pop-up that appears on your screen when someone messages you or changes a document.
Focus on one thing, do it at the time scheduled, and finish it. This way you won’t need to worry about it the next day or push another goal into the “pending” pool.
5. Follow a work schedule
Working from home means doing work anytime you want, however you must still optimise your time.
For example, when the kids get home from school, you may want to spend 2 hours with them, so don’t keep your mobile phone in your pocket so that you can answer calls.
Spend quality time with family and, equally, quality time at work.
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should forget about keeping a consistent schedule. Failing at this will cost you your productivity.
Regardless of your role or your rank, there will be deadlines to beat and responsibilities to carry out. If part of your business is handled remotely, not setting your fixed “available time” can cause problems with your internal and external communication and business operation.
Having a schedule means that you get to take scheduled breaks. Take a one-hour lunch, take a nap – just be sure to wake up when your break time’s over.
Taking time away from your desk is good for you, mentally and physically. This also helps detox your brain for a few minutes that makes you pick up part of the work you haven’t noticed before. You’ll feel less pressured about your day and that prevents you from being burnt out.
Reflection time is as important as the work to do. Set aside time to evaluate your day. Doing this will create a better work experience for yourself and for others.
Focus on the top 3 things that went well for you today, rather than the 1 or 2 things that didn’t.
This will help you relax into family time and allow your brain to switch off and recuperate.
You have to stop making excuses and take control of your own time.