With many employees still being asked to avoid the office, more people are working from home than ever before. Here’s the ultimate guide to staying productive and focused on your work
Plan your day ahead
Before you go to bed at night, take ten or twenty minutes to create a list of the things that you want to achieve the following day.
It’s often worth spending time at the weekend planning the forthcoming week, and although life is susceptible to the usual last-minute dramas and upheavals, you can still come back to your list, knowing where you had left off and what’s left to achieve.
In terms of planning, start off with one large goal and break it down into smaller, manageable pieces. These pieces then form part of your daily routine without leaving you feeling overwhelmed. You will know that whatever you’re doing, as boring as it may be, you’re working towards a bigger goal.
Having a list also gives your day a sense of direction and gives you a sense of achievement when you start ticking things off.
Structure your day
This can be difficult, especially if you have kids or life isn’t as straightforward as you’d like it to be. Even if this is the case, aim to have some sort of structure if you want to work from home effectively.
Use a productivity tool to plan both your week and your days. Create a structure for each day of the week so that you know that you have the basics covered. You can then add things if you need to and also it allows you to see where you’re up to at any given time.
You can download productivity apps both for your computer and/or your phone.
Start your day early
Try getting up at 5 or 6am, long before anyone else in the house even stirs. Grab a coffee and get a good few hours in before anyone has a chance to disturb you.
Start with the things that you least want to do first. Get them out of the way or you’ll spend your entire day thinking about them and having that horrible pit-of-the-stomach feeling all day. Some people find that they are hugely productive between the hours of 5am and 10am. Give it a go for a few weeks to see how you get on and whether your body can adapt.
If you’re more of a night owl, dedicate your hours of work towards the end of the day instead. Working into the small hours can beneficial in that most people often go to bed around that time, leaving you with less distractions.
Ultimately, you know yourself better than anyone else so take the time to get in tune with your body and mind and work when you’re at your most positive and productive.
Dedicate workspace to work from home
One of the things many people working from home struggle with is a dedicated workspace. If you want to work from home, you’re going to need your own space.
Not all of us have the luxury of our own office. Some send their kids to school and then set up camp at the kitchen table, packing it all away when the kids come back. This obviously only gives them a few hours in the day to get their work done.
Try and avoid working from bed if you can (it does your back no favours). Give yourself as much space as you can, whether that’s on a table or a desk. It’ll help practically but also mentally.
Communicate well with household members
If you need the day to yourself, you’ll need to be clear and concise with others who live with you. Communicate if you don’t want to be disturbed. If you have children, you’ll need to do something similar. This can be difficult, depending on their needs and independence levels. If you’re lucky enough to have a helpful partner, they’ll need to be aware of what’s expected from them too.
Turn off all notifications and social media
We all love a bit of social media now and then but one thing that’s guaranteed to hammer your productivity is notifications and social media.
Be strict with yourself. Only deal with emergency-type situations if you need to. You owe it yourself. You’re only doing yourself a disservice if you allow yourself to be distracted by pings, emails and sneaky peeks at Facebook or Twitter.
Turn off all notifications on your phone. Turn everything off apart from the thing that you are working on. You’re working from home but try and work as if you have a boss looking over your shoulder.
Work in 45 minute blocks
Working in blocks really helps with focus. Like proper laser focus.
Decide what you’re going to work on within that 45 minutes and stick to it rigidly. It really helps motivate you to get it done as you hear the clock ticking down. Set a timer, turn off all distractions, and get going.
Once the 45 minutes (or 55 minutes if you can stretch to that) is up, walk away from your desk. Grab a coffee, a snack or take time to move away from your workplace. That’s the whole point. If you need a nap, take one. If you need a quick walk around the block, do it.
Listen to your body clock
Listening to your body will help your productivity levels once you’ve tuned into it.
Try and stick to your schedule if you can but if you need a snooze, take one. There is no point working through tiredness at a time when your concentration and productivity levels are low. Recharge, reset, and go again with higher energy levels.
When you finish, finish
Before you shut up shop for the day, don’t forget to prep for the next day. Take 10-20 minutes, making a list of the things you’d like to achieve the next day.
When you’re done, finish off whatever it is you’re doing and pack it away. Your brain will need to switch off from work and if you can, leave your place of work and close the door behind you. If not, you’ll find that you take your work to bed with you in your head.
When you finish, finish.