10 Tips To Be More Productive While Working From Home

Here are some of the tried and tested tips drawn from our collective experience to help you to become more productive while working from home, 10 tips for today’s working professional.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey

I remember my manager in one of my previous organisation once asked me, “What is your opinion about working from home?”

Back then, we had a policy that allowed one to work for any two days in the month from home as long as your manager consents to it.

While I have never faced any restrictions in getting these two days, in general, the working culture was such that, managers loved to see their minions working in front of them, even if they are not doing anything productive in particular.

It was just that they wanted to see their team in front of them.

The reason being, people believed “You just can’t work from home, being at home is akin to being on holiday” and most importantly this notion that you can’t be as productive at home as you are in the office.

And then one fine day, the massive lockdowns of COVID-19 happened and all of a sudden, whether you loved it or not, to keep organisations functioning – Work from Home became the only way of going forward – and everything in the working scene since then has changed forever.

Some of us quickly managed to transition to this new lifestyle. Yet, a lot amongst us had a tough time to adapt to this new change because of various reasons – infrastructural, technological and most importantly tackling our kids, family members all staying at home 24X7, each with their respective online schedules.

Tips To Be More Productive While Working From Home:

1. First and foremost – Decide a fixed space, your corner office at home

Carving out personal space in your home is an essential first step; it is your place of Zen; it is your workspace.

It should be well lit, adequately ventilated and give off the right energy vibes, yes you will feel it.

You also need to separate yourself if you are living with your family, especially children.

Try to have your place in one such room, where you can close the doors and isolate yourself when you work so that you are not distracted or bugged when you are on that all-important call or busy meeting your deadlines.

 

2. Your comfort comes first – Get all your infrastructural needs in place

Once you narrow down on a space, you need to make sure all the infrastructure is in place to make you feel comfortable and office-like. Why? Because you will be spending a whole lot of time coiled up here.

A well designed and ergonomic office chair goes a long way to help you maintain a good posture and at the same time give you an excellent office-like feel.

Similarly, a simple desk with drawers, storage or shelf space to keep your notes, stationery, files and documents gives you a dedicated work area – a space to zone out and go into office mode.

You can add either a whiteboard, a flannel board or a magnetic board to pin up your notes, task lists to do, essential appointments or simply put up something to motivate you and keep you going.

If you are short on space, then invest in a good quality laptop table with adjustable stands, there are few in the market which has USB cooling fan and also helps you adjust the angle of the table to help you type comfortably and support your wrists.

Avoid sitting on beds, couches or sofas; they might make you sluggish and lazy because that is their job to help you cosy up and relax.

 

3. Embrace technology – Make it your friend

COVID-19 has truly brought technology to the forefront, and sometimes the things we take for granted have become our essential work lifelines.

Invest in a good wi-fi provider, work out your workload, entertainment load along with your family needs and pick up an optimum plan with decent bandwidth.

Always have a phone-based network as a backup in case your wi-fi goes down.

In places where electricity failures are frequent or more prolonged, it will be wise to also invest in a good quality Inverter to power your essential appliances and laptops so that you are connected and not under pressure or extend deadlines due to these factors.

Similarly making sure to have a good quality laptop or desktop with webcam, audio setup, with decent RAM, memory, processor and supporting office applications, if your company has not provided them, is definitely a game-changer.

And getting one for your children or spouse to manage their activities is a lifesaver, in doing so you can avoid playing timeshare with your devices and inevitable compromises.

With the market now flooded, with various cloud-based platforms, for video conferencing, team collaboration and enhanced work capabilities.

Try getting yourself adapted and acquainted with the functioning of these applications – the difference between knowing where the mute button or video pause button is on your conferencing app can save you from a spot in the Hall of fame of potential embarrassment.

It is a small investment; you might feel reluctant to make initially. Still, in the long run, it will help you remain comfortable, productive, deliver with speed and avoid any frustration due to lapses or delays, which is like investing in peace of your mind.

 

4. Create a daily ritual – Your routine will power you all through the day

As humans, our brain likes and craves for a routine; this helps the body’s clockwork align itself with your daily activities and help you ace your day.

How does it work? When you set a daily routine, it sends instructions to your brain to gear up for the upcoming day and help you wind down as you call it a day and go off to sleep, and accordingly your entire body and energy levels get aligned to keep you at the peak of your performance.

One simple wake up ritual is to get up early, take a moment to pray and express your gratitude for the new day and new opportunities presented to you.

Exercise or do some brisk activity like walking or yoga for 15-30 mins, shower and wear fresh clothes.

As you get ready for having your breakfast, go through the newspapers, spend time reading few pages of any motivational or self-help book you love or turn on your favourite music and get ready for the next step of planning your day.

 

5. Create a structure – Schedule your day well

As you go through your daily ritual, it prepares you for this vital step of planning – That is creating a structure, your daily task list of the things to do, things to accomplish for the day.

While you are building this list, try to prioritise, schedule and allocate time for your tasks, it will help you stay focused by quantifying time required for completion vs time at hand.

This list will also give you a layout of the land, your high-level map of critical activities and milestones as work your way through your project or work goal.

The priorities will let you know where you are? When you are? And what you need to do, to get, where you want to? And it helps.

 

6. Pomodoro technique – Your friend to get things done efficiently

As fickle as the human mind is, it takes a lot for us to stay put and concentrate for longer duration when doing any task.

Our mind constantly likes to go back to the resting position, and it doesn’t enjoy being put to work.

It keeps on trying to gratify itself, and that manifests its way in the form of distraction and procrastination.

While we know, it is unproductive, deep in our hearts. We still find it challenging to overcome, and it affects our overall time management and can cause severe delays or last-minute pressure and stress.

Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s when he was a university student, struggling to manage time and focus on his studies and finish his assignments.

Using a tomato (called Pomodoro in Italian) shaped kitchen timer, he used to study in intervals of 10 minutes, where he used to focus on his studies.

And once the 10 minutes sprint is over, he then used to take a break, relax, enjoy himself and start again for the next sprint of 10 minutes – and so Pomodoro technique was born.

Used by over 2 million people worldwide- the key to Pomodoro technique lies in its simplicity and effectiveness as they put it “Pomodoro Technique teaches you to work with time, instead of struggling against it. A revolutionary time management system, it is at once deceptively simple to learn and life-changing to use.”

It has six simple steps to follow:

  1. Choose a task from your to-do list and a timer
  2. Set your Pomodoro clock for 25 minutes on the timer
  3. Focus and work on the task until 25 minutes are over – This is your one Pomodoro sprint
  4. When the timer rings – mark that task complete
  5. Take a short break of 5 minutes to relax
  6. And then go on to repeat Steps 1 to 5, until you complete 4 Pomodoro sprints at which point you can take an extended break of 30 minutes (it will help your brain to assimilate new information and take adequate rest)

To get the most benefit, out of the 25 minutes Pomodoro interval, here are three rules you must follow:

  1. You should break complex projects or tasks requiring more than four sprints of Pomodoro into smaller and actionable tasks.
  2. Smaller singular tasks can go together in one sprint
  3. Once a Pomodoro timer is set, it must ring.

Remember, Pomodoro is an indivisible unit of time that cannot be broken, especially taking care to avoid checking any incoming notifications like chats, emails or text messages and avoid distractions in any other forms.

Any random ideas you get, any tasks, or requests that come up should be noted down and come back to later. In an unlikely event that there is an unavoidable disruption, take a five-minute break and start again.

Cirillo suggests that you should track these interruptions as they occur and work out how to avoid them as you start your next session.

Pomodoro technique is a potent time management tool, and it helped me pen down my thoughts to write down this whole article. So, yes, it definitely works.

 

7. Play music – When the music flows, you are in the flow

Music is the rhythm of life; it has the ability to make us move and groove and connects deep into the recesses of our soul.

It amplifies our emotions, perks up our energy levels, like the lightning and the wind. And yet there are times it acts as a calming, soothing balm, relaxing and unwinding us down into the space of contemplation and self-discovery.

Music is very personal, to each his own. So, choose your soundtrack to get you grooving through your daily tasks, it can be as per your mood, inclination or even the pace of the work you are into.

Like I like to hear fast and peppy music to crash through repetitive and mundane tasks or switch over to instrumental music without lyrics when sitting to write or pen down my thoughts.

There is no set playlist; you have to experiment with what works for you like I know a friend who likes to start his day with listening to Eye of the Tiger from the movie Rocky, it energised him for the day and made him feel like Rocky Balboa ready to take on any challenges.

There are also those amongst us who may find music a distraction, and noise doesn’t allow them to concentrate.

Then there are others, who sing along with the lyrics even if it an instrumental number, they feel that they cannot focus and so it is absolutely fine not to play anything.

If you must try, start with instrumental music, and work your way up to different genre as long as it helps to pep you up and gets you in the flow.

Remember the type of music you will listen to will have an impact on your overall mood, hence try to be aware of this aspect as well.

For those who have tried, and now swear by, how it helps them get grooving and finish off the tasks at hand like a warm knife slicing through cold butter. It is an experience in itself.

 

8. Take adequate breaks – Even if you think you don’t need them

Take breaks, yes, it is an essential thing if you want to stay productive. Contrary to what our conditioning has led us to believe, all work and no play can really make Jack & Jill a dull boy and a dull girl.

Why is that? Our mind has an attention span of no more than 45 minutes at a stretch. Depending on the task at hand and its gravitas we may expend a whole of lot energy either in doing it or even thinking about it.

This energy expenditure is tiresome to the body, and the brain in general. Hence mind starts wandering off in search of immediate gratification to relax and calm down.

That’s why most of us feel sleepy or physically present but mentally absent in long calls, meetings, training sessions and at times when we are working on some activity endlessly.

And, if this were some essential training, you would have missed out on the critical learning and knowledge gaining opportunities here.

So, take a break, devote 5 to 15 minutes of your time and at frequent intervals to get up from your chair, stretch yourself a bit, walk down to the other room, take a bio break, the most crucial point is to move away from your workspace for some time.

Make sure to have your breakfast or lunch on time during these breaks and give adequate time to eating without rushing through; this will help you ward off headaches and sets your mood throughout the day.

Drink a lot of water; you can either keep the bottle on your desk or utilise your small breaks to walk down to the kitchen to have them, whatever suits you the best but makes sure to stay well hydrated, which we usually tend to overlook.

These short breaks will assist your mind in processing all that has happened so far and help you come back even stronger for next innings.

 

9. Earth calling ………… over – Yes, you are still on planet earth, don’t forget to interact with Humans

While it is important to isolate yourself at home, in your workspace so that you are not disturbed by anyone, Yes, it helps you focus.

It is equally important to make sure you give your time to your family members at home, especially your spouse and children for playing, doing your day to day chores etc.

This used to be easy when you are at the office, away from home when you were not available in front of them.

Now the lines are so blurred and roles so overlapping, it makes a lot of difference to set aside time out for your family at the same time ensure that you are not disturbed while you are working.

It also helps to network with your peers, colleagues and team-mates often to stay on top of the pulse of what is happening in your organisation, try to converse about off-work topics and keep it light-hearted.

When people ask for something, make sure you respond to them, even if it takes you some time to respond, make sure you do, it matters.

 

10. Take care of your Mental health – It is more important now than ever

Human beings are free-spirited animals; living for days and months within the confines of a single space is not in our design, even if it is our home.

So, we have had to deal with a cocktail of emotions, expectations, various pressures, fear of uncertainty and a sense of hopelessness during these challenging times.

Staying away from home for work, shielded you from the daily routines, behaviour quirks and actions of your family members, which got amplified and sometimes overwhelming when you are available 24X7 at home and vice versa.

Quite a lot of people on both sides expressed their frustrations of being unable to deal with each other and their temperaments.

All these have an overarching effect on our state of mind and our well-being.

Remember, you are not alone, most of us are going through this same patch just like you.

Hence make it a point to consciously reach out and connect with your boss and other folks at the office, your friends, co-workers etc. as well as your family members irrespective of whether they are staying with you or not.

These conversations need not be goal-oriented or work-related; it could be a simple catch up, checking up on each other to make sure they are doing good in these difficult times. Give an ear, listen to them, let them open up.

This is a two-way process; it will benefit you as much as it will help others and keep you charged, hopeful and motivated.

Thank people around you a lot, show your gratitude, for their presence in your life, they have spent their time and energy, to help you get where you are now, so make sure, that they know you are grateful.

I am sure if you have reached till here, you would have got a fair idea of the many things you can do to make yourself more productive while working from home.

Read also: Take care of your mental health while working from home.

Drop in the comments, What is the other go-to advice that has worked for you? and share with all of us here to help each other become even more productive.

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