Due to the Corona Virus outbreak, all of a sudden, many of us are finding ourselves having to work from home.
For many people, working from home used to be a very romantic idea – relaxing on the sofa in peejays, while casually replying some emails. But after a painful two weeks, many will find that this is not the reality.
There are mental hurdles to overcome. The feeling of isolation, the distractions from people sharing the same space with you and the constant urge of checking your phone or what’s in your fridge, are all examples of things you have to overcome while working from home.
Well, to help you prepare better, we have gathered 17 tips from the experts on how to effectively work from home.
Tips for working at home
1. Designated workspace
Having a designated workspace is absolutely crucial if you want to work from home effectively. Having a space reserved for working helps setup your state of mind every day, and not just in terms of being in a “working” mindset but also so you’re able to turn off when the working day is over.
Pro-tip: Not every one of us will be lucky enough to have an entire room devoted to work; for those who are not so lucky, productivity expert Nicholas Bate suggests using masking tape to divide our workspace from the rest of our home.
Having a space reserved for working helps get you in the right mindset each day. It helps to create a mental link between “I’m in my work space” and “it’s time to get work done.” You’ll also give everyone else at home a solid visual reminder that you are at work right now.
And you should choose your space wisely – it has to be away from kitchen and living room, ideally quiet and free from distractions.
Some people might find the idea of working in bed tempting, but bed is a place of rest. If you start to associating it with answering emails or dealing with annoying customers, then you’ll have trouble relaxing in bed when it’s actually time to sleep.
The same applies to kitchen and living room. These are places to relax/eat.
Bonus: Read about how Carrie Smith the self-titled girl boss behind the award winning entreprenership blog, Careful cents found that having an organized and decorated space helped her grow her business.
2. Get dressed
Fun fact: Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, told Yahoo Finance that the company has seen a spike in sales of tops, but not bottoms. “So, people who are concerned, obviously, from the waist up.”
Yes, we all want to be as comfortable as possible in our own home. But the days can quickly become blur with no clear distinction between working and relaxing, or Sunday and Monday, if we stay in the same clothes all the time.
Like having a designated work space, by changing into your work clothes or something other than you pyjamas, you send a signal to yourself and other people at home that now is work time.
3. Keep clearly defined working hours
When you work in an office, going home is the signal that your work day is over. If you are already home, work can easily sneak into family time or weekends. Or other people may think that because you work at home, you are always available.
Or on the other side, it is very possible to let distractions eat away the time you are supposed to be working.
The solution: Set your work hours in advance, and communicate that with everyone else. Setting specific ‘business hours’ will help you separate work from play, and play from work.
4. Set ground rules with the people in your space.
Some people have the tendency to believe that “working from home” means “not working at all”, and will chat/call/text you at random times with unimportant stuff.
So, it’s important that you set the ground rules from the beginning, and communicate them clearly with people around you.
Let them know (politely) that your working hours are from what time to what time, when is your next break etc.
5. Set work day goals
When you don’t have other collegues and boss constantly watching over your shoulders, sometimes it’s easy to get distracted by unimportant work or non-work related tasks.
One tip is to make sure you set your work goals straight – what’s your goal for the month, the week and the day.
” The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.”
Having a work day goal helps to provide a direction and destination, something to aim for and direct your efforts towards. Having a work day goal also helps to provide you with a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day, if you achieve your goals.
Tips and tools for being productive
6. Block out distractions
It’s very easy to get distracted when no one’s watching.
Checking your email is sometimes a necessity, especially if it’s your colleagues’ favourite method of communication. However, constantly clicking on that email tab can seriously slow you down and disrupt your workflow.
Another biggest distraction that we all face is social media notification. These days it’s almost impossible to sit at one place and not have the urge to go and check out the latest updates in social networking sites.
and often times, what seems to be a 5-minute check turns into an hour long loitering.
If you’re prone to checking your favorite websites when you should be working, try using StayFocusd or LeechBlock, extensions that allow you to “ban” time-sucker sites between certain hours. You can even set “allowed” check-in times, such as five minutes of Facebook after 45 minutes of work etc.
7. Use headphones to help you focus
If you’re easily affected by external sounds – like me, then putting on a pair of headphones might help.
What should you listen to on your headphones?
Personally I use an app called Brain.fm. Brain fm delivers computer-generated music designed specifically for the brain, and helps you focus, relax and meditate.
Another popular choice is to work while listening to some background noise. Research has found that many people experience better concentration in the presence of background noise.
Bonus: Check out this article for tips on what background noise for what type of tasks. For example, white noise is better for focus and productivity, while ambient noise fosters creativity.
Here are some recommended white noise apps:
Coffitivity: A website (also available as an app) which provides ambient sounds of cafe.
RainingFM: Another one of my favourite website (also available as an app). If you are like me, who can focus better listening to rain, check out this tool.
8. Set time blocks
Many of us use to-do lists to keep track of things that need to get done.
The problem is: Which ones get done first?
We only have a limited supply of energy, focus and willpower. There are certain tasks that are more important and create bigger impact than others. How do we make sure that we don’t let other tasks take away time and energy from these important tasks?
Time blocking is the practice of planning out every moment of your day in advance and dedicating specific time “blocks” for certain tasks and responsibilities. For example, instead of checking your emails throughout the day, you set a block of time, let’s from 8:00 am to 8:30 am, to clear your inbox and respond to messages. Once your inbox is at zero, you move on to the next task.
The key to time blocking is organizing the tasks that need to be completed and then set aside a specific timeframe to focus only on those items. This prevents multitasking and interruptions from dictating your day.
9. Use the Pomodoro technique to fight procrastination
Procrastination is the number one problem everyone working from home has to face everyday. We tend to procrastinate when the task is too big, too overwhelming, and we are more likely to procrastinate when there isn’t a pair of watchful eyes watching over us.
Pomodoro technique is a very useful productivity technique to help us fight off procrastination. The methodology is simple: When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks.
Here’s how to do it:
- Choose a task to be accomplished.
- Set the timer to 25 minutes (typically, one pomodoro is 25 minutes)
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes)
- Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break (15 minutes)
You need to be focusing 100% on your task in a pomodoro. If you are distracted in anyway, you either have to end the pomodoro there, or postpone the distraction until the pomodoro in complete.
Watch this video to learn more about the Pomodoro technique and how it helps to overcome procrastination.
10. Schedule breaks
Have you ever gotten stumped by a problem, decided to take a break, and then later found that the answer magically came to you in a burst of inspiration?
If so, you know the power of strategic breaks to refresh your brain and help you see a situation in a new way.
Tons of research out there has already proven that humans work best by taking short breaks in between bursts of high activity.
Specifically, this article suggests taking a 17 minute break after 52 minutes of work.
Without the usual office distractions, it can be hard to remember to take breaks. So it’s important that you schedule your short breaks into the work day.
11. Move around
Here’s a tip on what to do during your scheduled breaks: Walk around.
Now that we are all spending a disproportionate amount of time at home, we should get outside (within home compound, of course) as much as possible with gardening or walking around the block.
And after work hours, enjoy other areas of your home:
which means watching a good movie, reading a book, or cooking a fun meal.
Tips for staying productive
12. Have a morning ritual
It takes a lot of willpower to stay productive during work, and willpower is depleted throughout the day as we make decisions.
To conserve willpower, the best way is to turn a set of actions into automatic habits.
A morning ritual is essentially a set of actions you perform in the morning, usually before starting your day’s main activity like starting to work. The actions can be anything from drinking a glass of water or brushing your teeth to doing a two-hour workout or running around the block.
If you would like to learn more about morning routines, this book – My morning routine: How successful people start everyday inspired would be a good start.
If you need inspirations on what you want to include in your morning routine, check out this site: My Morning Routine. It’s an online archive of hundreds of morning routines of successful entrepreneurs, bestselling authors and inspiring creatives all around the world.
Meditation is a simple, effective method that can help you to improve your productivity. Think of it as an exercise for your mind – which you can do anywhere, anytime.
In fact, many big companies including Microsoft now provide free training on meditation to improve the productivity of their employees.
If you would like to get started on meditation, here’s a good guide: Meditation for beginners
Here’s a list of apps recommended for meditation:
14. Work out
This tip here is probably quite self-explanatory.
Working from home is a gravitational pull toward sloth-like behavior.
But getting a work out done, even just briefly,helps start the day on a more energetic note.
Furthermore, endorphins released after working out will boost your mood and improve your ability to think.
Pro tip: Use the time in the morning that you’d normally spend getting to the office and do a home workout class.
15. Create an eating plan
Social distancing means a lot of cooking at home. This is probably the best time to incorporate a healthy eating habit.
And if you can stick to your new eating habit during this period, chances are you will be eating healthy too after this is over. (It normally takes 21 days to form a habit)
Creating an eating plan ahead means you don’t have to spend your precious time and willpower deciding what to cook or eat everyday. This can significantly boost your productivity at work.
Also if you plan ahead your meals, there is less chance that you will be snacking on unhealthy foods – because you already know what you will be eating instead of just grabbing whatever’s convenient in the food cupboard.
One common problem you will encounter working from home for an extended period of time is cabin fever.
Cabin fever is a reaction to being isolated in a building for too long. Symptoms of cabin fever include: depression, restlessness, trouble concentrating, food cravings, decreased motivation, frequent napping and hopelessness.
Needless to say, your productivity goes down significantly when you experience cabin fever.
To overcome cabin fever during this lock-down period, make sure you schedule time for “social” calls. Make use of video calls whenever possible – it feels much more connected than a voice call.
If you want to be creative, you can even do a remote lunch break together. The key is make sure that you don’t feel lonely, and make sure others don’t feel lonely either.
17. End your day with a routine
Just like having a morning routine, you should end your day with an evening routine too. An evening routine is basically a set of actions you take before you go to bed everyday.
Having an evening routine helps set you up the next morning.
Here are some ideas of evening routine
- Tidy up your desktop
- Make a cup of chamomile tea and read while drinking
- Avoid staring at your screen 2 hours before going to bed
- be like Benjamin Franklin, document your good list
- Journaling, write your day down in a journal
- Brain dump – this is my favourite exercise. Basically just get a pen and paper, sit down for 10 minutes, and write down whatever that’s still on your mind or unfinished. You will feel much better after you have written everything down/
Did you know: Brain actually needs about 2 hours to cool down.
For many of us, working from home is a brand new experience and hopefully with the tips we covered today, you will find WFH a little more pleasant.
We’d like to hear from you
Do you have any other tips you want to share with us? Maybe your own morning or evening routine?
Either way, let us know by leaving a comment below right now.