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No doubt about it, working from home is here to stay!
I have always been a supporter of working from home and started doing it years ago. For me, it is a way to focus on deep work, something I find difficult in the office because of the constant interruptions. My day feels longer and fuller, as I avoid commuting and tend to have more control over what I am doing.
There are many obstacles to a happy, effective and efficient home-working experience, but they’re easily overcome by developing the appropriate mindset and using the best toolset.
In this post, I share 10 practical tips to make your working from home experience a happier and more productive one.
Working from Home: Mindset
These 5 tips will help you develop the right mindset for a positive and effective working from home experience.
Dress for the day
To be in the right mindset when working from home, there is one simple yet effective step to take: dressing appropriately.
It doesn’t mean you need to wear a full suit every day (although feel free, if you’d like to!). But you should definitely avoid working in your PJs…
Actually, your brain naturally associates wearing pyjamas to bedtime and winding down. Not really something that makes you a productive homeworker!
What works for me is wearing comfortable clothes, appropriate for a video call, usually jeans and a shirt or t-shirt.
This is again about mindset and training your brain to differentiate “home life” to what is essentially “work life”, from home.
Find the sweet spot
When I started working from home, I used to carry my laptop everywhere. On the kitchen table, on the sofa, on the bed… Whatever I felt like at the time.
This was counterproductive. I was breaking down the barriers between work life and home life. As a result, this led to a lack of focus and clarity.
Being in different parts of the house will also clutter your mind with non-work related worries: emptying the dishwasher, tidying up the living room, changing the bed etc…
I am now working from a dedicated spot in my house. The only place I work from. And it changed everything because I am now associating this spot with working.
Think of it as “tricking” your brain, sending it signals that it is now time to shift to “work” mode.
Make a plan
The biggest frustration, when working from home, is to get to the end of the day only to realise you haven’t achieved anything. Instead, you spent the day fighting fires, answering emails, joining last minute meetings etc… and have nothing to show for it.
I find that spending 15-20 minutes in the morning, or the evening before, listing my three Most Valuable Tasks of the day makes all the difference.
You are setting intentions, and making yourself accountable to achieve what is important to you.
Think about the three things you want to achieve today. Which is the most important of the three? Rank them. Focus on the first one first thing in the morning. Then move on to the second one. If you have time, tackle the third one.
Of course, there will always be last-minute urgent requests and interruptions. But having a clear set of goals will give you direction throughout the day. And don’t mistake “urgent” for “important”…
Develop a morning routine
I find that there is no better way to start the day than to take time for yourself. It gives you a chance to reboot, in your own time, and set the intentions for the journey ahead.
A healthy morning routine will help you get into the right mindset to work from home. Because you train your brain on a specific sequence of events that leads to working, in your own terms (especially if the routine only runs on working days).
Crafting a morning routine unique to you puts you in full control of the day ahead.
In my house, things get really busy from 7 am, so I’ve had to start my personal morning routine earlier, around 5 am. I start with a coffee, then 10 minutes of meditation, spend about an hour working on the blog or personal development, before doing some exercise or yoga.
Stick to normal working hours
One of my favourite working from home tips is to be super disciplined with working hours. I used to be really bad at this until I realised it was getting in the way of other important things in life, like family time, exercise or working on the blog.
In the office, it’s easy and obvious. You usually arrive after your morning commute, and start packing when everyone else is. OK so you might start slightly earlier, and maybe work a bit later than others. But overall, you have a structure.
At home, boundaries get blurry, sometimes checking your emails first thing, having your laptop on during breakfast, and working endlessly until your brain (or stomach!) tells you to stop!
Are you expected to do long hours? Why would it change because you’re working from home?
In most cases, you don’t. It’s not your employer’s fault, it’s yours.
Be disciplined, set boundaries, and stick to normal working hours.
Because not doing so will have a slow and insidious detrimental impact to your life. You won’t notice at first, but it’s a recipe for disaster: bad eating habits, burnout, depression to name a few.
If your colleagues have started extended patterns, this shouldn’t stop you from sticking to your hours. There’s nothing wrong with setting the pace (it has to start somewhere!).
Working from Home: Toolset
The next 5 tips are all about using the right tools to be efficient and productive in your working from home environment.
Did you know that it took on average 23 minutes to regain focus after being distracted?
I personally have a super short attention span anyway, switching from one thing to another constantly. If you add to that constant distraction, I’d never get anything done!
Make sure you set clear boundaries with your family, housemates or whoever lives with you. When you’re “at work”, you’re not to be disturbed.
This applies to your colleagues too: change your status to “Do Not Disturb” on Skype, Teams etc… and block time in your calendar to work on certain projects.
My favourite hack for undisturbed focus is very simple: close your inbox. For 10 minutes, for an hour, or for however long it takes you to finish that piece of work! Scary at first, but you’ll rapidly learn to embrace it!
When you’re outside of the office environment, where you naturally stop for a coffee and a chat, breaks tend to disappear into the ether…
That’s not good!
We need breaks, it helps make better decisions, think more clearly and spark creative ideas and solutions.
Actually, taking breaks is one of the top hacks when it comes to sustained productivity!
The way I do this working from home is by using the Pomodoro technique, which essentially means you work in 25-minute bursts followed by short 5-minute breaks. Repeat 4 times and take a longer break.
This works wonders for me, I pack so much in these 25 minutes, and breaking down time into manageable chunks makes everything easier…
(You can use free apps to do this, the timer on your phone, or the classic Pomodoro timer)
The thing that keeps coming back in conversations, with people working from home for long periods, is the lack of social interaction.
And it’s true: there is nothing like face-to-face meetings, catch-ups and social chats.
But the next best thing is to consciously over-communicate.
By this, I mean make extra efforts to keep in touch with people, arrange social meetings with your team, remind yourself to reach out to people you’d normally bump into by the coffee machine or on a lift ride.
This will help you and others nurture relationships you’ve created and even start new ones.
Listen to music
We all work differently, but one thing I love doing whilst working from home is listening to music.
Music is a great way to put you in the right mood, from classical or instrumental music for focus and creativity, to electronic music for motivation and “getting things done”.
There’s one music service that I have used for years and cannot recommend highly enough: Focus@Will.
If you’re serious about productivity, this will transform your life! What they do is create playlists tailored to your personality to significantly improve your concentration and keep you in a state of flow that makes you achieve incredible things.
If you have a busy household, music is also a way to absorb some of the noise and create your own work buble.
If you’re not so keen on music but need a way to create that buble and be in the zone, try white or brown noise, a great way to eliminate distractions and anchor the mind!
Get the right equipment
It goes without saying, but having a comfortable set-up is crucial to working from home efficiently (and without losing your sanity!).
The 2020 lockdown has rushed everyone into rudimentary configurations, but we’ve all had a bit of time to adjust now.
Working from home is here to stay, so why don’t you invest in an extra screen, a decent keyboard, and yes, an ergonomic chair, because how many hours do you spend working?…
I’m using this IKEA office chair at home and it makes a big difference at the end of the day. Not too pricey for an ergonomic chair either…
Working from home differs from office work in so many ways. For most of us, it is a new experience and, as with most “new” things, it takes training and discipline to get it right.
You will soon realise that it’s a fantastic way of working. One that puts you in the driver seat and gives you an opportunity to do deep, meaningful work, with the right mindset and toolset.
What helps you being happier and more productive working from home?
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