In today’s age of digital advancement and technology, work is no longer automatically associated with sitting at your desk for 8 hours. While this still proves to be true for a lot of people in the corporate industry, a large chunk of today’s labor force has switched from working in their office chair to working from home.
However, while working remotely with just a laptop and a pen has its advantages, being exposed to the internet, social media, or just your phone in general without the rigid and motivating atmosphere of an office can cause bouts of unproductivity and inefficiency in home-working professionals. They end up either having no work done in their designated time for working, or having to end up extending it and affecting the rest of their schedule.
Not only can this affect you and the rest of your plans for the day, but also your employees, clients, or business in general that are counting on you to meet deadlines and expectations. Here are some common problems that you will surely encounter and some strategies and tools to resolve them.
The Problem: Distractions
At home, there’s an endless temptations and distractions around. The television is just one click from reeling you into hours of binge-watching. The fridge is always tempting to look at. Even if you know there’s nothing to munch on in there, you still look as if food is going to magically appear the second of third time you open it.
The biggest distraction of all is the fact that you can do anything you want with a fast wifi and no one to call you out or hold you accountable if you’re not doing your work. It’s so easy to scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed and get updated with everyone’s life while your own work is sitting on the sideline.
These are some strategies that should work to help you eliminate as much distractions, if not all.
Strategy 1: Schedule Your Meals
Planning what time you’re going to be having your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with your afternoon coffee breaks are effective in providing you a productivity boost and some motivation.
When you’re working from home, it can be easy to get up in the morning and resume working right away. This sometimes means neglecting the day’s most important meal, along with regular eating times.
Instead, allow your mind and body to focus on your work by having breakfast first thing in the morning. Food serves as our body’s fuel to run on, so making it a part of your daily habits doesn’t only increase effectivity, it also prevents you from being distracted by thinking about what you’re having for lunch.
This way, you know exactly when you need to eat, and won’t be spontaneously going to the fridge every 5 minutes in the middle of working.
Strategy 2: Chunk Your Day
One major advantage to working from home is having the flexibility of time. Unlike most office jobs, working from home gives you the benefit of having to work whenever and wherever you want.
That is why our second tip in order to stay productive, is to plan out your day. Group specific tasks for the morning, afternoon, and evening time so you can focus on accomplishing certain projects before the sun sets or rises. Doing it this way allows you to power through the day.
That said, you should also allot time for leisure. Don’t forget to make time for simple treats to yourself that allow you to give a better performance at work. I’m personally into running and other outdoor activities, so I make sure they’re also scheduled into some days throughout the week.
Strategy 3: Use Calendar Blocking
Calendar blocking is the concept of blocking off certain hours of the day for a specific task or activity. Every hour of the day should be accounted for and input into a calendar, even if it’s something you do on a daily basis like showering and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Seeing them blocked off in your calendar makes you see what needs to be done at a certain time. This makes your day more productive because you know what you’re doing for every hour of the day.
The most common tool for this strategy, Google Calendar is what most people use for calendar blocking. You can create a different calendar for each category of your life (work, fitness, personal/social life, daily, travel, etc.) and assign different colors for each to view them easily. A weekly view of your calendar is best to have a clear view of the day and the rest of the week.
This is a Google Calendar alternative that is exclusive to Apple users. It’s the best tool for people who have a Mac computer and an iPhone or iPad. It works almost the same way as Google Calendar, and every change you make to your schedule is immediately reflected on all devices.
The Problem: Lack of Focus
A lack of focus is a serious problem. It’s more internal than external. Yes, external factors like the heat, a messy workspace, and noisy surroundings can affect your focus, but the core of the problem is in your mind.
Strategy 1: Apply the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodor Technique is the cycle of 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break time. This can be changed to 55 minutes of work and 10 minutes of break time, depending on your preference, but the first one is best to break the lack of focus. Then, you take a longer break after 4 intervals.
Strategy 2: Plan the Night Before
Now, you don’t have to have your entire schedule planned out the night before. For this tip, all you need to do is to inform yourself of upcoming tasks and projects to work on, especially those that need to be done the next day.
You can either prepare reports, find specific files, or even re-acquaint yourself with tasks. Doing any of these can easily boost your energy levels for the following day, fully aware you’re coming back to work with a goal in mind.
When you just want to have a quick look at your tasks for this day or the next, keeping some notes on something that’s always on your person such as your phone is a great way to stay organized.
With timed events and detailed notes with images, you can easily look up upcoming schedules and projects without having to open up your planner. This is a great way for you to stay accustomed to work whether you’re out and about or at home.
Sometimes, when there’s so much going on in the virtual workplace, it can be easy to misplace files, forget about the details, and unfortunately miss meetings all together.
With a multimedia project management app like Trello, you can easily keep track of schedules, files, projects, as well as who’s working on what in real time view. Trello helps keep you on track of your responsibilities and it’s easy to access with just one tap of the app.
You can also access this tool on your browser or on the app in your phone, which is helpful if you’re not only working from home, but also if you’re constantly on-the-go.
The Problem: Procrastination
I’m a big procrastinator, or at least used to be. Don’t we all struggle with this at least once? When you have to do something, it immediately becomes more compelling to neglect it and do other things. Even if you got very excited about a task when you first thought of it, the execution part suddenly becomes dreadful when it’s right in front of you.
Strategy 1: Use Reminders
When you’d been sitting at your chair for hours, it can be easy to lose focus and resort to social media for entertainment. To stay productive when such a situation arises, the solution is for you to use reminders.
Set reminders on your phone for every task that you have. Using your phone allows you to create an alarm for it either at the time you need to do something or at least 5 minutes before to prepare your mind for the task. You can also integrate this with the calendar blocking strategy. There’s usually an option to set alarms for events in your calendar applications, so you can use that to alert you when you’re supposed to be doing something at a certain time.
If you’re more of an old school analog type of person, jotting down notes and reminders on your notebook or a sticky-note can help you stay in line with your tasks. Taking note of your to-do’s and submissions this way helps keep you attentive and on-time, with reminders at your line of sight to ensure you don’t miss a thing.
Strategy 2: Have a Designated Work Area
Because choosing to work from home also means that you won’t be provided a space and equipment to fulfill your duties, having a designated work area can do a lot for you when it comes to productivity.
While you may already have a lot of places to work from (your bed, the couch, the dining table, etc), it would be great to have your mind associate a specific area in your home solely for work. The space doesn’t have to be a complete office, it can be as simple as just a desk with all your office tools and utilities to get you in the mood.
Strategy 3: Practice Productive Procrastination
If you’re a procrastinator, you probably have a lot of things you put off until the last minute. To avoid having all of them pile up, you can use productive procrastination to re-invigorate your excitement for another task and get it done as a way of “procrastinating” on another task.
Having a procrastination habit is not exclusive to completely wasteful activities like binge-watching. You simply don’t want to do the task you have to do at the moment, but you can transfer that energy into doing other productive work. In your mind you’re still procrastinating, but at least you’re being productive while doing so!
On most smartphones, there’s usually an app for reminders. You can set up an alarm for it, either for the exact time that you should start doing something or a few minutes before that.
Because of multiple messages from work among others, sometimes our mailbox can feel so messy and it can be intimidating to tackle. Google saw through people’s struggles in finding emails, sending messages, and therefore to go with Gmail, they created the app called Boomerang.
Boomerang is a great app and it helps you keep track of emails to receive and to send through reminders. It allows you to schedule when you want to send or receive certain messages, as well as sends you a notification when you’re due to reply back, or to send a new one. It’s a purposeful plug-in to try out and it helps to manage your inbox easier. Now there's no excuse to spend hours on your email wasting away your time on unproductive procrastination.
Having the option to work from home is becoming the trend, but many people mistake to account for the problems that might arise, being blinded by the advantages and benefits of working from home. When you’re faced with the mundane problems of working from home every day, simplify your life and work routine with these strategies and tools and incorporate them into your everyday working habit.