With the significant changes brought by the pandemic, most office workers are working remotely. Although working from home is a privilege that many of us have wanted for a long time, we now know the truth – it’s not a bed of roses.
It turns out there are some hazards of working from home. It can be downright difficult to draw a line between work and “life,” since they are both taking place under one roof. This is more dangerous than most people realize and can ultimately lead to procrastination, stress, strained relationships and burnout. Don’t let that happen to you! Instead, consider how you might apply some of these useful tips into your work-at-home life:
Set Up a Clear Work Schedule
The reason it’s so hard to separate work from your personal life is that there are no clear start and end times, nor scheduled breaks, to provide boundaries for you. You have to create all the boundaries yourself. So, even though you’re at home, you should organize your schedule.
Create a plan on how you should start your day. Tell your colleagues, so they don’t expect you to be working outside of those hours. You should also include when you should start working and when to take a break. The better you organize it, the better your productivity.
Break Tasks Into Smaller Steps
Once you’ve set up your work schedule, you should also list out the tasks you need to work on.
If a particular task seems too big and overwhelming, it’s better to break it down into smaller, more manageable steps that you can finish right away.
Focus on one task at a time and avoid multitasking (it’s been proven not to work). If you can, estimate how many hours it would take for you to finish that particular task and make that your goal. Because as they say, work expands to fill the time.
When you’re at home, distractions are everywhere. Since no one’s looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to jump to Facebook, turn on the television, or scroll through your phone.
Start by creating an inviting workspace that you feel will help you stay productive. Keep phones out of reach while you’re working and turn off any distracting notifications.
Lastly, if you have other family members living in the same house, you might want to post a “Don’t Disturb” sign outside your door telling them that you’re working.
Clean Your Workspace
Another useful tip is to clean your workspace. According to Maid Service NYC, home-based workers often have messy living and workspaces. A messy environment can contribute to feelings of disorganization and stress.
To borrow advice from the financial planning world, you should pay yourself first. In this context it means you should take care of your own environment – whether that’s cleaning the dishes or folding the laundry –before you get to work. A clean and uncluttered setting frees you up to focus on work.
Some productive workers use what they call the Pomodoro technique. Work for 25 minutes straight, take a 5-minute break, then work for another 25 minutes. Do this two or three times before taking a more extended break of 15-30 minutes.
The idea is not to push yourself to work for long stretches, but also to look forward to small rewards as you work. Many people who use this technique also find this technique helps you get into “the zone” and achieve momentum in your work, which is particularly helpful for jobs that require high levels of concentration.
Ration Your Time
Being productive doesn’t mean working the hardest all the time. Most of us aren’t built to work at 100% all of the time. Rather, we work in fits and starts, or in ebbs and flows of energy.
If you’re a morning person, odds are your best energy is in the morning. If you’re a night owl, then your energy probably builds up over the course of the day. Knowing your own unique biorhythms, try to take on your toughest tasks when your energy is at its peak. Leave the less demanding tasks for when you are lower energy.
Tackle Task Uncertainty
Sometimes, we tend to procrastinate because we’re unsure. Maybe a task has several dependencies that need to be cleared up before you know what’s actually involved. Or perhaps the task is simply not well defined in the first place.
If this happens, don’t put the task at the bottom of your to-do-list. Instead, reach out and get the clarification you need. You might be happy to learn the task is not nearly as onerous as you feared. Worst case, you find out it’s a whopper of a task, but at least you know what you’re dealing with and can prepare yourself to take it on with gusto.
If you’re too tired or overwhelmed by all the tasks on your list, then give yourself permission to take a break. This will help clear your mind and recharge so you can dig back in later. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
But when we say rest, it doesn’t mean browsing Instagram or shopping online. Taking a break means switching modes – doing something that is completely different than the activity that you’ve been engaged in. Try standing up from your desk, take a short walk outside, take a power nap, bake cookies – anything that will rest your brain and help you recharge.
Last but not least, reward yourself. As you put in a hard day’s work, remind yourself that you will get to watch your favorite show or make your favorite tea when you’re finished. It doesn’t have to be a big reward – just an effective one.