These are a few tools and hacks to stay productive when working from home:
1. Create healthy habits, and stick to them
Office work creates a cadence to our day. Based on the time we start working, we know what time we need to wake up, leave the house, go to the gym… The structure and timelines of having to physically be somewhere develops into your routine.
When you work from home it is easy to move your schedule as needed. You can accommodate an earlier or later meeting since you don’t need to worry about commuting. You can sleep in for an extra hour and find some other time to do your daily workout. However, not developing a routine is a common segway to other bad habits. Skipping lunch and breaks, not exercising, attending to personal tasks during work hours, these are all common traps.
Creating and sticking to healthy habits will help to ensure all areas of your life get the attention they deserve.
2. Design an adequate workspace
Working from your bed when you are not feeling well sounds like a great idea. Working from your living room couch while watching TV is definitely comfortable. But these are both habits that can slow down productivity and cause ergonomic problems.
Designing an adequate workspace is essential for your productivity on the long run. The right support and space will allow you to work better and be more productive. It will also help to separate your workspace from the space where you relax, which contributes to work-life balance.
3. Develop your time management skills
It seems counter-intuitive that when you work from home you need to develop your time management skills even further. But when you are home all day it is easier to get distracted and overwhelmed with different projects and responsibilities.
A common mistake is to overestimate what you can do with the additional free time you have. Now that you don’t need to commute to the office every day, you feel like you can take on so much more. Consequentially, you feel overwhelmed by booking too many obligations on the same day.
Time well scheduled is key.
3.1 Some best practices on successful time management include:
- Schedule breaks in your calendar – it is easy to schedule back to back meetings and dismiss your need for breaks and meals. Scheduling your breaks on your calendar helps to ensure you won’t have too many appointments booked. Scheduled break appointments also serve as a gentle reminder to take care of your needs.
- Schedule time to work on priority projects – sometimes knowing that a deadline is approaching is not enough, you actually need to schedule time to work on it. You can create blocks of time when you will tune out all other distractions (emails, phone calls, app notifications) and focus on getting work done.
- Set aside some extra time for each meeting – when we work online, we often book back-to-back meetings as we don’t need to consider travel time. Although well intended, jumping from one call to another is actually counterproductive. Setting aside some extra time for each meeting allows you to organize your notes and input your action items while they are still fresh in your mind. It also allows you some time to switch gears and prepare to the next meeting.
- Be realistic – Time management also depends on realistic expectations. We often don’t allocate enough time for a meeting or to work on a project. This disrupts your schedule for the full day. It causes delays in scheduled meetings or deadlines, which impacts your relationship with clients and co-workers. It also makes it more likely for you to skip healthy habits, in order to catch up with delays. Be realistic about your time commitments and allocations, so you can deliver quality in every project without feeling overwhelmed.
4. Tackle your to-do list according to priority
5. Find and implement productivity tools to stay on track
There are many cool tools and apps available to help you manage your time and juggle both personal, family and work responsibilities. Incorporating them into your routine will allow you to take control of your time and attend to responsibilities according to their priority.
Many organizations incorporate productivity and project management tools as mechanism for team collaboration. If you have not used one before, there are many options available with different price and features.
But productivity tools are not restricted to team collaboration at work. You can use them to manage your personal and family responsibilities as well and have a full overview of what needs to be done.
The goal is to develop automated reminders, so you don’t have to worry about something slipping your mind. Action items from your team call this morning. Add to your project list. Want to ensure that your family passports will be renewed before they expire? Add to your project list. A client asked you to follow up with them in a month. Add to your project list.
Productivity tools make it easy for you to visualize each area of your life as a “project.” You can attribute priorities, deadlines and reminders and take control over your responsibilities. Think of this as your personal dashboard, and use them as part of planning your week, your day and your commitments.
There are many different productivity tools available with different features. So it should be easy to find one that suits all your different needs.
Enhance your communication skills
Another essential skill you need to develop when working from home is enhancing your communication skills. We are used to communicate in person and use body language and tone as auxiliary tools to get our point across. When we switch to working online, we lose some of these communication cues. As a result, we might need to review our communication style.
Remote work means you can’t get up to your co-worker’s desk and asking if they have a report that you needed. Instead, you are now sending an email, or a message, to request that information. Our communication styles are different for verbal and written communication. Written communications are usually more formal than our one-on-one interactions, so it is possible that our messages will come across in a different tone that it was intended.
If you work from home, you need to develop a communication plan that ensures your message is received as expected. This includes analyzing the tone of your message, reinforcing relationships with your co-workers and finding which method of communication works best to your audience.
7. Have fun creating your home office strategy
Ultimately, one of the main advantages of working from home is the flexibility it brings. If implemented successfully your home office strategy will allow you to be more productive, develop a better work-life balance and dedicate more time to all aspects of your life.
No person is the same so you will need to take time testing which options work best for you. Have fun in developing your home sweet office.