Having the flexibility to work from home is a blessing. You get to tailor your workday to what works for you — so that means you’ll be super productive, right? Well, this isn’t always the case. Working from home (WFH) has its own way of messing with your schedule and making it difficult to get real work done.
When you work in an office all the time, a snowstorm or other excuse to WFH for a day is exciting; it’s a novelty, and you can indulge and allow yourself to be as productive as you want to be. You might have certain tasks that lend themselves to working from home, that you can focus on for that day.This can even create the impression that you’re more effective when you work from home.But when working from home becomes your new normal, you simply have to find a way to get all kinds of tasks done in that setting.
Now, there’s a lot of content out there about how to work from home effectively. And most of it all says the same thing — put on pants, have a designated workspace, communicate expectations with roommates and children, etc. Those tips probably work for some people, but they weren’t enough for me when I made the transition. Here are the few hacks that helped turn my apartment into my temple of productivity.
A lot of literature will tell you that getting up super early is the key to being productive. Today’s “most successful executives” supposedly wake up at 4am,work out and get 5 hours of work under their belt by 7am. I tried this for about 2 days before giving up. Getting up at 6am left me groggy and ready for a nice, long siesta by lunchtime — not exactly a recipe for doing good work.
The truth is that everyone has their own natural rhythm. Find out when you’re most productive and schedule your day around that time. If that means hopping out of bed at 4am, do that. If it means snoozing until 10 and working a little later in the day, go with that.
The best part of working from home in 2016 is there are so many tools to help you ace time management and productivity. You can find tools to help you schedule your day, write to-do lists, communicate with coworkers, and create the ideal environment for productivity, among other things. The trick is to find the optimal mix of tools that work for you.
Think about what areas you struggle with — is it prioritizing? Keeping track of long projects? Focusing? Once you know what you need help with, you can start experimenting with solutions. Find a recipe of tools that helps you be your most productive self. For example, I use Trello to manage projects, TextEdit to build my to-do list, and Rainy Mood to help me focus.
When you’re in the office, distractions are all around you — the fully stocked kitchen, your coworker dancing at his desk, watercooler gossip, you name it. Working from a quiet room in your house can seem like a dream for productivity. But the truth is, those little office distractions can actually give your brain the quick breaks you need to dive back into work.
Sometimes a good distraction-filled environment is exactly what you need to get work done. It’s important to be able to recognize when your at-home environment just isn’t working today. When those days happen, simply relocating to a Starbucks or coworking space can make a huge difference. Remember, you have the flexibility to make a decision about what works for you every day: Don’t replace the office by shackling yourself to a home office that isn’t stimulating enough!
When I first started working from home, I was worried about keeping work and life separate. It was easy to do when I left the office at 5pm and didn’t have access to my work materials until the next morning. I was hyper-vigilant about when I stopped working for the day, but that sometimes meant interrupting the flow of my work. The reality is, some days it makes sense to work 10 hours instead of 8 — other days, 6 hours will do the trick.
Working from home gives you the flexibility to decide when it’s time to work and when it’s not. Some people will thrive on a super regimented schedule. But for me, allowing myself to work a little longer some days — without worrying about work-life balance going up in smoke — has helped keep productivity running.
This is connected with the point about distractions being hidden blessings. Our brains can only focus on one thing for so long. In an office, all the distractions create inadvertent little breaks. When you don’t have those, it’s important to be very deliberate about taking time for your brain to relax during the day.
For me, that time is my lunch break. I make sure to take a real, genuine break (as in walk away from the computer) from 1-2pm. It’s easy to find yourself thinking about work even when you aren’t at the desk, so I try to be active during the break — reading or running errands — so my mind is always on other things.
Off days happen. You had them when you worked in the office, and you’ll have them working from home, too. While we work toward being super productive all the time, it’s natural to experience a lull in productivity every now and then. The danger is when you stress over it and let yesterday’s (un)productivity impact today.
The key to overcoming an off day is just to let it go. It’s cheesy but tomorrow really is a new day — and if you shake off yesterday, you can more than make up for any lost productivity.
Being able to work from home has its positives and its challenges. Getting it right doesn’t always happen immediately — but knowing yourself and your habits will take you a long way when it comes to settling into home work. You’re sure to fall in love with the flexibility and benefits of working from home once you do.