In the situation we find ourselves with Covid-19, we have many thousands of people working from home at the moment, and it’s something that most of those people are not used to. Admittedly, people have been working from home for maybe one or two days a week for many years. If you’re in this group, you will be familiar with some of the ideas I’m going to cover here, so this may well be a useful reminder for some of you.
There are a few challenges in working from home if it’s something you’re not used to, it will undoubtedly affect your productivity. I’ve personally been working from home and managing other people working from home for most of my professional career, so here’s a few tips to help you along the way.
I will explore each theme in a little more detail, but the main tips are:
- Have a designated workspace
- Dress for work
- Schedule your time
- Be self-disciplined
- Agree boundaries with others
Have a designated workspace
Having an environment to go to for work is part of a normal routine. Human beings crave familiarity, and we like to compartmentalize things. Having a designated workspace is all about being organized. You want to have the things you need accessible, and to go to that familiar space to get into the state or mode of ‘working’. Ideally, if you can, select a place at home which can be allocated to work, if only temporarily, you need to avoid setting up for work every day, and you need to be able to find things you need quickly.
If you have the space at home, set up a desk space and have your work things on it. If you can only use a shared ‘desk’ like the dining room table. Then create a box or a bag with everything you need in it so that you can start work without too much fuss, making sure that you are with your work tools which put you in working mode.
Dress for work
This sounds obvious doesn’t it, but sitting at your desk in your pajamas is probably not the best way to get you into work mode. Getting ready for work, is an important ritual. That doesn’t mean that you can’t dress casual, far from it, being able to wear casual clothes is part of the benefit of working from home. My suggestion is that you choose work clothes for the day, and wear them during your normal working hours, then change out of those clothes when you finish. It’s a great way of telling your brain ‘I’ve finished now, time to switch off’ Otherwise you’ll catch yourself going back into work mode when you should be resting, or resting and relaxing when you should be working.
Schedule your time
Identify the goals / tasks you want to complete today and write them down. This is a very important part of being productive. In fairness you should do this wherever you work, home or at the office. The problem we have now is that home has a unique set of distractions, especially now when whole families are at home and there will be other sounds around you to attract your attention – more on that later.
Once you have your list decide in what order you will do them and number them, then allocate an estimated time limit to keep the tasks on track
Part of the reason for creating your list of tasks and putting them in order with a time allocation, is that it allows you to set a target of completing a task before you have your next break. Then you need to stick to that plan. It’s rather like having the work ‘you’ and the boss ‘you’ both inside your head. The work ‘you’ agrees with the boss ‘you’ to get task X done. The boss ‘you’ then keeps reminding the work ‘you’ that the agreed task needs to be completed before stopping, and then congratulates the work ‘you’ when it’s done. (A key point here is to set reasonable size tasks so that your time can be broken into roughly 1 hour chunks)
As mentioned earlier, there are lots of distractions at home, mostly other people. You will need to agree with them how you plan to work and when they can expect to get you back. One of the reasons for having an allocated workspace is that everyone else knows you’re working. What I suggest that you do, is that you have a family meeting in the morning, or the evening before if you have staggered wake times, and agree your plan for the day – the timings you’re working to and any commitments to conference calls with the outside world. They then will hopefully let you get on with you plan.
I hope the above was useful either as something new or a helpful reminder. If you would like to find out more about our online training sessions covering personal organization email me at firstname.lastname@example.org