Working From Home Can Be Difficult
Millions of Americans and those abroad have been mandated to work from home due to the existence of COVID-19. For some people, it’s a relief to work for home and for others it can be a difficult adjustment.
Having had the opportunity to work in a corporate office environment, a home office environment, a hotel room as my office and coffee locations as my office, I have experienced the differences, yet one thing remains constant, the need to be PRODUCTIVE.
Throughout my career, I have learned and implement several things that have helped elevate my productivity in different environments and given the magnitude of what we are faced with, I thought it would be of value to share the disciplines that can help elevate your productivity working from home.
For some, working from home feels like college; no one telling you when to start, what to do when to do it and there is complete autonym, given no one is actually watching you and for others, working from home is routine.
With freedom comes a higher level of responsibility and contribution to your employer. This isn’t the time to do your “home projects” during the day. It’s time to focus on what your employer needs from you. YOUR BEST in your role!
I believe anyone can work from home productively; while there are 10 things you can do to help elevate your mandatory work from home.
Progress isn’t measured by moments, it’s measured by your daily disciplines.
You can make progress working from home implementing these 10 disciplines into your new normal.
If you’re a pro at working from home, I believe there is still value for you in these 10 disciplines, as pros strive for continuous improvement.
Prior to the mandatory work from home, you most likely had a start and end time for your workday. The same should hold true. What time will you start your day working from home? What time will you end the day?
Suggest making it consistent with what you are used too and maintain it throughout your home office work period.
Given all of the things which are new during this period, your mind craves something which feels normal.
2. Focus Sessions
These are bursts of focus periods throughout the day on your most important priorities.
Recommend your focus periods be at least 50 minutes and no more than 1.5 hours for each focus timeframe.
During the focus periods, allocate all of your effort on those items which you deem most important.
After each focus session, get up and take a break to clear your mind.
I personally like 50-minute focus periods or 1.5 hours depending on the type of project or work I’m striving to complete.
These focus periods and breaks are called the Pomodoro Technique. You can read more about this Technique in this article.
3. Work Environment – Dedicated Space
Having a dedicated space in your remote office is critical to your productivity. Ensure that you have an area where you can access all of your materials in one space.
For example, you should avoid having materials located outside of your dedicated space if you use them on a frequent basis.
If you have to locate items which are a short walk away, you are utilizing time which you could have allocated during your focus period.
Suggest starting and ending your day in your dedicated space adds repetition and a rhythm in your mind.
4. Move the body
Do everything possible to get outside for a short walk and change of scenery.
This allows you to create movement and frees the mind.
Just remember to stay 6 feet away from anyone you might see while on your short walk.
If you have a pet at home, take the pet for a short walk or if your kids are home, have them join you.
5. Create a FIRE, HURRICANE or TORNADO Interruption Only
Do you have kids at home given they are not in school? Well, I do and working from home can be challenging if you don’t give your kids the “talk”. No, not that “talk”!
The one where you explain that you are working from home and you have important things to do. You tell them, “Kind of like when you play your games, you don’t like to be disturbed.” Immediately they get it and respond, “Yea, I understand mom or dad.”
You can also put a sign on your door to let your kids know, it’s not playtime but worktime.
Here is the sign that is on my door with some help from my daughter. (notice “seriously injured”).
Day 1 of the sign and let’s just say I wasn’t disturbed for fire, hurricane or tornado, but rather this, “Can I get back on the screen?”.
I tried and so can you.
Continue to remind those who are home with you, you could use their help during the day, by eliminating the disruptions and you will see them during your breaks.
If you have kids at home, don’t expect this to go perfectly.
6. Connect with co-workers
Given you’re home alone, (great movie by the way. You have seen Home Alone right?) you can often feel isolated.
If you have instant messaging connect with a co-worker or see if they have time to talk for a few minutes. Just connecting in this manner can make you feel a sense of community while being alone in your designated space.
7. Adjust Your Mindset For Change
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, has been quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life.”
We have never seen anything like this in our lifetime and everyone was forced into this change.
It was a change, out of your control. What was normal now, it’s not right now. Going through this much change can affect your mindset.
Having a forced change feels intruding, yet it is necessary. Allow your mind to grasp that change will continue and be fluid.
If your company closed its offices and published a date when it will reopen, be ready for an extension mentally. Preparing the mind for future possibilities alters your acceptance in real-time.
8. Setup Your Day
Imagine you were the head coach of your favorite team and you get to lead the practice. What would you do first? How much time would you allocate to it? What would you do next? How much time?
Head coaches know how much time they want to be allocated to a particular drill, what they will do next and they have a plan for their team.
You are the head coach for the day, working from your new home office designated space.
Before you jump into work, physically design your day either on paper or in your calendar.
I like to assign timeframes to each important priority for the day and plot those times on my calendar. You are intentionally designing your day based on what you need to accomplish.
If you are uncertain of how much time a particular project will take, allow ample time on your calendar to complete it.
Designing your day creates intention and intention turns into action and action delivers achievement for the day.
9. What’s On Deck For Tomorrow
As you get towards the end of the day, you might feel like turning off the computer and exiting your designated space, however, there is one important productivity discipline that you need to do.
Before you shut the day down, identify what are your most important priorities for the next day.
Don’t just think about them, write them down.
When you write something down you tend to remember it, as it sinks into your subconscious mind.
Taking the time to identify what you will work on the next day, brings a sense of balance, as you’ve identified what you will work on once your next day begins.
In a sense, you are preparing yourself to be productive rather than reactive.
If you have a position where your specialty is reactionary (ex. IT Help desk, Customer Service, etc.) you might not be able to write down what you will do tomorrow, however you can think about and even write down how you would react to a particular situation.
What would you do first? Is there a process or protocol you need to follow?
No matter what position you have before you shut down for the day, get yourself prepared for what’s on deck for tomorrow.
10. Don’t Check In
You’ve had a productive day as you implemented each of these disciplines and now sit down for the evening. Suddenly you remember there is the email you didn’t respond to. It’s past 8 pm and you decide to fire up the laptop or check your phone and begin to reengage with work.
Is the person who sent the email waiting patiently like a dog waiting for a treat?
Given the heightened period of time we are living in and the amount of change, the email can wait until you reenter your designated space the next business day.
Remember when I mentioned having an end time?
That was the first discipline. Follow that footpath and avoid doing a U-turn back into the office.
It might be just a few emails, but you take yourself mentally back into the office.
Avoid checking into an email, unless your job depends on it.