Here’s how to be more efficient at work when work is at home:
Start your day on an efficient note
Knocking out a high-effort task (such as
completing a report or running a meeting) during your first hour of work is a
great way to build momentum that you can carry throughout the day. On the other
hand, if you start your day by reading the news, checking your email, doing a
load of laundry, and scanning the #pets channel on your collaboration tool, you
may suddenly find that it’s lunchtime and productivity has completely
The key is mentally moving past the negative feelings we have before a difficult task (i.e., anxiousness, self-doubt) to the positive feelings (i.e., boosted confidence, optimism) we earn by completing tasks.
Bonus tip: To really kick start your day, do a light workout and shower before sitting down to tackle your to-do list.
Take breaks strategically
It may sound counter intuitive to be more
efficient at work by taking more breaks, but it makes sense when you think
about it. Which approach do you think would be better for traveling a mile?
Crawling on your hands and knees for an hour straight
Running as fast as you can for two minutes at a time with 30-second breathers after each sprint
Work is the same way. If you try to stuff your head into your computer for hours on end, you’ll lose focus and get diminishing returns on your efficiency.
According to Psychology Today, taking
periodic breaks can help you retain information, replenish motivation, improve
emotional and physical health, improve decision making, and increase creativity
So when you feel your focus waning, take a short break—go for a walk outside, chat with a friend or loved one, or have a snack—so that you can return to your to-do list with more focus.
Bonus tip: If you’re the kind of person who does well with structure, try the Pomodoro Technique or 90-minute timeboxing to schedule your breaks.
Get off your couch/bed/recliner
One of the great perks of working from home
is getting to sit in your most comfortable clothes in the most comfortable
chair in your house. But you can have too much of a good thing.
What’s the harm in sitting in your favorite recliner for 20 minutes after lunch while responding to emails? Very little—until you turn on the TV to check the news, or end up taking a power nap, and before you know it you’ve been in your favorite recliner for two hours doing nothing productive.
It’s important to have a separate, quiet
space in your home that is designated for work, whether that’s a home office or
just one side of your dining room table. Just think of how much more
comfortable your favorite recliner will be at the end of a productive day!
Bonus tip: Keeping a designated space for work and a separate space for rest will also help you turn off your “work brain” after hours, and resist the temptation to dash off a few emails at 11 p.m., interrupting your team’s rest in addition to your own. If something is really stuck in your head after hours, just quickly add it to your to-do list for tomorrow then give yourself permission to let it go.
Make sure you have sufficient tech
If you’re having trouble being efficient
while working from home, and you’re using your 60-pound desktop computer which
hasn’t had an operating system update since you were in college, I think I can
help you diagnose your productivity gap.
According to a recent Gartner snap poll (full report available to clients), “54% of HR leaders indicated that poor technology and/or infrastructure for remote working is the biggest barrier to effective remote working in their organization.”
Just as you wouldn’t be expected to try to
do your job with insufficient equipment at the office, you shouldn’t be
expected to do so at your home office. If your setup isn’t working, contact
your IT department immediately to get it resolved.
While they might not be able to outfit every employee with a $3,000 standing desk for their homes, they should be able to help with things like wireless mice, external monitors, and ergonomic keyboards.
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