This is not my first time working from home, although it is the first time doing it over such a long period of time. To be honest, the few times I did it in my previous jobs, for a day or two at a time, I was at my most productive. Honestly. I accomplished so much each day and it was a blast. When I worked freelance back in the summer, I decided on my hours, and it was great too. Dividing my time between freelancing and blogging allowed me to create a lot. I’d stay productive for most of the day and that was amazing.
Now that the context has changed, well, my productivity levels have changed too. Being forced to work at home, unable to step outside or get back to my usual routine did have a toll on my productivity. Not gonna lie. Some days, I will do so much. Some others, well… not as much. To stay productive, I decided to sort of stick to my usual office routine while adapting it to my home. Since I can’t leave it. And sure, I can’t always be productive, but I have found that the steps below really helped!
How To Stay Productive During The Day
1. Stay productive in the proper attire
I don’t know about you, but when I stay in my pyjamas all day, the last thing I want to do is work. Instead, I want to curl up in a blanket, watch Netflix or read a book. Similarly, when I put on my workout gear, I am in no mood to sit down, stay still and work. Our mind will associate our attire to what we usually do when wearing it. You sleep in your pyjamas, and run in your leggings. No work involved indeed.
What you wear has a big impact on your mood and mindset. That is why it is important to get out of your pyjamas when the day starts and put on some proper clothes. It will signal to your brain that the time for sleeping is over. You are indeed fully awake now and ready for the next big thing in your daily routine. Which will be work. Changing outfit creates a clear break between two periods in your day: sleeping and working. Thus, you will get in the proper mindset to work which will help you stay productive during the day.
Since you work from home and no one is seeing you, you do not need to completely dress up. As in, you can wear something more casual to what you usually wear in the office. Especially if that “usual professional attire” includes a suit and tie. No one will chastise you if you wear a pair of a jeans and a tee-shirt. That is still dressing up. Just don’t stay in your pyjamas, that will make you lazy and worst case scenario sloppy and absolutely not productive.
2. Have a proper working space
Just like your attire, your environment has a huge impact on your mood and productivity. Once again, due to habits and routine, your brain will associate specific part of your house to specific tasks. Obviously, your bed is where you sleep (or binge watch Netflix). Similarly, your couch is where you chill. The kitchen is where you cook. None of those areas are where you work. Except if your kitchen is massive and has a big table, then yes, it can be converted into a work space.
But you get what I mean. If you can achieve a great deal from your bed, good for you. But in general, staying in bed will not put you in the right mood for work. In turn, it will not help you stay productive. Also, it’s probably not good for your back. Setting up a proper work space will, however, give you more of an official framework to complete your tasks. It will really help stay productive. I use my dining table as working space during the day and it works just fine.
Not only will a dedicated working space help you be productive, creative and efficient, but it will also signal to others in your household that when you sit there, it means that you are indeed working. Thus, they should not disturb you. Plus, when the day ends, it will be easier for you to relax since your working area will not bleed nor blend into your “relaxing areas” which are your bed and couch.
3. Set up working hours
When life was “normal”, separating work time from personal time was much easier. Since we were not working and sleeping in the same house (for most of us, I mean), commuting in and out framed our day. You leave the house, it’s time to work, you get back to the house, you prepare for the night. And that was it. Easy, clean break. It is not so easy these days. And things can accelerate so quickly that you may find yourself sleeping until 11am and working until midnight. If that works for you great, but for those who wants a more 9 to 5 kind of schedule, they need something different.
That is why you need to set up working hours. If you used to work from 9 to 5, it is a good idea to keep that schedule. Not only will it keep you in touch with an office schedule, but it will also help you separate working time with free time. Human beings are creatures of habits and usually need a routine to thrive. You can base your work at home day on your usually office work day. Thus, you will have a frame of reference as per what you can do in what time.
As far as I am concerned, setting up my day like I would in the office really helps me to stay productive and on top of things. I already know how many things I can do in a day in the office so I can organize my day around that. Plus, it really helps to know that at six in the evening, my working day is over and I can relax. Again, when you work from home, sometimes it may be hard to unplug and stop working. Thus, having specific work hours may help.
4. Create to-do lists
As far as I remember, from the first day I started to work, I always made to-do lists. I always dedicate ten to fifteen minutes writing down what I need to do each day. Sometimes it will mostly be maintenance or routine tasks. Other times, there will be bigger tasks or other things to do. But knowing will help me assess what I can do during the day, how many tasks I will be able to complete and most important, I will have a direction for the day.
I find that making to-do lists actually really help me to stay productive. As I cross one thing of my list and move onto the next one, I can see my progress, which is quite motivating. It feels good to have crossed most tasks at the end of the day. However, it is also important to not feel bad should you have not done everything. Indeed, productivity will come and go. Plus, some tasks will take much more time than others, and you can not always foresee that.
Something I do is separate “routine tasks” and “non-routine tasks” to help prioritize. For example, scheduling social media is routine but I am usually a week ahead so it is not urgent. However, putting together a Mother’s Day campaign takes a lot of time and requires a lot of brainstorming and content creation so it takes priority. Similarly, I will have a list with the things I need to finish that day and one for the things I could move onto should I have time and energy left.
RELATED – How to stay motivated as a blogger.
5. Take regular breaks
Who would have thought that taking breaks from working would actually help productivity? Well, a lot of studies do! Indeed, when you take a break from a particular task, you give that part of your brain you were using a break. Thus, when you get back to work, you can be productive, creative and solving problems with renewed energy. Yes, indeed. Beyond giving your brain some rest, it is great for your mood and motivation. You will take some time to do something else, maybe have a little walk around the flat and move, and jut feel much better and refresh after that.
Now, taking regular breaks as a way to stay productive raises two questions. The first one is how often should you take a break. The second one is how long should each break be. Again, let’s give it to science to answer this one. Research has shown that the average attention spa is very low. Just a few seconds. Probably why those three first seconds in a video on social media are the most critical. The productivity window is longer of course but not infinite either. Indeed, it will vary from one person to another and may go from 50 minutes up to 90 minutes. Of course some people may be able to power through four hours and be productive all the way… and then not be at all the following hours.
Taking breaks will help ensure that you do not burn your productivity quota in one go and that you stay productive as long as possible. Thus, experts advise to take break every 90 minutes for 10 minutes up to 25 minutes. This will depend on the sort of job you are doing of course, since each will require different skills and level of focus. I personally allow myself a short break every two hours for ten up to fifteen minutes. And then back to work. If you think about it, most periods at school were 50 minutes… for a reason! Now, get over your guilt of taking a break, and do it. It’s better for your mood and productivity, which will benefit your job as well!
6. Do not ever force it
Finally, last but not least, the best tip is was ever given to stay productive whether you work at home or in an office is to simply never force it. Something that annoys me a lot is the hustle culture we see on Instagram via condescending posts and stories about what you should accomplish. And tweets on Twitter on what a loser you are if you don’t use your time productively. First of all, we are all productive in different ways and dedicated times to do things we love doing. Second of all, now more than ever, no one needs condescending life lessons from judgmental privileged people.
As someone so well put it on Twitter not long ago, this is a pandemic, not a productivity context. There are many ways to cope with what is happening and if you want to “hustle” at all hours of the day, good for you. However, if you want to do something else, then do it. Do not worry if other people deem that unproductive. When it comes to working, there is no point forcing you to stay in front of your screen if you are unable to produce anything of quality. Working long hours just for the sake of it is stupid if in the end, the quality of your work is affected or if you can’t achieve anything.
Maybe a drop in productivity might be a good time for a short break, away from your screen. Or to just call it quit for the day if you can’t focus more than five minutes because you have too much on your mind. Forcing yourself to work can only overwhelm you. If you feel bad for not being able to accomplish a lot, you can always move onto more routine tasks which will not require a lot of brain power. In the end, that is still work. Working smart is working hard, but it is just making a better use of your time and knowing your limits.
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What are your top tips to stay productive while you work from home? Have you practiced any of those above? Which one helped you most? Any other tips for us?
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