9 Tips to Stay Productive Working or Studying from Home

Working from home is most definitely not for everyone. Most people need the presence of others to be held accountable. At the home office, it’s easy for you to become your own worst enemy. No one is watching so you are free to drop those pesky inhibitions. You do not necessarily feel that same peer pressure or communal obligation to get stuff done. (Also: You do not have to wear pants).

The important thing is to stay self-motivated and make sure you stay on task. For some people, this might mean blasting loud music to increase their productivity. For others, loud noises can be the worst thing for staying focused. Some people work better in clutter while others cannot concentrate unless their workspace is tidy.

The key to being productive at home is to create an environment that allows you to focus on the tasks at hand. Whether you are working from home for the first time or just need a quick refresher, here are some tips to facilitate adjusting to your new situation during the coronavirus outbreak or starting an online study-from-home course for the first time:

1. Identify what puts you in a productive mood

That is the central question of defining your workspace. Perhaps being reminded of your goals – the reason you do this work each day – is enough to get you going, so find a way to remind yourself of those goals at the start of, and throughout, each day.

Perhaps bare minimalism puts you in the right mindset, so remove all the pens and pads on your desk in a cupboard. This is important and perhaps the hardest when you are in a comfortable environment, so spend some time on this, and get it right!

2. Separate workspace from family space

By dedicating a space to your work, you create clear boundaries between work and home life. You should avoid contaminating home space with work. Have a space that you designate as your workstation instead of checking emails, voicemails or texting in front of the TV or spreading work out on the kitchen table. Make your space a stress-free zone of quiet and solitude where you can concentrate.

If you do not have a separate room, find an area with minimum traffic flow or a corner of a room off from the main area. Go to the same designated place on a regular basis so your mind does not wander, and only go there when you need to work.

Establish water-tight psychological boundaries so you are not constantly reminded of temptations around you (like that film you wanted to watch, or the laundry you need to do). Complete personals tasks outside of work time, as you normally would.

3. Keep a distraction around, but out of the way

Working from home might mean that you are unable to eliminate distractions. In fact, it might be useful to have some around to be reminded to take breaks. But remember to keep them out of reach and out of sight while you work, because you may end up spending more time distracted and playing than actually working. This will help you maintain your workflow and not get swallowed up by the workload.

A special note for those with children:

Help the kids understand what it means to work from home. Draw the boundaries–as in be quiet when you are on the phone, knock on the office door, etc. The sooner you start, the more likely they will eventually do it. Setting boundaries and instilling certain habits from the start helps make the situation work.

4. Plan out what you will be working on ahead of time

Spending time figuring out what you will do today can take away from actually doing those things. And, you will have planned your task list so recently that you can be tempted to change your schedule as you go along. It is important to let your agenda change if you need it to, but it is equally as important to commit to an agenda that outlines every assignment before you begin. Try solidifying your schedule the day before, making it feel more official when you wake up the next day to get started on it.

5. Keep a schedule of your daily agenda

Home can be riddled with distractions. Throwing in a load of laundry can quickly eat up your workday and kill your productivity. Keeping a daily schedule can be very helpful in helping you avoid distractions. Take note of mundane things you need to do, like taking a walk or doing the dishes. This will not only help you be more productive but will also make you feel more accomplished as you cross things off your list.

6. Commit to doing more

Projects always take longer than you initially think they will. For that reason, you will frequently get less done than you set out to do. Therefore, it is beneficial to overestimate how much time you will spend doing one thing.

It is also encouraged to overestimate how many things you will do during the day. Even if you come up short of your goal, you will still come out of that day with a solid list of tasks filed under ‘complete.’

7. Work when you are at your most productive

Nobody sprints through their work from morning to evening — your motivation will naturally fade and flow throughout the day. When you are working from home, however, it is crucial to know the peaks and dips of your motivation and plan your schedule around it. Save your harder tasks for when you know you will be in the right frame of mind to tackle them. This way you can maximise your most productive periods. Keep the easier, less effortful tasks you need to complete for the slower points of the day.

“For me, the most productive times of the day are usually early in the morning or late at night. I recognise this and try to plan my day accordingly. Also, music that really pumps me up does not hurt.” – says our marketing manager Paul.

8. Stay in the flow

It might sound bizarre, however, the busier you are, the more you will actually do. It is like Newton’s law of inertia: If you are in motion, you will stay in motion. If you are at rest, you will stay at rest. Keep yourself busy and in fast-enough motion that you have the momentum to complete anything that comes across your desk. Unfortunately, it is hard to find things to help you reach that level of busyness when you are at home — your motivation can swing from one extreme to the other so easily. Focusing on something that helps you maintain your rhythm whilst still being productive is key.

Our CEO and head engineering tutor Mike Lopez suggests “arranging your tasks so that the ones you find more interesting are dotted around your daily schedule, rather than doing the more engaging, interesting tasks all at the beginning, then experiencing a huge drop in motivation once they have all been completed”.

9. Take clear breaks

Keeping busy and in the flow is important to achieve all your goals, however, so is taking breaks. It can be so easy to get distracted that you avoid breaks altogether. Do not let the guilt of working in the comfort of your home to keep you from taking five to relax. Use your breaks to get away from your desk. Go for a walk or run outside or spend time with others who might also be in the house.

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