You’re probably discovering working outside the office isn’t as easy as it looks, and Productivity levels may be down. The COVID-19 virus has forced many people to work from their homes and conduct business remotely. While initially it may be novel and unique, as the day and weeks wear on, many people struggle with the discipline required to be productive.
Whether you’re dealing with constant distractions, lack of motivation or struggle with isolation, the Usaj Realty team has come up with some tips to work effectively from home. While these suggestions will never replace the camaraderie and creative energy that comes in a true shared work environment or office, we hope that you’ll find them effective in managing your workload and keeping a positive attitude.
Enact Effective Time Management
25 Minute Increments, 5 Minute Breaks
This work hack breaks down a work day into small increments, namely 25 minute periods followed by a 5 minute break. Developed in the early 1990s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro theory contends the human brain is trained to focus for short periods of time, thus improving your attention span and enhancing your concentration. After four Pomodoro “sessions,” you should take a longer break, typically 15-30 minutes. During each break, whether short or long, you should physically remove yourself from your workspace and do something unrelated to work, i.e. get a cup of coffee, visit with a friend, take a walk, etc.
52 Minute Increments, 17 Minute Breaks
This social networking group conducted an experiment using a work productivity app and found most productive workers spent 52 minutes working followed by a 17 minute break. Their results pointed out that long hours at a workstation or desk don’t equate to effective productivity. In fact, scheduling regular breaks into your work day produces much better results.
Regardless of your preferred increments of time, make sure you use a timer to alert you when it’s time for a break. Enjoy your break, and be aware that pauses are necessary to maintain focus, energy and creativity.
Megan Ivy of Usaj Realty says this:
“I can’t stress the importance of time blocking time and having a dedicated ‘work space.'”
Ditch the PJs — Get Dressed
It’s tempting to skip the business clothes while you’re working from home. But in reality, what you’re wearing often sets the mood and establishes your outlook for the day. When you’re ready to start working, make sure you look the part. It will be easier to get in the work mode and get going on your to-do list if you’re dressed appropriately. If you have kids, try to wake up an hour before them so you can have some alone time to get work done or simply have a coffee by yourself. Usaj Realty’s Kristina Casinelli says:
“Get up and change out of PJ’s first thing in the morning. This will help set the tone for your day and you will feel more productive right away. If you have kids, try to wake up an hour before them so you can have some alone time to get work done or simply have a coffee by yourself.”
Survey Your Surroundings
Adopt a Marie Kondo approach during this time and “tidy up.” It’s going to be hard to stay motivated if your surroundings are dusty, cluttered with paper or cramped. Regardless of where in your home you set up shop, keep it neat and organized. Create a healthy environment. In a recent People interview, Kondo says, “Put only what’s essential on your work surface,” she says. “This is extremely important and will allow you to focus on your work and minimize the time you are looking for the things you need.” Keep any distractions out of sight — your phone, snacks and anything else that will keep you from being productive. Remember, it’s OK to be distracted during your breaks.
If possible, change your work environment. Move from a home office to the kitchen or even to the back patio. Change of scenery can help creativity and motivation.
Set Your Schedule
Some people are most productive in the mornings; others hit their peak in the afternoons. Maybe you even hit your stride during the evening hours. Regardless of the hour, establish a work cycle that resonates with you. Figure out when you are most productive and accomplish the difficult or challenging tasks during that time frame. Leave mundane tasks, like answering emails or returning phone calls to a time frame when can multitask or work more leisurely.
You might want to start your day off with a brisk walk with your dog or get in a run or a workout. Others may want to leave that for the afternoon to help break up their day. Getting some fresh air and exercise, regardless of the weather, helps to reset your brain and set the tone for the rest of your day.
Keeping a to-do list is imperative. It’s easy to get sidetracked at home so knowing what you have to get done helps you focus. Usaj Realty’s Maddy Hollar says:
“I like to start my day by going for a run or taking my dog for a walk so I don’t feel as cooped up inside for the rest of my work day. I also like to create time slots for myself to get certain tasks done!”
Fresh Air and Sunshine!
According to Harvard University, spending time outdoors:
- Improves your Vitamin D levels
- Helps you stay active
- Increases happiness
- Improves concentration
- Helps you heal faster
April Andrews, a broker associate says this:
“Be sure to take what I call ‘sunshine breaks’ throughout the day if you can. Eat lunch outside or take the dog for a walk around the block.”
Practice Physical Distancing, not Social Distancing
Humans are not wired for isolation. Even the most introverted people need social opportunities. Stay connected with your co-workers and friends. A simple phone call, having Zoom meeting or doing FaceTime will lift the spirits of a cohort during this time and help them feel valued and essential. It’s incredibly important to keep your spirits up and maintain as much virtual social interaction as you can. Many times, the best thing you can do to make yourself feel better is to make someone feel better!
Add in Some Variety
Variety is one of the 6 Human Core Needs. According to Tony Robbins, it’s the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli. Tony asks: “Let me ask you a question: Do you like surprises? If you answered “yes,” you’re kidding yourself! You like the surprises you want. The ones you don’t want, you call problems! But you still need them to put some muscle in your life. You can’t grow muscle—or character—unless you have something to push back against.”
Kristin Boritzke puts it like this:
“My trick has been trying to change it up as much as possible. Add in variety to your routine in any way you are able to stay grounded and motivated.”