As I am writing this post, I have been working from home (WFH) for over 2 months. On average, my commute pre-WFH was 3 hours per day. The simple math is that by not commuting, I have 15 more hours per week!
The reality is, without making some adjustments to your routine and habit, we will just sleep away most of those precious hours. I know I did. Combining that with more phone-scrolling (Instagram / Reddit / COVID News and repeat), I felt like I gained no time at all.
…we will just sleep away most of those precious hours. I know I did.
We can allow ourselves to feel lost and guilty for a little bit because this is an unprecedented time for all of us. However, if you are reading this, it means you are ready to take back control of your time and I am proud of you because you are already halfway there.
Tip #1 – Keep the Same Sleeping Schedule
We all want more sleep because sleeping feels good but average adults only need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. For me, I slept on average 7.5 hours per day pre-WFH and have always felt refreshed and energized in the morning. There was no need for me to sleep more but I did anyway when I first started working from home. Sleeping is not a waste of time but sleeping more than you need robs you of time for something else.
Today, re-evaluate whether you already had enough sleep pre-WFH. If you didn’t, sleep away so you get your important 7 to 9 hours of recharge. If you did, despite it being hard to leave your bed when you don’t have to, do it anyways.
Sleeping is not a waste of time but sleeping more than you need robs you of time for something else.
You could push your sleeping schedule to later than before so you go to bed and wake up later while maintaining the same duration. However, for me, I am keeping the same alarm as before so I can make use of 2 hours of productive time before I start work.
Tip #2 – Put Away Your Work Laptop After Work
For me, I have taken over the dining table as my work station so my work laptop and a large monitor are permanent fixtures. However, I still make a habit of closing the laptop and moving it to the back of the table at the end of a workday for 2 reasons: to signify the end of the workday and to allow space for after-work browsing with my personal computer.
… closing the laptop and moving it to the back of the table at the end of a workday for 2 reasons: to signify the end of the workday and to allow space
For others who have more space, having a designated home office or area will make the physical separation easy. It is almost as if your office has moved much, much closer to home.
The key to this tip is: out of sight, out of mind.
Tip #3 – Eat Regularly
I have always been able to maintain a regular eating schedule – breakfast, lunch, lunch #2 (?) & dinner. However, I am sure most of you, like me, have had one of those days in the office where you just worked through lunch. Luckily, your coworkers would often notice and remind you to take a break. My teammates and managers certainly have in the past.
When you work from home, it is far too easy to just work through lunch because there is no one to remind you. It might be different if you live with someone but what if they also have the tendency to do the same?
Your body is not designed to focus continuously for hours without a break. There is a reason why the Pomodoro Technique (work for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break) is popular because it works. For work, there might be many reasons why the 25/5-minute combo won’t work so for me, I have adjusted it to the following:
– 2 hours of work / break
– 2 hours of work / 1-hour lunch (EAT!!)
– 2 hours of work / break
– 1 hour of work / end of the workday
Tip #4 – Avoid Distracting Background
I prefer to work in silence (people who know me might actually be shocked to hear that) so working from home has been great for me. For others, some music playing in the background might be calming and helpful for focus. However, I have heard of people playing Netflix in the background and found that shocking because I can barely focus on the dialogue sometimes.
Also, I don’t know about you (because you might have the ability to solve a complex issue and read at the same time) but I think most of us will inevitably get distracted by the visual background. After all, the purpose of creating an amazing TV show is to capture your attention.
Have you gotten interrupted repeatedly (e.g., someone dropping by your desk, a message from your boss) when you worked on a simple task and ended up starting from the beginning multiple times? I have, especially with tasks that are simple but require accuracy.
… interrupted repeatedly (e.g., someone dropping by your desk, a message from your boss) when you worked on a simple task and ended up starting from the beginning multiple times?
For me, when I do put on background music, I choose songs that I am familiar with so I can easily sing along without getting distracted. I also avoid podcasts because I find myself not absorbing the materials well. In the end, this is about more than giving work your complete attention because your performance might suffer, but also to allow yourself to truly enjoy the TV show or true-crime podcast you hand-pick for entertainment.
Tip #5 – Monday Hour One
If you have been following my blog (series here), you will know I started using the Monday Hour One technique a month after I started working from home. You basically plan out the rest of the week on Mondays (Sundays for me) for both work and personal tasks. The planning process forces you to find out in advance what you have for the week and dedicate time to it. When used correctly, you will have a good idea about when tasks will get done which will subsequently put you into a better position to handle the unexpected and to say ‘no’ to certain requests.
… you will have a good idea about when tasks will get done which will subsequently put you into a better position to handle the unexpected and to say ‘no’ to certain requests
I am still in the learning process after using Monday Hour One for just over a month but as mentioned in my week #5 recap, it has improved my productivity a lot already. However, I have also learned that it is just as important to maintain a healthy balance of work and fun.
Looking for More Productivity Tips?
Tip #6 – Keep A Regular Working Schedule
My working hours have not changed since I started working from home and that was a choice. In fact, my company has been very flexible with this as some people have different responsibilities (parents, children and/or pets).
With that being said, my recommendation is, when possible, to keep a regular working schedule as it offers a number of benefits:
– easier to plan your week when you a time management technique like Monday Hour One (tip #5)
– easier to start and stop work
– easier to maintain regular sleeping and eating schedules
– easier for your team to reach you if they know when you are online (especially important when you are in a management position or work with your team closely on a daily basis)
– easier to socialize with your coworkers (which I will talk about next)
Tip #7 – Socialize With Your Coworkers & Friends As Usual or More
Remember how easy it was to strike up a casual conversation with someone in the lunchroom? Sometimes, they even turned into full-blown “let’s sit down and talk more about it” conversations. When we work from home, we don’t get those spontaneous chats anymore because you can’t even drop by someone’s desk to tell them “something quick.” I know I enjoyed doing that because those quick interactions would sometimes turn into an opportunity to connect with your coworker on a more meaningful level.
Sophia Dembling, the acclaimed author on the subject of introverts, has recently argued that there is such thing as too much social distancing for introverts. Depression, lack of motivation and difficulty with focus are just a few of the negative effects prolonged solitude can have on us, extroverts or not.
Reach out to your coworker or friends for a chat. Talk about the trips you will go on once COVID is over, the shows you binge-watched or the recipes you tried. Do not underestimate the power social interactions have on our mental and physical well-being.
As I mentioned in the title, these tips have worked for me and my hope is that at least one of them will work for you. It is also important to remember to cut yourself some slacks sometimes because we are often ourselves’ worst critic.
None of us knows how long this will last and what the world will look like when this is over. My commitment to myself is to be able to say I have tried to make the best out of the situation and so can you.