It can be hard to make the most of your time when you’re working from home, especially when you're wearing a lot of different hats and trying to complete a lot of different tasks. There are others who have been there, and they've found some methods to improve productivity.
Keep reading for tips on how you can up your productivity while working from home.
If you're someone who wears a lot of different hats at work, multitasking might seem like a good idea. Whether you're doing multiple things at once or switching back and forth between tasks, chances are, none of the projects you're working on are getting the attention they deserve. It might feel like you're being more productive, but in reality, you're diminishing your productivity and stressing yourself out. Research suggests that multitasking actually negatively affects productivity and brain health. Being "in the zone," so to speak, has a psychological term associated with it—flow. A flow state is simply a mental state in which you perform whatever activity you are doing while extremely focused; you are fully involved in the process and completely immersed. You want to reach your flow state at work. So, drop one (or two, or three...) of those tasks, and just focus on one at a time. It'll improve the quality of your work and help you manage stress.
We're all guilty of this—after all, distractions are everywhere. Sure, breaks are a necessity, but sometimes we let these things get in the way of our productivity. It's far easier to block out distractions than it is to pull yourself back to the task at hand after getting sidetracked.
Here are my tips to stay on task while working from home:
It can be easy to become distracted when you're not sure what tasks you have to complete. Using the Action Method by Behance is a good way to block out distractions and make sure you're getting projects done by organizing all of your ideas on paper. There are templates available that can be used in whatever method is most helpful to you. Eliminating distractions will make your productivity skyrocket, and you'll be able to get more done quicker in the end.
Do you have a lot of tasks to complete, and no idea how to manage them all? We already discussed working on one thing at a time, but the reality is we sometimes have too much to do. It can be almost impossible to do only one thing from start to finish when we are incredibly busy at work. Here’s another solution: Set a time limit for each task you work on.
A great example of this can be found in the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is when you break up your tasks into 25-minute focused blocks of time. After each block, you take a five or 10 minute break, but after four blocks (equaling one hour total of focused work time), you take a longer break, around 15 to 30 minutes. With the Pomodoro Technique you can eliminate multitasking while getting more done. This will help those of us who are wearing multiple hats at work to manage our various responsibilities, while keeping up the quality without getting overwhelmed.
What are productivity rituals? They are whatever you want them to be. As a busy worker, you know what does and does not work for you. So why not make a ritual out of it?
Rituals aren't quite like routines. While routines are typically a specific set of things done at the same time every day, rituals are more like malleable versions of routines that you can do any time of day to help boost you forward. They don't have to be specific to work, either; you can have rituals for all parts of your day and week.
Here are some examples of rituals that you can use to increase your productivity at work:
One way you can incorporate rituals into your work week is by following the lead of David Allen's book, “Getting Things Done.” This method involves moving tasks and projects out of the mind by recording them in a physical list and then breaking them into actionable work items. List making in the GTD method can be a ritual that you do when you need to consider which tasks need completing. Rituals help us shift our focus from task to task and improve productivity through an element of magical comfort.
"Rituals aren't quite like routines. While routines are typically a specific set of things done at the same time every day, rituals are more like malleable versions of routines that you can do any time of day to help boost you forward."
It might not be what any of us want to hear, but it's true: Waking up early can improve productivity. Aside from the simple fact that waking up early gives you more time to accomplish more tasks, it also gives you more time to care for the most important part of your day: you.
Some very busy people might be tempted to wake up early and finish up some work tasks that they didn't have time for the day before. And, sure, this will make you productive—to an extent. What will make you more productive during your actual work day, however, is taking the extra time in the morning to unwind, prepare for the day, maybe exercise and eat a nutritious breakfast.
We spoke already about blocking out distractions to increase your productivity at work. But sometimes blocking out distractions until you finish the task at hand simply isn't realistic. You've got a phone that's gathering notifications, you've got a grumbling stomach, and you've got coworkers that want your attention, either because they need something, want to ask a question, or simply want to chat. You can't just block all of these out all the time; we're not robots. What you can do, however, is group your interruptions so you deal with all of them at the same time.
For example, dedicate a portion of your day to checking your phone for messages and notifications, checking your personal email and dealing with coworkers' requests. If a coworker interrupts you while you're working on something, kindly ask if they can send you an email or speak to you during whatever time you allocate to your interruptions and distractions. Then, take that chunk of time during the day to deal with all of it at once. This will allow you a break from your work and a chance to catch up on non-work-related tasks or issues.
If you're someone who's running a business, you're just starting a business, or you're simply very busy all the time, you might want to consider outsourcing some of your tasks. Outsourcing isn't reserved for huge corporations that can afford to hire people overseas or send jobs elsewhere. Realistically, outsourcing is paying someone to do a task that you can't or don't want to do yourself. And if you don't have enough time in the day for all of your to-do's, it's a great option to boost productivity.
There are a number of tasks that would be good to delegate, such as design work, research, managing phones and setting up appointments. The most common method of outsourcing is, of course, hiring people to do these tasks. But sometimes, busy entrepreneurs don't have the means to hire straight away. Consider using a chatbot as a virtual assistant to outsource tasks that would normally be done by a personal assistant or office manager, such as answering client questions, booking appointments, giving you reminders, and more.
Email eats up a lot of time, especially when you have hundreds of emails coming in a day. But there are solutions to help you increase your productivity. Email rules will help you manage the beast that is work email and allow you to get more important projects done with your time. To start, consider scheduling a couple times each day to check your email.
For example, you could check in in the morning, just after lunch and before leaving for the day. You can also turn off your email alerts, so the constant noise notifications don't create distractions.
Consider setting up rules in whatever email service you use; this will help by flagging emails and automatically moving certain emails to various folders.
Finally, don't send emails that you don't have to send! Could it be sent in an instant message if your company uses something like Slack? If you're sending emails, think through the process and make sure that the emails you're sending are straightforward, necessary, and serving a purpose without simply decreasing your productivity level.
The best thing that anyone can do for their productivity is to try new things and see if they work. Not everyone is the same, so these tips might not work equally across the board. But there are people that have been there already; there are people that have started businesses, grown businesses and worked their way up the ladder. Those people have been through it all, and they likely have different insights as to what works and what doesn't. Learning new productivity tips from others is a great step towards increasing your own productivity.
People perform best when there is instant gratification, rewards, or feedback—that's why people enjoy video games so much. You complete a task in a game, and you're instantly rewarded for your efforts. How great would it be if that was what happened while you were at work? Gamification at work isn't necessarily about turning work into a game, but more about creating an environment of fun and enjoyment at the job. It builds bonds between employees and gets them having fun—and employees who have fun on the job are more likely to perform better.
There are a number of existing apps that are used to boost productivity through gamification; consider exploring some options to make work fun for your employees and improve overall productivity.
Nothing good comes straight away. Like anything else, managing your time and improving your productivity takes practice. You'll likely need to try a number of different things before you find the methods that work for you and help you boost your own productivity. Just keep practicing. Finding the tools to work with will benefit you for the rest of your life.
This article was originally published on Inc.com.