After 20 years of working from home, I know very well the joy of the kids playing the drums outside the office door, the cat playing hopscotch on the keyboard and the call of Sunday’s incomplete DIY job at the back of your mind. Our health and wellbeing are strongly influenced by what we achieve in our working day, so being effective is actually beneficial to our physical and mental health. So here are 6 top tips for productivity at home:
1. Turn off mobile notifications
No-one can deny the mobile phone is massively addictive. If you don’t need your phone to make calls, just put it on “Do Not Disturb” for 20 minutes. If you need your phone to make calls, disable the WiFi and mobile data while you work, so you can only receive calls and SMS texts. If this is too drastic for you, you can go into your phone settings and switch off notifications from specific apps. Or here’s a useful article describing 6 apps that stop you using apps: 6 Apps to Stop Your Smartphone Addiction
2. Make a list
Set a reminder on your phone to make a To-Do list at the end of every day. That way you can relax on an evening, knowing you have a complete list of tasks for tomorrow, and in fact you can reflect on those tasks overnight. That makes them easier the next day. The ninja level planner actually rates the tasks on their list by Priority level, and plans their next day in 20 minute blocks to achieve those tasks. Putting structure in your day will make it easier to complete tasks rather than procrastinate.
3. Noise cancelling headphones
I can’t recommend these highly enough for high productivity, focus and avoiding the fatigue that arises from trying to concentrate on an important task. We are evolved to listen at a subconscious level for trigger noises: the Cave dweller in us is always watching out for a sabre toothed tiger, even when sitting in the spare room.
A good second option is having some quiet, relaxing music playing in the background.
4. Close tabs that will distract you.
Having your holiday research, favourite shoe shop or social media account open on a neighbouring tab will both slow down your machine, and distract you. Have a clean sweep before you start work, and every hour in between (yes, those sneaky windows seem to re-open themselves)
5. Sand Timer.
Personally I work best in 20 minute blocks. Some people can work in blocks of up to 45 minutes, rarely more. Use your To-Do list to direct you, and a timer to take “sprints” at sections of work. Be very sure to stop working when the timer goes off, take a break, walk around, do some thing you enjoy to reward yourself. 5 minutes later, repeat the cycle. The break between sections is a massively important reward to your subconscious for concentrating so hard.
6. Take a Lunch Break
At least 45 minutes, with as complete a change of environment as you can manage. Eat healthily and hydrate well and if you can, take the time to socialise, relax and regain vigour for the afternoon.
For me, this last tip is pure decadence. I treat my body to some fresh fruit and veg and take a walk whatever the weather’ sure in the knowledge that this is the most gainful thing I can do for me and my work.
Working from home can be a great experience with many benefits, but you do need to reduce the chance of your attention going elsewhere, and stay disciplined. Oh, and get a second keyboard for your cat to play on!