Those of you who’re lucky enough to be able to work from home know what an amazing blessing it can be.
But with all that freedom comes with a unique set of pitfalls that could be keeping you from performing at your best. Maybe your kids are constantly demanding for your attention, your cat hits ‘delete’ on tomorrow’s presentation slides, or the lines between your personal and work life are becoming increasingly blurred.
Whether you’re a seasoned work-from-homer or WFH noob, there are steps you can take to up your productivity to ninja level, all while keeping your sanity intact.
Here are ours.
1. Set up a dedicated work space.
It can be tempting to set up your ‘office’ in bed where you have everything you ‘need’ (ie comfy pillows, your cat and Netflix streaming on your tablet), but having been there and done that, trust us when we say that it’s probably not going to work out for obvious reasons.
Just like how your bedroom should be a sanctuary that’s dedicated to rest, you need a space at home where you can focus 100% of your attention on work.
This way, you’ll automatically be mentally set up to work when you enter this space because its purpose has already been defined. And just like any work space, make sure it’s organised and equipped with adequate lighting as well as all the essential equipment you need to get work done.
2. Dress like you’re going to the office.
There’s an enduring insider joke among freelancers that shirts are a must, but pants, optional. And if you really wanted to, you could make it optional.
However, it’s been scientifically-proven that dressing well can improve your mental and physical performance, while dressing down can weaken your negotiation skills. So given that you’d want to perform at your best no matter where you work, why not dress for success anyway?
Dressing right for your role will also serve as a constant reminder that you’re at ‘work’, and not at ‘home’.
3. Stick to a regular work schedule.
When you’re working from home, you’re effectively your own boss.
This means no one to breathe down your neck to get things done or remind you that your deadline’s tomorrow. Depending on how you work, this could either be a blessing or a slippery slide down the productivity slope.
To keep yourself and your output in check, make like you’re at the office.
This means setting daily work hours complete with a schedule that lets you know what you should be doing every hour of your work day.
4. Have boundaries in place.
Without boundaries, it can be hard to keep your personal life from seeping into your work, and vice versa.
To maintain a decent productivity level and keep your sanity intact while working from home, it’s crucial that you have measures in place to keep your work and home life separate.
This could mean having a tough-love conversation with your family about you being at ‘work’, putting a sign outside your door that says ‘Do not disturb’, closing the door, limiting the time you spend on social media, or even listening only to certain types of music while you work
5. Commit to doing deep work.
Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World, advocates swapping multitasking for doing fewer things, and doing them well.
Newport calls this practice deep work, which he describes as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive abilities to their limit”. And the best way to get into this state? Schedule your time for deep work as well as the distractions that keep you from achieving it.
This means being consistent with when and how you work, as well as not checking your phone (or whatever else distracts you) whenever you feel like it.
Think of this way of working — which best-selling author J.K. Rowling used to complete the final book in her Harry Potter series, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows — as the regular strengthening of your focus muscle.
The goal here, says Newport, is to consistently produce innovative results that’s valuable and hard to replicate — a scientifically-proven by-product of being in a deeply-focused flow state while you work.
6. Make time to play.
Work hard, play hard, goes the saying.
If you work from home, this saying rings true more than ever. Doing something you love at regular intervals that takes you out of your ‘work’ headspace will not only help you relax, but also get back to work feeling inspired, refreshed and ready to tackle your next big task.
So whether play time for you is tickling the guitar strings, playing fetch with your dog or jumping on a call with your bestie, consider this encouragement (and guilt-free permission) to play every single day.
7. Create a daily shutdown ritual.
Constant deep work also calls for as much deep sleep as you can get, says Newport.
In fact, not getting enough of good quality shut-eye can hurt not just your productivity, but also your performance. According to the American Academy Of Sleep Medicine, adults who get less than 7 hours of sleep nightly tend to struggle with focus, creativity and resilience.
And it’s not just their work performance that suffers — they’re also more likely to be chronically tired, experience heartburn, heart palpitations, memory loss and a weakened immune system that leaves them more susceptible to falling sick.
Newport practices what he calls a work ‘shutdown’ ritual daily, where he makes a list of all his unfinished tasks for the day that he can work on first thing the next morning. This in turn, helps get these things off his mind so he can disconnect for the rest of the day.
To initiate your own daily transition away from work, do as Newport does: He literally says “shutdown complete” out loud.
8. Sweat it out on the regular.
If you work, you’re likely to be stressed.
And it’s no secret that stress wreaks havoc on your mind and body, not only by chronically elevating your body’s stress responses, but also disrupting your ability to focus, think clearly and make rational decisions.
Getting your body moving, muscles working and heart rate up regularly helps counteract these effects by triggering the release of feel-good endorphins, helping you relax.
So if you’re all about smashing your productivity goals, need we say more?