I think it’s safe to say that although it seemed like striking gold initially, working from home due to Covid-19 hasn’t always been as smooth sailing as we thought it would be.
We’ve been working under lockdown circumstances for a while now and as it continues, it’s distractions and challenges begin to present themselves more and more.
For instance, how many times do you check your phone throughout the day now that you are out of your usual work environment? Are you hitting the snooze button for longer than you should be?
It’s difficult to be motivated all the time, nobody’s perfect and it’s more than ok to have days where you aren’t as productive as you normally would be – you can’t follow your normal routines as usual, but you can learn to integrate certain aspects of your old work routine into your new working from home one.
If you’re finding it a particular struggle to get yourself productive whilst working from home, these next 12 tips are your guide to begin increasing your productivity and keep up your momentum throughout the remainder of the lockdown.
Create a routine you can stick to
It can be particularly difficult to separate between work and personal time so it’s vital to create a steady schedule while you’re working from home. If possible, try to stick to your usual work and sleep patterns to help you stay consistent. Think about your commute time, use the time you would normally be commuting effectively, maybe exercise, read or listen to some music before logging on for the day. Spread out your work into obtainable daily goals to allow focus for each task and avoid becoming overwhelmed with one massive to-do list.
Have a designated workspace
Setting up a designated workspace whilst your working from home will make the world of difference. Try a peaceful space away from distractions such as the TV and busy rooms, even if yours is a shared or small place, try to designate an area just for work. Make it comfortable, get everything you need in one place. It’s mighty tempting to go and chill on the sofa with your laptop but it’s going to be more beneficial for your productivity levels if you're sat at a desk or table. Don’t worry if you don’t have specific office furniture, use pillows and stools for support and footrests to create a comfortable sitting position.
Create an enjoyable routine morning
How you spend your morning is going to set the tone for the rest of your day so use it wisely! Whether you like to enjoy some light reading and a coffee, have a refreshing shower, or make a brain-boosting breakfast, create a morning routine for yourself that is going to set a positive and prepared atmosphere for your day. My personal favourite is a dog walk as soon as I’ve woken up, getting some fresh air in my lungs and steps in my Fitbit, before I get to my screen allows me to begin my work feeling rejuvenated and psyched up for what the day may bring. Even setting your alarm for 20 minutes earlier for some morning meditation and wake up time could really improve your productivity levels for the day.
Plan ahead of time
Give yourself some notice. Have you ever found yourself figuring out and scheduling what you need to do for the day to then realise, you could’ve spent that time getting some of those things done? Start planning ahead time. Even by simply writing out the tasks you need to achieve the next day before you go to bed, can help you sleep easy knowing your prepared for the day ahead and get started on your task more efficiently the following morning.
Undoubtedly one of the hardest parts of lockdown has been feeling out of touch and isolated from our close loved one’s friends and colleagues. It’s so important to stay connected and there are plenty of alternatives to meeting in person. Human interaction is critical for our mental wellbeing during these tough times so make an effort to schedule video chats and catch-ups with family and friends. If you’re struggling with working from home, voice your concerns to your colleagues or manager – you’ll probably find that some are feeling the same way, talk through it together and support each other. You boost both your and their mental wellbeing in the process so make time socialise virtually where you can, how about enjoying a weekend ‘wine down’ video call with your friends or a digital coffee break with a colleague throughout your day.
Studies have shown that getting dressed and ready as you normally would when working from home, can help to get your brain into work mode. One of the joys of working from home is the ability to choose what we wear without having to adhere to the office dress code, which for a lot of us means we tend to stick to comfortable options. I know I can't be the only one who's attended a zoom meeting with a nice shirt and pajama bottoms on? While that's all well and good, simply preparing yourself as you normally would by getting dressed for work can do wonders for your productivity. Try over the next few days dressing for work and explore whether you feel more ready for the day set out before you. Remember, what works well for some may not work for others so find a happy medium between comfortable and work-ready as a step towards your more productive self.
Take scheduled breaks
Working in our home environment can make us feel like we must be constantly available, it’s imperative for your wellbeing to take a break. Over-working yourself can lead to burnout and mental fatigue so make it easier on yourself to handle stresses by taking a proper lunch and integrating regular screen breaks throughout your day. Take it one step further and leave the house (following social distancing guidelines) (link). Get outside and utilise scheduled breaks to get some fresh air and perspective, allow yourself the benefit of taking time out and appreciate the improved focus it brings.
Eat well and stay hydrated
Making smart choice when it comes to food and drink during your workday can have a serious effect on your mood, focus and creativity. Research explains that individuals who simply incorporated more fruits and veggies into their daily meals reported greater creativity, curiosity, and wellbeing. A great hack for eating well is to pre-plan and prepare meals. Trying to choose what to eat without planning and whilst hungry can lead to impulsive decisions, that might momentarily satisfy, but is it worth the sluggish attitude and performance throughout the rest of your day? Forward think your daily meals and snacks to take away temptation and keep your mind and body properly fuelled for a successful day.
Enjoy some fresh air
You’ve integrated scheduled breaks into your day – what better way to spend them than outside? It's important for your wellbeing to spend time outside, so step into your garden or grab your headphones and set out for a walk. Enjoy the fresh air on your skin whilst you get your body moving, it’s great to have a change of scenery throughout the day and it’s especially important to take a break from your screens from time to time and give your mind and eyes a rest. Fancy going a step further? Why not set yourself some achievable goals? Perhaps you’d like to increase your pace every day, or maybe you’d like to find somewhere new to explore.
This is key to looking after your mental health whilst working from home. Setting boundaries for yourself, as well as creating them with others in your household, can help you stick to routine and maintain a healthy balance. Encourage discussion with the other members of the household about your needs, it’s a given that you can be more flexible when working from home and it’s ok to enjoy that however it’s important to deal with other distractions and hashing out what you need from your family can really help you stay on top of things individually and as a collective.
Stay informed -not overwhelmed
We have at our fingertips, access to an unlimited amount of information via multiple platforms, whether that be through T.V or social media and sometimes that can be more of a hindrance than a help. Allocate yourself a specific time to educate yourself on current affairs rather than constantly checking on updates throughout the day. Free yourself from becoming overwhelmed by various sources and conflicting opinions by simply asking a willing friend for a short summary of events. Doing this can help free up brain space for more constructive use and helps to avoid too many added pressures or anxieties from an abundance of information.
Prioritise self-care – be kind to yourself
My biggest (and most cliche) piece of advice? Please, oh please - be kind to yourself. This situation is completely out of the norm and it’s totally ok to feel the mental and emotional strain that comes with. Prioritise your mental health and physical wellbeing, dedicate some time to self-care and be realistic in your expectations of yourself and others in these circumstances. You may not be as productive as you normally are. Acknowledge this, accept this and allow yourself the opportunity to find your own pace and ways of working through these unusual times. Set yourself obtainable goals and learn to step away and relax when your work is done. Listen to your body, it's your most powerful tool and it usually knows whats best for you.
By beginning to implement even a few of these tactics can help to improve your productivity, creativity and even increase your mood! Start by choosing one of your favourite tactics and apply it to your day, then add new tactics when you feel comfortable and you can build up a more organised and productive way of working from home during lockdown.