How To: Stay Productive Working From Home

Being productive and staying productive throughout the day, especially in the modern age, can be very challenging. We are surrounded by distractions: adverts, notifications, technology all around us. We have the ability to access an unlimited feed of information at the end of our fingertips, which is incredible, but at the same time can turn a 10-minute task of responding to an email into a 1-hour ordeal. Many jobs are now being remote, and it can be very difficult to stay productive working from home with our comforts nearby. These distractions can be magnified working/studying from home. You are no longer in a work environment, with your boss/classmates breathing down your neck, waiting for you to complete your tasks. You may now have family members by your side, children running around the house, pets to feed, the television (with Netflix installed) directly in front of you, and all of your other home comforts. Following the coronavirus pandemic, there are millions of people now working and studying from home. This trend is likely to continue post-COVID-19, whereby we see a rise in work-from-home job positions. Office jobs are declining, and we need to mentally adapt in order to be able to cope with this new style of working and studying. So how can we stay productive working from home? How can we continue with the same level of motivation that we experienced within the workplace?


CIU recommends the following:

1. Stay Productive Working From Home By Creating a Workspace

create a workspace photo
Working/studying from home offers many advantages over an office/university environment. Some include: the flexibility of creating your own schedule, saving time by eliminating commuting, and working in your optimum environment. However, in order to achieve this optimum work mode, one must create a workspace that promotes efficiency, away from any distractions to place your mind into work mode. There should be little or no personal life distractions insight. The following steps can be taken in order to create an optimal workspace:
  • Identify the essential items for your home office for your situation: a desk, a computer, a HD computer camera and microphone for your virtual, meetings, specific hardware/software to meet your needs e.g. a green screen
  • Choose the location within your home, ideally a separate room with good lighting that can be your office
  • Purchase a dedicated mobile phone that stays within your home office, so you don’t need to use your notification-ridden personal phone
  • Ensure the backdrop behind your desk chair is a blank canvas
  • Decorate your office with company props, motivational questions, your favorite photos, or whatever helps to maintain you in the right mindset
 

2. Have a Morning Routine

morning routine photo of alarm clock
Ideally, your morning routine should match that of your one for your office job. For example, just because you’re now based from home, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set an alarm. There is no perfect morning routine. This routine should be adapted to your personality and personal requirements, as well as being updated over time. A good sample morning routine could look like the following:
  1. Set an alarm – maintaining a good sleep schedule and getting adequate sleep is essential to staying focused through the working day
  2. No morning commute, therefore utilize this free time wisely for exercise, personal study, planning your day, checking social media (only so you don’t have to do it whilst you’re working), yoga, or even start meditating, for example, using CALM.
  3. Take a shower and put on work clothes – a lot of people continue in their pyjamas throughout the day, but this keeps your mind in relax mode.
  4. Eat a healthy nutritious energy fueled breakfast Prepare to leave your home distractions and go to your workspace

3. Remove Distractions

Smartphones are incredible high-spec devices that allow us the freedom to infinite information, but as previously mentioned, as of course as you’re already aware, they also are extremely distractive. As humans, we have become very robotic and we tend to check our phones for the latest updates without even realizing it, or we feel vibrations from our devices that are inexistent. Therefore, it is extremely important that we control our usage on our devices to allow us to complete our daily tasks and goals. There are a few ways we can do this, one being that we leave our phone in a different room, and only check it during our break period. Another would be to utilize the in-built app usage control functionalities that our smartphones have. Now on iPhone’s, pictured belong, you set a daily usage time limit on an app by app basis, and once the assigned time limit has passed, the app will no longer work until the following day. A great way to restrict yourself from spending hours scrolling news feeds and timelines, so you can concentrate on your work and studying. There are many other distractions apart from our mobile phones, whatever yours is, place it in a different room out of site, or find a way to reduce and control your temptations towards it.

4. Plan Your Day

stay productive working from home photo example
Planning your day is one of the most important tips that CIU recommends on this list. Working alone from home, you’re in a world of your own, it is very easy to work for too many hours, forget to eat, miss an important meeting as you lost track of time, and fall into bad habits as there are no colleagues or fellow students alongside you to steer you or maintain you on the right path. How your day is planned out, and between what hours you work, if possible, should be tailored to your individual needs, priorities, and work style. However, it is highly recommended that you first tackle your most important and challenging tasks of the day to prevent you from spending too much time on the easy mundane ones. For a successful daily plan, CIU recommends that the following are scheduled in to stay productive working from home:
  • Most important tasks to be completed for the day
  • Meetings/conference calls
  • Important mundane tasks to be completed
  • Exercise/time off
  • Coffee breaks
  • Lunch break
  • Informal catchups with other colleagues or students (see 5. Stay connected)
 

5. Stay Connected

video call to stay connected with work colleagues
Working/studying from home can be lonely. Spending 7+ hours a day by yourself in a room can take its toll. Humans need social interaction. To boost your morale, motivation, and to give your mind a few minutes rest, it’s a good idea to factor in a video call with a colleague, friend, or fellow student throughout the day. This person should be someone who makes you feel good for the duration of the call. However, these scheduled calls should also have a time limit to them so they don’t eat into your daily plan and daily goals.

6. Utilize Productivity Apps

person utilizing productive apps on their tablet
We have a vast number of productivity applications at our disposal, ones that can significantly reduce the time it takes to complete tasks of ourselves and others. Taking advantage of these applications can provide you with more time to spend on the most important activities of the day. Using productivity applications in your day to day life can improve efficiency, reduce stress, virtually connect colleagues and teammates like never before, and are great for tracking personal and team progress. Depending on your work or studies, there are productivity apps designed to improve your life.


CIU recommends the following apps to stay productive working from home:

Note-taking

Evernote is a single place for your notes, ideas, lists, and reminders. The application works across all devices and syncs in real-time. Unlike some other notetaking applications, Evernote allows you to embed images and webpages.

Online file storage

Google Drive allows you to access all your documents from anywhere in the world, with an internet connection. Continue working on your projects when you travel or cannot work from home. If you meet a colleague or classmate for a coffee break and want to show them your progress you can show them via any device. Google Docs allows you to collaborate on spreadsheets and documents in real-time with your team. Serving as another backup source is also an extremely important feature that Google Drive offers. Google provides you with the first 15GB of space completely free.

Grammar Checker

Grammarly is a digital writing tool that uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to check all your writing for you. It works in the background within your web browser and checks everything you write and alerts you if there’s a problem.

Copy/Paste Manager (Clipboard manager)

When you want to paste something that you copied 10 minutes ago and you realize that you just pressed ctrl+c again is very annoying, time-consuming, and sometimes with serious consequences. 1Clipboard works on Windows and Mac.

Password Manager

In the digital age, it’s extremely important to have a secure password and to change it frequently. But how can anyone remember 10’s of strong passwords? Here is where 1Password is extremely useful. 1Password is a password manager that remembers all your passwords for you to help keep account information safe.

Staying Healthy

Being isolated all day working from home can take its toll. It’s very easy to forget to stay hydrated, go for a walk, stretch the legs, and maintain good posture. This can help prevent feeling sluggish later on in the working day. HabitMinder is a computer and mobile application that reminds you and tracks for you up to 50 predefined habits, so you can concentrate on your work.

Video Conferencing

Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications. Whether you want to catch up with a colleague, or host an international virtual meeting. Zoom allows you to have video calls with up to 100 people simultaneously for up to 45 minutes for free.

Time Management

Writing down all of your meetings, appointments, deadlines, and key dates on a calendar, like Google Calendar, will allow you to plan your day accordingly and prevent you from missing anything important.

Team Management

There are many team and task management applications available on the marketplace, including Teams (from Microsoft), Monday.com, Asana, JIRA, Slack, and Basecamp. Some offer more in-depth features than others. Which team management application you choose depends on your team size and necessities. Microsoft Teams or Trello are perfect for small group sizes, and offer free versions.

How do you stay productive working from home? Comment below.

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