About five months ago, the country I lived in was placed under quarantine. As the COVID-19 cases start to rise globally, so did panic and worry. It is one of those experiences that you only see in movies and hear from in history books. No one was prepared for a new, highly transmissible virus that has created the largest collective shift in working conditions in a short period of time.
As I slowly get used to this ‘new norm’, I thought it would be good to take stock of what has changed since I started working from home. Remote working has many advantages, aside from the “obvious” benefits of being able to stay in my PJs all day long and being able to openly eat snacks at my desk, I save on commuting time and money, and allocated that time to more value-adding things, like spending it with my family.
Of course, working from home is not without its challenges. There are many factors and distractions at home that can lower our productivity and efficiency, with the biggest one being self-discipline. Over these 5 months, my biggest takeaway is that productivity and self-discipline are intertwined. Especially when we are afforded more flexibility in where we work, self-discipline must be imposed in order to maximize productivity. To make sure I am always in the right headspace, here are some of the things I do to jumpstart my productivity:
Have a to-do list
I find that having a to-do-list is one of the most effective ways to increase productivity. Like a bull charging to hit a waving red flag, to-do lists set the mind up to focus on the things that must be accomplished. But having a to-do list is one thing, following through is another.
When you write a to-do list, set realistic deadlines so you don’t underperform and feel unproductive. It is better to give yourself a leeway to ensure that your deadlines are followed through on time without having to ask for extensions.
One way I do so is by writing an overview of my tasks for the day and have a pending section for on-going errands on low-priority tasks. When I want to go the extra mile, I can write the little details, or break down the large tasks into smaller ones so I can cross off the little steps as I finish one big task.
Start your day right
The earlier I wake up, the more things I can do before the actual work starts. It’s the same as clocking into your office-based work. We wake up early, get ready, and travel to work. But since we’re working from home, all those steps are eliminated, and we have more time to cook breakfast or plan our tasks ahead.
I find that having a little morning ritual helps jumpstart my day. This can be as simple as making a cup of coffee. This little routine works for me because it is like a little buffer time after waking up that mentally takes me from the home life into work life, telling my brain that I should be getting ready for office time.
Set priorities straight
One practical way I maintain productivity is to have a separate schedule for personal matters before jumping into work and giving it all my attention. You can set your mind up to do the same thing. For example, before you clock in, start your day by doing things that make you feel productive (such as reading a book), so that when actual work comes, you will be ready, and you won’t feel burned out.
Maintain a clean workspace
An untidy, unorganized working environment generates high levels of stress, reduces productivity, and causes distraction. A clean workspace doesn’t just involve physical clutter, but also digital ones, so don’t forget to clear out your digital workspace as well. Put your files in a folder where they are easier to navigate and look for. Delete all the unnecessary files, and don’t forget to back up. It’s so much easier to work with a clean working space and desktop.
Set your own workspace
Distractions are always there, but you can avoid them by setting your workspace. Spaces affect our mentality so much that it’s crucial to simulate that separate office space. One way I avoid this is by choosing a workspace that is as far away from my bed as possible to avoid the temptation to scuff back to bed and scroll through my phone.
Reward yourself at the end of a day
Not having anything to look forward to causes people to waste more time. As Parkinson’s Law states, “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. When you give yourself too much time to work, you will end up more distracted because you know you have so much time to fill, versus if you make plans to for yourself in leisure, it pushes you to work more efficiently because you have something to look forward to at a particular time.
So get up, get dressed, and jumpstart your productivity! Oh, and don’t forget to give yourself a little well-deserved treat at the end of the day!
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