While some of us have some experience working from home, many are doing so for the first time, at least for such a long length of time. Staying productive while working at home can be a challenge. There are so many distractions and temptations at home that draw our attention. Keeping in mind that we lose up to 20 minutes of time for each distraction, we could be much less productive than we even realize. As an executive coach, I spend much of my time working from home. One of the many skills I coach executives on is how to be more efficient and effective.
- Create a goal for the day. Start each day with a list of things you want to get done or started for that day. Include phone calls to make or return, and emails to write or return. Include follow-ups on deliverables you’re expecting today or that are already late, and return correspondence you were expecting and haven’t received yet. Next prioritize that list based on how you want to tackle it for the day. If you’re concerned about over-eating while you’re home, decide in the morning what you will eat for each meal and snack, and when. Then stick to your plan.
- Create a schedule for the day. Decide which hours you will work and when you will take breaks to eat, stretch, walk, or handle a personal task.
- Create an “office” space. Designate a space for working so it feels like you’re going to an office and have the tools you need to help you be productive. Your chair and computer setup should be comfortable. Consider purchasing a headset to help with phone calls. If you will be doing video calls make sure you have appropriate lighting to be seen and you’re comfortable with the background.
- Limit distractions. Keep the TV off so it doesn’t tempt you to stop and watch. Turn off the visual and audible notifications for text messages, email messages, and voice messages. Designate specific times to listen to and respond to them.
- Build in breaks. At our places of employment, we often have the opportunities to walk around whether it’s to meetings, to a break room or even to the bathroom. Give yourself chances to get up, stretch, and move a bit.
- Create non-office hours. While the term “office hours” is typically used to let others know when we will be available in our offices, the opposite may be useful when working from home, especially when stuck at home with significant others and/or kids. Consider creating time when you will step out of the space you designated as your office and be available for them. This doesn’t mean 9-5. Consider the ages of any children or needs of the others in your home to determine how long you can go between non-office hours. Ask them not to disturb you while you’re in your “office”. This works well with my 10-year-old. He knows not to disturb me during meetings then I check in with him after each one.
- Make your own rules. Proactively create rules for yourself and how you will work from home and not get distracted. From 9-5 my rule is to focus on work. I don’t do personal tasks that can be done outside of my designated work hours. I don’t make personal phone calls during my work hours. Create practical and reasonable rules that work for you and stick to them.
- Find a partner. Find someone also trying to stay productive at home that you can partner with to hold each other accountable. Share your goals for the day, how well you did against your goals, and how you will make any adjustments to your goals or plans going forward.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. These are stressful times and we’re all making significant changes to adjust to these unusual circumstances. We’re not just dealing with the shift to working from home, but also the uncertainties and worries for how long this will last, how we will be impacted in health and/or financially, and how to best care for ourselves and our families. If you’re not working like a well-oiled machine right now, give yourself a break. If you weren’t as productive as you wanted to be today, think of what you can and want to do tomorrow to make it better. And don’t give up!!
- Reward yourself. Help motivate yourself with a reward at the end of the day. Whether it’s a glass of wine, time to do your favorite thing like reading or a hobby, or extra TV time, just make sure it’s motivating to your and will feel like a reward when you earn it. At the end of the day consider how well you managed your day and whether you think you deserve the reward or not. If not, think of what you can do to help you be successful next time, and try again tomorrow.
Karen is an executive coach, leadership development consultant and author of “Leadership Breakthrough: Leadership Practices that Help Executives and Their Organizations Achieve Breakthrough Growth.”
For help with Executive Coaching or Training, contact Karen today.