I have worked from home on and off throughout my career and yes- I am constantly distracted by every little thing that pops into my head or field of vision (oh, a squirrel!). The lure of unlimited snacks, daytime TV and towers of laundry beckon like sirens, prohibiting me from getting anything of substance actually done throughout the day.
Here are my 5 ways to be more productive when working from home, garnered from over a decade worth of personal experience. I am definitely not an expert, but I have managed to focus and GSD (get sh*t done) once in a while with two kids at home!
Tip #1: Strong, reliable Internet
Two weeks ago I had a project due on a Friday and yep, Friday morning I was still cranking it out. I had to leave home to pick up one of my kiddos and hit “save”…not paying attention to the message that popped up right after. Since I was running late, I just hit ok and slammed my laptop shut. Two seconds later, my mind caught up with what the message said- “Your work is not saved- Internet connection lost.” Annnnd I lost the entire project. This particular client is a stickler for things like due dates, so I knew not to even consider an extension. Thanks crappy Internet for making me re-do something that took me days to complete! Not my favorite thing to happen when working from home.
I finally dug out the home Internet system that I was sent to review. Yes, I completely procrastinated on setting it up because my husband had warned me that the last time he set up our Internet it involved a seven hour call and a visit from our techie neighbor.
Eero is a Home WiFi System that “blankets your entire home in a mesh network technology.” It boasts the elimination of dead spots, fastest possible speeds and best coverage. Abt, our local electronic superstore, recently teamed up with eero for Family Internet Safety Day and graciously sent the system over for me to test out.
I took it out of the box, feeling my anxiety mount. I am a CDW dropout, meaning I pretended to know the difference between a modem and router for 6 months before finding a more suitable profession. The instructions seemed simple enough, but I decided to give customer service a call since, well, I still don’t know the difference between a modem and router apparently.
My rep had the system set up and online in under ten minutes. No seven hour phone call here, I was simply shocked at how simple the set-up was. Best part? He walked me through changing my network name so all my devices would automatically recognize it. You can also subscribe to eero Plus which combines the best security features in one subscription- no patches to install, no additional malware to subscribe to.
And the speed? Here is an actual text from my husband:
I ran speed tests throughout the house using their app and every area was covered, no more losing my projects on the day they are due! You can also pause the Internet from the app, set schedules for the kids, and even share WiFi with guests.
Tip #2: Time block
When I worked in sales, they would have us shut our ringer off on the phone and tape a penny over the message light just so we could focus on one task at a time.
This is my absolute downfall- I start to write an article, hit the Internet for research, then find that I have been mispronouncing both Ariana Grande & Chrissy Teigan’s names wrong for my whole life. Nope, it had nothing to do with the article, just Yahoo sneaking in a little blurb to derail my work. Thanks for that.
The key to effective time blocking is doing the stuff that is most important first instead of the stuff that you prefer to do. You will have more energy and focus at the beginning of the day instead of procrastinating and waiting for the 3pm slump when Starbuck is calling your name. ALSO- close out that email browser tab and shut off your cell ringer AND flip it over when working on a project.
Here are my steps to effectively time block:
- Block time to time block- yes, seems counter-intuitive to take away time from actually doing things but this will boost your productivity
- Make a list of tasks with rank of priority
- Estimate how long each task will take, and if you need to spread certain tasks over a few days
- Add in things like work out or eat lunch- rule of thumb is anything that takes over 15 minutes you should add into your schedule as a time block
- Plan in a buffer zone- 30 minutes is a good amount for most people
Again, this might seem counter-intuitive when you need to get stuff done for work, but if you constantly break promises to yourself you will burn out. For example, working out is a big one for me. I make a promise to work out, but a client calls wanting to talk about a project during my workout block. Do I pause mid-workout to take the call? Nope. I made a promise to myself for my health (and sanity) to work out during this block, and I strongly believe that mental and physical health contribute to long-term productivity.
Tip #4: Switch it up
By about Thursday, I get antsy and kind of freak out about spending days on end without human interaction. This is when I pack up my laptop and hit the library or coffee shop, even if just for an hour or two. Changing up my space is imperative to sparking creativity in my world- I need inspiration and those four grey walls in my work space at home sure aren’t doing it for me. I am able to truly focus when there is a little buzz in the background.
Tip #5: Take a break
According to a study by DeskTime, they found that the most productive people work for 52 minutes, then break for the next 17 minutes. So, marathon work sessions where you chain yourself to your desk and crank out as much as possible in a solid 3 hour chunk is probably not your best bet. The work environment is changing with more people opting to work remotely and “face time” becoming a thing of the past. Do what works for you, but give the 52/17 break a try!
Whatever you do, make sure it actually works for YOU! If your productivity is at its peak when you are chillin’ in your PJs with The View on in the background, go for it. On the other hand if you find yourself distracted by piles of laundry or the nagging voices of a talk show, find a secluded room in the home to hole up in for a bit then emerge for a breather.
Cheers to hitting your sweet spot when working from home and becoming more productive than you would around the water cooler at work!
Disclosure: I received the eero system to review, all opinions are honest and my own as always.