COVID-19 has put offices and governments on high alert. Chances are, you are probably one of the millions of people instructed to work from home during this pandemic.
At first, you were probably happy to be safe from the hands of the ugly virus and to generally get more sleep and stop commuting.
As you have probably already figured out, working from home is no easy task.
Finding the motivation to be productive, especially in times of high anxiety, is extremely difficult:
- Your kids or roommate are probably watching Netflix nearby.
- Your bed suddenly makes a strong case not to be abandoned.
- Your brain thinks it’s downtime because you are at home.
- And on top of that, the news is constantly in panic mode which makes working from home seem almost impossible.
Fortunately, the world will not end anytime soon and you still have to figure out ways to be productive.
To help you out, we have compiled the best, most practical advice on how to set yourself up for at-home productivity sessions and combat all distractions.
Tip #1: Set Up a Morning Routine
It’s tempting to shut off your alarms and roll over to the other side of your bed when no one expects you at the office.
However, a productive day starts with a productive morning. You need to start your day normally as if you were heading to the office.
Granted, you still want to take advantage of a few extra hours of sleep. So set your alarm at a reasonable time that allows you to at least have one hour to yourself in the morning.
Here are some things you can insert into your morning routine:
- Making your bed as soon as you wake up.
- Exercising at home.
- Reading (or listening to) the news.
- Eating breakfast.
- Taking a shower.
You want to establish a morning ritual and follow through with it every single day. This will make you more excited and hold you accountable to get out of bed. It also allows you some time for yourself before you start working.
Tip #2: Get Dressed
If you think working from home will make your life-long dream to work in pajamas a reality, you’re wrong. Staying in pajamas all day will simply make you want to lay on the couch or go back to bed. Thus, it’s important that you dress appropriately (or at least change out of your PJs).
If you don’t want to wear a full-on suit and do your makeup, it’s understandable. Not putting in the effort to get ready is one of the few perks of staying at home because of the coronavirus. We’re not saying to pull out your best clothes.
A good approach is to opt for jeans and a T-shirt. Find a balance that works for you but avoid getting too cozy.
Depending on the nature of your work you might also have video conferences throughout the day. In that case, you might consider upgrading to a more professional shirt depending on your office’s dress code.
Tip #3: Restrict News Access
It’s normal to want to stay updated with what’s going on in the world. However, the media reports every single detail and sometimes exaggerates or misinforms for shock value.
Scrolling down a Twitter feed on high alert simply adds to your panic and won’t help you concentrate on any of your tasks.
So, try to limit the coronavirus-related news to just the morning. Find a few reliable sources to get your information from. We recommend getting situation reports from your local health and safety institution and the World Health Organization.
After you’ve gotten your daily dose of information, don’t tune in for updates until the next morning. You’ll feel better, calmer, and at the same time, get a lot more work done!
Tip #4: Plan Your Day
Planning your day is one of the most important things when working from home. There are many ways you can experiment with your time, but the one that’s proven most efficient when working from home is a method called the zero-based calendar.
A zero-based calendar approach to planning your day is grounded on the belief that every single unaccounted space in your calendar is wasted time. The solution is to leave no space unoccupied. By creating a zero-based calendar you log EVERYTHING you have to do.
Here are some strategies to help you create a zero-based calendar:
- Use a planner, phone/laptop built-in calendar, or a productivity app - whatever works best for you. Specify your calendar one day or one week in advance depending on what suits you.
- Book EVERYTHING you need to do on your calendar, no exceptions. Log in all your tasks: from your morning routine to your night-time routine.
- Set work hours and clear expectations and time frames. Follow them to the best of your abilities.
- Set designated personal time in your calendar. This way you don’t have to compromise for it and you get to have the best of both worlds at home.
- If there are any small blank spaces in your calendar, use them for something that doesn’t require a lot of thinking, like doing chores or watering your plants.
- Schedule time for social media use in between tasks if you have to. Instead of getting distracted every time someone posts an Instagram story, leave your phone on “do not disturb” and only check it during the scheduled intervals.
- Do not underestimate the amount of time you will need to start something. Especially because you are at home, you might get caught up or distracted and might be reluctant to actually start a scheduled task. So be generous with your estimates.
- Reschedule anything that you couldn’t do. It’s okay not to meet all your goals despite putting them in your calendar. An emergency might have popped up or something simply took longer than expected. Simply put it back into the calendar for the next day or at a reasonable time that works with your schedule.
- Constantly reevaluate how you organize your time. With a zero-calendar approach, practice makes perfect. At the end of the day, look at what went right and what went wrong with the way you planned your day. Make sure to repeat what works and change what didn’t.
Tip #5: Figure Out When You’re Most Productive
One of the liberties of working from home is that you can plan out your time in any way you see fit. Although you might take a zero-calendar approach, you will take full control in how you arrange your time.
Some folks work better in the late afternoon while others are early-birds and enjoy mornings. You could work best in 45-minute intervals with breaks in between or three full, uninterrupted hours.
Once you start playing around with your schedule, you can figure out how and when you are most productive and adjust your calendar accordingly.
Tip #6: One Space = One Function
Make sure you have a designated workspace set up with your work computer and any other tools you might need. A good strategy is to arrange your desk at home to resemble your office desk. This way, it will be easier to dive straight into work because the setting will be work-friendly for you.
Don’t work from anywhere else except that space. Working on your bed or couch is a recipe for a snooze-fest. Just like being in your pyjamas, avoid any space you are TOO comfortable in.
And of course, don’t do anything else in your workspace except work. If you eat, get ready, and watch YouTube on the same desk, your brain will be confused and non-obedient when it’s time to be productive.
Tip #7: Don’t Allow Distractions
Almost all the tips so far have been about avoiding distractions in various ways. However, it’s super important to hammer it down: distractions are not allowed.
So what counts as a distraction?
Your phone and the news,for starters. You’ve already taken measures to avoid those. But one distraction that you sometimes can’t control is other people.
If you live with other people, be it your spouse, a domestic partner, children, or roommate, you should let them know in advance that you are working and are not to be disturbed.
Close the door to your workspace and let them in on how you’ve planned your day. This is especially important if you’re in a video-call with coworkers to avoid any unpleasant interruptions.
This, unfortunately, means your pet has to also stay outside of your workspace. Sorry, Skippy. You are scheduled for later.
Tip #8: Stay Healthy
Being confined within a small space, even when that space is your home, can be excruciating. It’s important that you eat well and stay active.
There are plenty of options you can try when it comes to home exercising. Invest in some budget-friendly home equipment like an exercising mat or dumbbells. There are free home exercise or yoga videos available on YouTube. Your local gym might also be putting out some free content online, so stay on the lookout for those.
It’s also important to eat healthily. You can schedule an appropriate time in your calendar to cook some home-made food, but you can also plan and prep your meals in advance if you don’t want to take up too much time during the day.
These might seem like Intro to Being Human 101, but staying healthy is now more important than ever. Not only does staying healthy lower your risk of getting the coronavirus but it also boosts your productivity and eases up unwanted stress.
Tip #9: Listen to Music
One of the best things about working from home is that you get to create your own setting. And what’s better than creating your own work soundtrack?
Create some work-friendly playlists that will boost your mood or find radio stations & playlists ready on YouTube and Spotify. We suggest nothing too lyrical or distracting.
A good idea is to match the music to the type of work you are doing. If you have to write a report, talk to clients, or complete a task that requires a lot of focus, go for lo-fi or classical music.
If you’re crunching numbers, working with spreadsheets, or dealing with code, try something more fun and upbeat to put you in the zone.
Tip #10: Stay Connected to Coworkers
Last, but not least, know that you are not alone. Staying in touch with family members and friends is important, but so is consistently reaching out to coworkers.
Being isolated and at home could make you lose the bigger picture that a physical office provides: you are working with others towards a common goal.
Your coworkers can understand your working situation better than anyone else since they are on the same boat. Make sure you continue to ask for help and feedback through your work’s communication platform.
If you had a favorite coworker you always had lunch or coffee with, reach out to them and have coffee and chat online. Share your frustrations and difficulties that come with working from home during the coronavirus outbreak.
You don’t have to compromise on your relationships and networking because of the quarantine!
Adapting your usual daily routines to a home environment because of the coronavirus comes with quite a few challenges. However, it’s important to stay productive, healthy, and social even when working from home.
Here’s the thing:
There is no clear path or method for productivity. Our tips only give you the tools you need to succeed. The rest is up to you.
Are you willing to set goals and expectations for yourself and succeed in times of high anxiety?
We, at Novorésumé, are rooting for you (from a two-meters distance)!