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Productively working from home - flexibility and structure

Working from home sounds very attractive, but it does carry with it its own challenges. If you are not completely prepared to work from home, things can become highly unproductive and full of distractions. It is all about creating a balance between flexibility and structure.

Productivity

Do

Actions to take

  • Set a goal for the day
  • Create a todo list
  • Create rules for yourself
  • Keep a note to write things that interrupt you

Remember

Expanded perspective

You are away from distractions of co-workers, you are less likely to be called into an impromptu meeting or engage in an interesting conversation about your favorite sports team. You are making up extra hours by saving up on the commute time. So, these arguments are promising enough to make working from home productive. In this post, we will look at some of the tips to make working from home productive and enjoyable.

Start with a plan

Create a daily goal. Have a clear and simple goal for the day, be it focusing on one important client project or making progress on your personal project. This will help you set a clear intent for the day. Even if some random plans come in the way, you will have clarity over accepting or denying it and your choice will be solely driven by your goal for the day.

Create priorities and make sure that you are focused on your goal for the day. If your goal for the day is to make progress on your personal project, you can set priorities like, getting clarity on the name of the project or making a list of people who can help you make your project successful.

This is almost like setting a theme for your day and the earlier you do it, the more control you will start to feel about your day. Everything you do today revolves around your goal for the day. So even at the end of the day, if you are unproductive, you know what one thing you can do to get closer to that goal.

Block your calendar or structure your day

Once you have a plan in place, block time in your calendar and if you are not a calendar person, just create a simple todo list. The todo list will help you stay on track and keep it simple, you don’t need to have a sophisticated system. You can use an app like Todoist (which is one of my favorites) to manage tasks or you can go with a sheet of paper. Make sure that your todo list is driven by your priorities for the day.

Having these three layers of goals, priorities, and tasks will help you break things down to specifics. Your tasks will be actionable and doable chunks of your priorities. And your priorities will be the breakdown of your goal.

The important thing is to create a structure for your day. Having a clear structure will help reduce decision making while starting work and you will limit your brain from getting distracted. You can also keep the distractions away by making them difficult to access. You can use something like the 20-second rule to limit distractions.

Force yourself if you need to (you will need to)

It is highly likely that you will struggle to focus at times. It is perfectly fine (and normal) to get distracted, the important part is to get back on track. You can get sucked into distractions and feel that you are not good at focusing on work at home or you can mindfully start with work as soon as you find yourself distracted.

Force yourself while working from home

You will end up being more productive working from home if you choose the latter. The most conflicting part of focusing is, we don’t let ourselves focus. We don’t let ourselves work on a single task for long stretches of time, which is very important to getting work done productively.

You can try the Pomodoro technique to force yourself to sit in one place for a particular amount of time and focus on one task. It is simple and straight forward, just follow these steps:

  1. Pick a task.
  2. Set 25 minutes (you can choose the time duration) timer.
  3. Work on the task you picked and don’t stop until the timer goes off.

One simple thing you can try is keeping a notebook or a sheet of paper or a sticky note right in front of you. As soon as you feel distracted and an urge to do something else, just write it down and keep it for later. By doing this, you will not interrupt what you are currently working on and you can come back to that list later to get those small things done.

Create rules and follow them

Working from home needs some self-discipline and being disciplined can be a very vague term to start with. You can try to be disciplined but that won’t matter until you have certain rules to be disciplined about. 

It is very difficult to get back on track after you are distracted by something, be it watching a series or a call from a friend. Set a few guidelines for yourself and have them in a place where you can refer to them easily. For eg., your rules for the weekdays can look something like this

  • Cannot watch more than 1 episode of any TV series
  • No social media between 10 am to 8 pm
  • Write something in the morning for at least 30 mins
  • And so on…

You don’t have to strictly follow them every single day and stick with all of them even when you are not feeling good. Just make sure most days are within these rules and a few off days are fine.

Set a start and stop time

Working from home needs some self-discipline and being disciplined can be a very vague term to start with. You can try to be disciplined but that won’t matter until you have certain rules to be disciplined about. 

It is very difficult to get back on track after you are distracted by something, be it watching a series or a call from a friend. Set a few guidelines for yourself and have them in a place where you can refer to them easily. For eg., your rules for the weekdays can look something like this

  • Cannot watch more than 1 episode of any TV series
  • No social media between 10 am to 8 pm
  • Write something in the morning for at least 30 mins
  • And so on…

You don’t have to strictly follow them every single day and stick with all of them even when you are not feeling good. Just make sure most days are within these rules and a few off days are fine.

Take away

Working from home does come with its own challenges, but with just a little bit of self-discipline and planning, it can be highly productive. You don’t have to get a lot of things done to be productive while working from home, you just need to make sure you are doing the right things at the right time.

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