Leaping from corporate America to becoming a self-employed professional, I quickly learned my success depends on being able to be productive. As a communicator and leadership coach, my work is often critical, time-sensitive, and requires balancing multiple priorities. Plus, I work from home and balance when I have to share my space with my husband or young sons suddenly, like during the current school closings over COV-19. So over the last three years, I've set boundaries, implemented systems, and changed my habits to make it work. Now, with employers encouraging more people to work from home, I'm sharing my top tips to focus so you can demonstrate your productivity by increasing your output during uncertain times.
If you're hoping to continue to work remotely or want to stay on track with your career goals, this article is for you. Now's the perfect time to set your expectations of what it means to work from home and be productive.
Set your ideal schedule. You're free! Congratulations on taking back control of your time. Now, you decide when you're sick and when you're ready to pull an all-nighter. That means if you aren't reaching your productivity peak during the 9-to-5 schedules, make adjustments. Don't get stuck trying to do what you've always done at home. It simply won't work. Today is a new day and you'll need to figure out what works for you. Maybe you worked remotely before kids or in a different role, be prepared to be flexible and kind to yourself. Each day is a chance to learn a new skill or adapt to a new habit.
Many working parents find that they're most productive in the early morning hours of 5 am to 12 pm. Or, if you do your best work at night, once everyone is asleep, shift those sleepless nights into money-making hours by cranking out some work.
Define your "working hours." If you are new to working at home, you're likely dreading the risk of family members popping into your office to chat. Make it clear that when you're working, non-urgent interruptions can be written down or wait until your next break.
Have activities for kids to do. Scholastic is offering free learning programs while schools are closed. For more information visit. https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html
Hang an "IN A MEETING" sign on your office door to limit interruptions when you are on a call or video conference.
Own your energy! Most days, I wake up between 4-5 am to write and start my day before my kids start to make more noise. The positive is finishing important actions by 9 pm.
If you work from home, but your office is in a high traffic area, try noise-blocking headphones to eliminate the sounds around you. Be sure to let people know if you expect a dog to bark or the door to ring. If you can, use a curtain or a bookshelf to maximize your privacy and separate your space.
Do your self-care first. Don't get stuck laying around unwashed and avoiding your routine all day. Before opening up your work email, make sure you move, have fun, and keep your mind sharp to maintain an appropriate workflow. Your body and mind deserve to be happy too.
Plus, making time for yourself will give you more energy to tackle your to-do list without resenting what you're missing. It's easy to sacrifice sleep when you can work 24/7 but give yourself 6-8 hours each night.
Include movement in your morning routine to do something for yourself before work starts. Moving your body will give you an energy jolt that's better than coffee, and boosts your mood with no crash later.
Schedule your social time. Extroverts, it’s important to plan time to connect with others. While it’s tempting to completely dissolve into sweatpants constantly checking your accounts multiple times each hour. Especially with the rapid news of COV-19, it can be easy to get distracted continuously by news alerts and panic. Make a plan to overcome the isolation of remote work by participating in Facebook Groups and Slack channels but set a time limit. Social media is never an acceptable reason to miss a deadline or a meeting.
Use your phone's screen time limits to set the number of times you allow yourself to check your social media messages each day. Set alerts to breakthrough if there's important news but ignore the rest.
Set a time to check for new messages in the morning, during lunch, and in the evening before bedtime. That way, social networking stays a hobby instead of becoming your day job, unless, of course, you manage social media.
Organize, beautify, and sanitize your workspace. Take pride in where you work. Starting your day off on in a junky, dirty office can set a negative tone and cause a mental block that can delay your productivity by several hours. Make sure that your work surface is clutter-free and that any unnecessary paperwork filed away. Reduce your paperwork and environmental impact by scanning files, shredding originals, and storing essential documents in file cabinets or bookcases.
Having a home office can be a difficult boundary to maintain if you have kids or pets. Before you leave your office for the day, take a few minutes to clean up, file paperwork, and reset for the next day. Taking five minutes of maintenance every day can make a big difference in the peace and confidence you feel as you start each new workday.
Be the boss you wish you had. End your day with gratitude. Take a few deep breaths while you review your vision board. Then leave a note to yourself with a list of 3 things you did well to start your day with love tomorrow.
Set yourself up for success. When you're on a three-hour video chat, it's easy to let your mind wander. Eliminate as many distractions as possible. Close your email and use software to block websites that are known to limit your productivity like Facebook. I use the do not disturb feature on my phone to automatically ignore calls that are not related to my business during work hours.
Let friends and family know that calls during business hours should be brief if they don't relate to your business. Set your alarm to limit conversations to 5 minutes and save them for once you've completed your priority tasks.
Don't feel obligated to stop and answer the phone all the time. It's perfectly acceptable to send a business call to voicemail and return the call at your next break. Save time by directing people to use email as your main point of contact.
In my experience, a 15-minute conversation could be reduced to one or two concise emails back and forth. Even better if it's something simple like scheduling that can be automated. Think smarter not harder. Answer frequently asked questions on your voicemail.
Bundle your work into 45 -90-minute batches. Most leaders find it best to work in shorter bursts to give you time to focus and finish a task. However long your attention span allows you to work through this time without any bathroom breaks, phone calls, or time-wasting Web surfing.
· After completing your spurt, take a short five to ten-minute break. To avoid mindless snacking, limit your eating outside of designated breaks. Avoid heavy foods that make you sleepy or drinking alcohol during working hours.
Take more breaks. Once you get started on a project, it can be easy to lose track of time and forget about breaks. Instead, set your alarm for a five-minute break every hour in order. Short, regular breaks to rest your eyes, stretch your hands, and stand up are essential to staying alert and productive while supporting your work and your overall health.
Close your computer and stretch to prevent repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel, backaches, and eyestrain.
Consider your posture. If you have to hunch your back to reach your small desk, back pain and discomfort will eventually catch up with you. Furnish your office with a desk and chair that are the right height for you.
Fresher, neutral solid tones are ideal wall colors for an office area. I love blues because it promotes practical thinking and soothes your eyes. What will your coworkers remember about your office space on video conferencing?
See yourself differently. You have an incredible opportunity to shift the way you operate, communicate, and motivate yourself to increase your productivity each day.
It starts by being clear about the problem you're solving. Focus your mind on how great your client will feel once you finish your current project or batch of work is complete. Imagine your rewards. You're getting paid to do your best work in your best environment. How will you treat yourself and recognize when you have a win?
Remind yourself of the pride of your progress by placing uplifting, positive, and motivational sayings around your office to encourage you. Join me on Facebook Live with my fellow entrepreneur, mother, author of "Side Hustle to Main Hustle" Angel N. Livas on Tuesdays at 1 pm CST/2 pm EST for Office Hours.
As a leader, you can function at maximum capacity. You have control of your time, and these suggestions will help you to make the most of your daily opportunity to make a living doing your work at home. Choose one or more of these ideas today and begin to experience the personal, business, and financial success you deserve.