Like many working from home seems to be a perfect dream, waking up at your preferred time, following a morning yoga routine, making yourself a cup of coffee, and get ready for a productive and fruitful day.
That might be how we visualize working from home should be
But that’s not the case for me. This is how it looks. Overslept because I forgot to set my alarm, too lazy for a morning exercise.
What’s even worse is how we can stay focused with so many distractions and temptation with no one looking over our shoulders. Whether it is mandatory or it’s by choice, working from home is probably the best thing to do now.
I know it might be something worth celebrating since we don’t have to face our boss, waste our time on the commute.
Wait I’ve been working from home since last year. This is gonna be a challenge because we are forcing 2 aspects of our life, work, and personal life, to coexist under the same roof.
I’m not a pro in productivity like Thomas Frank, but I’ve been working from home since last year, so let me share with you guys some of the methods I’ve been using and also the steps that I want to implement in my home working environment, and I hope that can help you too.
Let’s start with the first:
1. Get Prepared
I know a lot of people have recommended that to work equally as productive as working from the office, we have to dress for success. Dress as if you were to work in your office. I think this can work well if you are not used to working at home.
Don’t have to be fancy just get off your Pajamas because they are comfortable solely for sleeping, and now it’s time to get uncomfortable and start your day. And honestly, I don’t do that, I don’t even have pajamas. It can be sweltering and humid in Singapore, sometimes I’ll do my work half-naked. No the other half. I’m a minimalist. What do you expect?
Okay jokes aside, my room is a human-sized oven during the day. But even though I don’t dress myself up for work, I believe that we need to prepare our minds to get it started.
Get prepared by refreshing yourself with a cool bath that always keeps me energized all the time. Until when I’m back at my workspace.
2. The ideal workspace.
This is only the fun part, getting yourself prepared with your workspace and that depends on your personal preference.
I prefer a normal waist height table and a chair. Nothing fancy, but I do wish to have a standing desk that I can adjust whenever I want it.
That can fight off my sleepiness in the afternoon and also improve my posture. Make sure you have sufficient light because a dark environment can make us lethargic and also strain our eyes, just keep the darkness for the time when you are asleep.
For my working desk, it’s right in front of my window so I’ll receive a good amount of natural light. And if I need to light my space, I have a lamp at the side.
3. Remove all clutters
I’m a disorganized person yet I hate the mess, so I’ll have to clear all the redundant things off my desk every time I start my work so I can focus on the current task.
I’ll take some time to tidy up before I begin and also when I’m done with the day. But the fact that my working desk is also my living space makes it hard to maintain, things seem to appear on the table randomly.
4. Prepare our necessity
Why necessity you might ask. That can prevent us from wasting time from walking around, whether it is to have a drink or to indulge ourselves with snacks.
These actions can cause death by a thousand cuts, wasting a few mins a time can lead to hours wasted in the long run or even days.
So I’ll keep whatever is needed for the task on my desk, and all I need to survive within these few hours is just a 1-liter bottle and the only time I need to leave my seat is when I’m out of the water,
which I’ll only drink up to 3 liters a day, and also when I need to let the water go. We are done with the prep,
now It’s important to have separation during this period. I have to admit I’m not doing this very well. Because my workspace, fun space and sleep space is in the same room.
Sometimes it’s so easy to start playing games or jump back to bed. It will be ideal if I can split these 3 aspects of my life into 3 different locations, to have the friction to stop me from doing what I’m not supposed to, but space is always a constraint.
So instead of blaming on things, we can’t change, why not focus on those things that we can make a difference.
6. Dealing with distractions.
There are unlimited amounts of distractions when you are working from home. Even the most boring item that will never catch your eyes before seems so interesting. (precious).
Every tiny chore seems to be an emergency and we have to settle it right now before we start our work. It’s a battle I need to fight every day due to my short attention span.
If you can do your work without any digital technology, that’s a great way to protect and prevent yourself from distractions, but that’s not how the 21st century works.
None of us can do that. If we have to work with our computers, make sure we clear all redundant tabs and applications. If the phone is not needed for our work, put it somewhere far from our reach, or even make the process uncomfortable if you have to use it that will create friction.
If you are like me, somehow you have to use youtube for research and inspiration purposes, we all know that youtube is a dangerous wormhole, it’s the enemy of productivity because they know what we like and what we would want to watch based on our daily usage.
One way for us to make it work is by logging out from our account so we are not tempted by videos from the recommended page.
Or we can use what I called “the wishlist” strategy. That’s a strategy I use to push back impulsive purchases by writing it down on a notebook, the step of noting it down delays our impulsive action.
Similarly, we can use this strategy to curb distraction, by using the youtube “watch later” function, we make an action which can delay the impulse and also watch it later when we are having a break, it acts as a reward for us after all the hard work.
Other than a digital distraction, One of my bad habits is to check on my plants every time I need to start working, and other random chores start popping up in my head, prompting me that I need to do it now.
For example, cleaning my room or the things in my room. The Wishlist Strategy works well with this distraction too. We can do it by writing them down to our to-do list instead of doing it right away and obstructing our workflow.
7. Pomodoro technique
This can be further aided by the Pomodoro technique created by Francesco Cirillo, how it works is by giving ourselves 25 mins of undistracted and focused work and then reward yourself with a 5 min break.
Any timer will work perfectly fine, I used an egg timer previously to lessen my contact with my phone, but sometimes I still pick up without realizing my action.
And recently I’ve purchased an app called “forest” and it works the same as the Pomodoro technique where we set a duration which we want to focus on our work, during this period it grows a virtual tree and if you decide to exit the app and use it for other functions, the virtual tree it will start to wilt.
This helps a lot to limit me from using my phone. You can even use it on google chrome by blacklisting certain websites.
I love this app, because it implements fun into boring work, and in the long run you can build your forest-based on how focused we are with our work. It works perfectly for me because I love to turn to my phone for short escapism
even when I’m doing work. I don’t usually spend money on any apps and this is the first app that I paid for and it helped a lot with my productivity.
However, there’s another free app called Mars Craft. Similar concept, however, the paid version with statistics is slightly too pricey for my liking and I just can’t say no to plants and forest theme, they are just more relatable.
A good way to have work-life balance is by adopting the 888 rule by splitting work, fun, and sleep equally into 8 hours each.
9. The rule of 3rd
To make full use out of these working hours, we need to have a well-planned to-do list. I’ll like to have the 3 most important tasks for my to-do list.
It’s simple and straightforward so it’s more likely we can complete them because we are not overwhelmed by it and it acts as a filter to remove unimportant tasks from our to-do list.
10. Cut down the time
Make it minimal so we can solely focus on the most important task. To achieve more, cut down the time for us to complete a certain task.
Parkinson’s Law states that “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” And I truly believe that work must be done next week, it’ll be done next week.
If the same work must be done tomorrow, it’ll be done tomorrow. A project can take forever if you give yourself forever.
And not to mention the law of diminishing returns, because sometimes, the more effort you put in does not equate to the same return you will receive from the result.
As important as being productive while working from home, our recreational time has to be well spent too.
For workaholics, it’s just a fine line between work and life and we need to set boundaries for our rest time because it’s so easy for us to get back to work when we are resting.
So that’s how I work from home and keep myself productive. I know there are other productivity strategies and methods we can use when we are working from home.
How do you do it? How do you keep yourself productive without anyone starring over your shoulder? Maybe I can implement it in my work from home routine.