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The number of telecommuters in the nation exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite management’s wishes for people to return to the office, many workers have put their collective foot down, preferring more time in their schedule to pollution-creating commutes.
Working from your couch has numerous advantages, but you also need to stay on top of your duties. Here are five tips for becoming more productive at home.
1. Create a Schedule
You’ve heard the old cliche about failing to plan, right? You no longer have a boss hanging over your shoulder telling you what to do and when. You need to brush up on your time management skills, pronto.
Your first step is to select a planner. It doesn’t matter if you prefer an app or an old-fashioned paper model as long as you choose one method and stick to it.
Then, sit down every Sunday and plot your week. Include time estimates for each task. If necessary, you can adjust these later, but they provide a guideline for future scheduling needs. Each evening before you end work for the day, review your to-do list for the following morning, making allowances for delays if necessary.
2. Eat Your Frog
What does it mean to eat your frog? It means that you should tackle your most unpleasant or brainpower-consuming task first thing — the rest of your day will seem like smooth sailing.
Note that this rule means doing the toughest job, not necessarily the one that eats up the most of your time. For example, part of your daily duties might entail copying figures into a spreadsheet. This work might be laborious but require little more brainpower than pushing the right computer keys.
Instead, save chores that don’t require much mental muscle for the end of the day. It’s also wise to schedule meetings in the afternoon rather than first thing in the morning when everyone is still settling in for the day.
3. Eliminate Distractions
The good news is that you no longer have a boss looking over your shoulder, telling you to stop scrolling Twitter and get to work. The bad news is that social media and other distractions can eat up hours of your day before you know it. Furthermore, you might have to contend with your partner and children interrupting you throughout the day.
Solve your first problem by turning off your cellphone during work hours. If that’s not possible — for example if you want to keep it on so your kids can contact you — lock it in a drawer. Silence your ringer for all calls, allowing only those from your priority contacts by using this setting in your “do not disturb” function.
What about your toddler interrupting you during critical Zoom meetings? Some distractions are inevitable, especially if you’re a single parent. However, you can also create a signal. If you have a dedicated home office, hang a “do not disturb” sign on your door. If you share space, don a special “thinking cap” or blazer that indicates to loved ones that you need quiet, please.
4. Make Yourself Comfortable
Office life is rough. You have to go with whatever chair your HR department provides and contend with the lovely aroma of your cubicle mate’s leftover salmon they nuked for lunch.
Sweet freedom is yours when you work from home — but it’s up to you to create the most productive office environment. Make it comfortable and suited to your specific needs.
Do you have a bad back? Some people find considerable relief with variable-height desks that allow you to move from sitting to standing throughout the day. Others prefer inflatable fitness balls, at least for the occasional break.
The invisible pulsing from overhead fluorescent lights can drive migraine patients buggy in standard offices. Make your lighting work for you. If you need it dimmer, go for it. Compact LED bulbs last longer, saving you money and helping the planet. Plus, they come in fun colors. Who said you couldn’t see your home office through a rosy tint?
Are you an aromatherapy fan? You no longer have to worry about complaints from your neighbors. Bust out the citrusy scents for boosting energy or lavender for calming down on hectic days.
5. Schedule Breaks
Human beings simply weren’t designed to work without a break. You’ll be less productive and end up burned out and frustrated.
Instead, give the Pomodoro Technique a try. This method involves setting a timer for 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break when it sounds. After three or four of these work-rest periods, you take a longer pause for 30 to 60 minutes.
How to Be More Productive at Home
If you’re one of the many people working from home permanently, you need to create the ideal environment for getting your work done. Managing distractions and interruptions and staying on task become your challenges — not your boss.
Follow the five tips for becoming more productive at home. You’ll impress your boss despite the distance between you.
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