If working from home is a new normal, it’s time to take another look at ways to enhance productivity and enjoy life more.
To thrive in all areas of your life while working from home, you’ll need an intentional structure of habits and routines that support your best self, which includes using your work time effectively. Also, without the natural separation of work and home that an office location provides, you’ll want to create boundaries purposefully (and often creatively) to avoid negative effects such as chronic frustration, overwhelm, tension in your relationships, and even burnout.
You’ve already implemented some best practices and felt the improvements. Good job!
Like other achievers, you want to know if there are other ways to make life easier and reduce stress, so let’s explore some of my best tips! I’ve been working from home full time since 2008. Like others, I discovered some unexpected challenges along with bonus benefits. I quickly realized I needed to create a structure for myself to be productive, and after I tried many varied simple options and creative solutions, I found a successful groove that allowed me to get more done in less time so I could enjoy more life.
Within a few years I had become a sought-after time management expert. When the pandemic forced so many people to work from home, I was happy to share my knowledge with additional audiences to help save time and frustration in transition. I’ve been thrilled to realize that despite advances in technology the cornerstone habits I’ve been recommending all these years are still relevant for supporting one’s best self while increasing productivity.
A great place to start is to evaluate your level of satisfaction with the Focus-Flow-Freedom Framework:
Let’s tackle Freedom first, because well, what’s life without some freedom?
To enhance freedom, make sure you include “free” (unstructured) time daily instead of leaving it to chance, because when we don’t get enough of this, we can become bitter, burned out, or rebellious. Instead of postponing freedom-enhancing activities for “someday” or pretending you don’t need it, plan it in. This alleviates guilt from taking unplanned time to do whatever you feel like, and as a bonus you can check it off your list!
First, if you’re not doing this already, plan an intentional balance of work and personal time weekly or monthly (depending on work projects and personal needs) and put it all in one calendar so you have a better view of your expectations and potential need to adjust promises (to yourself or others).
Plan in the things that must happen for work as well as “non-negotiables” for personal success. Then put some freedom cushion in between some of the calendar items and consider scheduling a chunk of free time at least weekly.
Beyond adding more free time into your days intentionally, it pays to reflect on your mindset so you can actually enjoy it. Without guilt. Old notions of a perfect house, a successful career, or maybe just how weird it feels to be home during the day – are probably causing you unnecessary stress or feelings of inadequacy. It’s time to let go of old ideas so you can be effective and take pride in your work, as well as take good care of yourself and enjoy life regularly without guilt.
Apply this now: On a scale of 1 (awful) to 10 (great), how would you rate your current level of overall freedom in your life? What could you do to increase your rating by 1-2 points?
Greater productivity comes with an ability to focus and not be disrupted by various additional distractions at home. This is something everyone can master with some creativity and enough practice.
If (like many people) you’re addicted to overstimulation from digital devices or are a master at distracting yourself, you’ll need to ween yourself off these productivity thieves and strengthen your focus muscles by actively using them more often.
First, set yourself up for success by planning the type of work that needs focus into your calendar.
Then to get it done, help yourself stay focused by using a timer and racing the clock. The idea of racing helps you stay tuned into the one thing until the race is over…
Most people do well with 45 minutes for most focus tasks, but only if they set-up well first (take 5 minutes to visit the bathroom, grab some water, put on focus music or white-noise through your earbuds, notify people around you if needed or label yourself “busy,” silence phone and notifications, and have a notepad handy for things you need to remember later). If staying focused feels nearly impossible for you, try 15-20 minutes and practice more often. Ideally work up to 90-minute focus blocks with breaks in between to harness natural human energy cycles.
In addition, to boost your ability to focus on anything, try 5-10 minutes of quiet or guided meditation daily to practice holding your attention. Many people find any type of meditation practice helps settle down anxiety. Try Calm.com or a similar app, or even YouTube.
Apply this now: I challenge you to try these focus practices for just 3 weeks and notice the life-changing benefits!
When something takes you off-course, are you flexible enough to reprioritize and quickly change your plans without getting upset, or is this an area for improvement?
You know that each day you need a plan for what must get done (along with other things you’d like to do). However, you also know that things will pop up, potentially wreaking havoc and leading to feelings of being out of control.
Having the ability to flow with life’s curveballs will help you feel more in control and less overwhelmed. Being flexible enough to adjust your plans will also lessen stress levels.
Caution: Avoid too much go-with-the-flow attitude though, or you’ll find your time is sucked up by low-value tasks.
A daily best practice is to identify the most important 1-3 task(s) and to do them first before getting sucked into email or other activities that lessen productivity. This allows you to complete high-value tasks every day, regardless of whatever chaos hits later in the day.
When it comes to various opportunities that pop up in your day, seek to balance a disciplined approach with a willingness to change plans only when it makes sense. If needed, you can swap a few appointments and time-blocks on your calendar without feeling bad, letting others down, or missing out on what’s important. Sometimes a little creativity is all that’s needed to get more to-do’s done than you initially thought.
Apply this now: Ask yourself my favorite questions for making the best decision in the moment.
1. What is the best use of my time right now?
2. How can I?
A simple example might be deciding to spend an extra 90-minutes on a work task, balanced with a shorter workout (instead of skipping it), and adjusted meal with loved ones over takeout (instead of time in the kitchen). Then, if possible, this extra 90-minutes can flow the other direction, such as sleeping in and a longer workout tomorrow.
As you evaluate your quality of life and effectiveness in work, and reflect on some of these creative options for enhancing your work from home experience, which will you try first?
Stay tuned for additional tips for mastering productivity, resilience, and engaging remote teams in our Remote Working series, and ask us about including this content in your upcoming event!
Heather Legge, Senior Training Specialist, is passionate about sharing priceless skills that every trainer and presenter needs to cut through unnecessary distractions and fully capture and inspire audiences!