Don’t work from bed.
You want your bed to be a place of peace and calm, not work stress.
Liz Grossman Kitoyi
The situation we are in right now, the pandemic and our so-called “new normal”, has made some drastic changes to the global work scenario. Many global employers opt for work-from-home to save our economy from a new depression. Little did we know that we’d be facing a slightly different depression.
Yes, I know, working from home sounds peachy. You avoid traffic and colleagues you dislike, you don’t have to dress up and you can literally work in your PJs, you can eat whenever you want and whatever you want. On paper, it’s all rainbows and butterflies, and this remote work comes with great perks.
There is just one thing though, most of us are not very good at it. Most of us find it incredibly hard – distractions. We spend our time fighting distractions and feeling guilty for losing that battle. We’ve all been there, including me. However, let’s all take a breath. I’m going to share with you some tips and tricks that have helped me through these challenging times in our lives.
One of my biggest challenges as someone who loves their colleagues was the lack of social interaction. I mean, we try. We really do. We even have virtual hangouts and remote lunches to stay connected. But it’s not enough now, is it? My coffee breaks are with myself and I, and there is no queue at the water cooler to strike up a conversation about the weather. But it’s not just me. Airtasker reports 70% of people rank work social relationships as important as getting the work done. Working from home minimizes the amount of social interaction.
All this leads to obstacles when sharing information. This is especially hard on the newbies. Even the easiest question becomes turmoil and creates stressful situations. According to the New York Times, the hardest part of working from home is loneliness and lack of social interaction.
Additionally, you might have a similar situation as my own – children. The kids see that you are at home which means only one thing – it’s playtime! Let’s just say it’s the perfect recipe for a total breakdown.
So I decided to make a list of what I’ve learned and discovered in this past year. These are some effective ways to manage working from home.
- Make Your Bed
I sound like your mother, don’t I? But mothers are sometimes right, you know.
This is probably the last thing you want to do early in the morning. You just want to get your hands on that cup of coffee and get on with it. Well, that sounds great, but in reality, it is not. According to this survey, if you spend an extra minute or two fluffing your pillows in the morning, you’ll be more productive.
One of my favorite entrepreneurs, Tim Ferriss, claims that making your bed in the morning gives you some kind of an accomplishment, and no matter what you do during the day, there is that one thing you were able to finish.
Admiral William H. McRaven had a thing to say on the matter during his speech at the University of Texas at Austin. “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
And let’s be honest, a tidy bed looks and feels better than a messy one.
- Create Working Space In Your Home
Yeah I know, we don’t all live in huge apartments and have separate office space to work. That would be a dream…However, not all is lost. I’m sure we can all find some corner in our apartment and use it as a working space. I believe it is crucial to avoid making the bed our working area. So try setting up a desk, or if impossible, try using your dining table as a desk when you are working from home. Recently, I was amused to see Under-Secretary-General Melissa Fleming turning her ironing board into a desk. She says she likes this because she can move it into different rooms, change scenery and perspective. How brilliant is that?!
So just get creative and make a daily motivating workspace at home because it is vital for your productivity and focus.
- Poor Air Quality
The main reason why you should maintain good air quality is that it can help you stay healthy. Also, poor air quality can have a negative impact on your mood and cognitive abilities. It can cause you to experience fatigue, mood swings, depression, and loss of concentration, resulting in lower productive efficiency. But, worry not. You can take some simple steps to improve the air quality: open a window, use an air purifier, turn on your AC (but only if your filters have been cleaned), put some house plants that purify the indoor air. Now, breathe!
- Plan, Plan, And Plan
Working from home also means setting some boundaries. As the saying goes, “Good fences make good neighbors”. That means try to fence off your work area and the amount of time you spend at work because that can help pump up your productivity. Have a schedule for when it’s time to work and when it’s time to rest. Add in time to disconnect from technology so you can spend time with the people around you and rest with more quality.
Make sure to make a plan with daily tasks so that you can keep track of your time. Add in breaks where you’ll rest or take quick walks. Reward yourself and refresh your mind.
I started the habit of planning things ahead even when I was going to the office. It works wonders, especially when working from home. What I love to do is before finishing my working day, I create this to-do list for the next day, and voila – I’m on track! It gives me a structure I try to follow, helps me be more focused, and saves me time when I start working the following day.
The section below gives you some insights into what I think works when trying to organize your work and manage your time.
- Use The Right Tools to Increase Productivity.
Some of you probably still use paper and pen however, I think it’s time to step up your game. After all, juggling between multiple projects, tasks, social media, etc. is not for the faint-hearted.
Trust me, you’ll need this if you want to delegate work, track tasks progress, set deadlines and schedules, and so much more.
So let’s get the ball rolling.
If you have a team who you work with, you’ll probably need an app that will connect you all. Of course, my all-time favorite is Chanty. It’s more than just a communication tool with team members. You can have group chats, audio, and video calls, voice messaging, etc. Also, you can turn a text message into a task with only one click. Yes, you heard that right. No more need of using separate apps for communication and task management.
And I know we all hate Mondays, but I’m sure you are going to love this Monday app. It offers calendars, boards, and tracking. There are many other similar apps as well, you just need to try them out and see which one suits you best.
Now, this is all fun and games if we can focus on our work. But what happens when we are trying to prevent ourselves from using social media? We convince ourselves that we just want to check if we have any new messages, and half an hour later we are doing online shopping for kitchen appliances we didn’t even know existed.
It took me way too long to write this article because of the fear I’d miss out on something important happening in the world right now. What I and probably many of you social addicts need is some kind of blockers for our social media. Luckily, we are not alone in this need, so apps like these already exist to help us out. After all, there is no harm in trying, right?
Let’s start with my favorite, Flipd. I say “favorite” because there is no going back from this one. No way José! What I mean is that once you block your apps using Flipd you cannot change your mind. It sounds extreme, but we need it don’t we?
So this is all great for your phone distractions, but we have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter on our computers as well. No worries, there are apps for that too.
And if you’re not using a screenshot and annotation tool yet, give Markup Hero a try. Add annotation like arrows, text, callouts, highlights and more to your screenshots. Or markup images, PDF’s, website links, Google Docs and more. Plus, their Slack integration is pretty slick. Cool right?
One of the biggest challenges I mentioned earlier was communication. The face-to-face talks are gone and replaced by emails and chat rooms, which is a bit time-consuming, to be frank. Also, we are bombarded with information we don’t necessarily need. I’m in some email threads by coworkers I don’t even know (don’t tell), nor I know why I’m CCd in the first place. My point is, I know it’s good to stay in the loop, but sometimes it can be too much.
What I would suggest for increasing productivity is to use only one communication platform and have all your coworkers in one place. As I mentioned earlier you can do this with Chanty, you can try it out for free. Limit your communication channels as much as possible. Also, make it clear. If your coworkers are not sitting next to you, it can get confusing without that clear communication.
However, it’s good to socialize with your coworkers even if it’s online. It’s a lot easier to ask questions to people you know, than people you don’t right? So get to know them if you haven’t already, or if you have, try to stay in touch.
Try to have virtual hangouts or do some online courses together, or an online yoga perhaps? Anyways, you know what I mean. It sounds like you are escaping work, but trust me, there is a greater purpose here. We are bonding and having fun. We are not robots after all.
Ah yes, the family. As I said earlier, I love my kids but it’s been a ride. What I did was setting some ground rules for everyone in my house. I told them I’m not here to play or socialize. I need to work and I need them to act like I don’t exist (naturally, this doesn’t always turn out the way I want it). I usually lock myself in one room and pretend I am not there. Very often I work late at night when the children go to sleep as I find myself more focused. I also get help from my babysitter, but if you can’t do that, ask someone to help around. If you and your partner have flexible hours, try and schedule different working hours. Basically see what works best for you. I have a friend that leaves the house every day for work, kisses the children, says goodbye, and then climbs back through the window. How clever is that?!
But if this is not an option for you, you shouldn’t worry too much. Working from home with children playing in the background is the new normal. Just invest in some good headphones. Getting a headset with a noise-canceling microphone and mute button is helpful to block out testy children and dogs during calls. You’ll thank me later.
Be nice to yourself. This has been a hard time for everyone, and we don’t expect to be perfect at handling the situation. Take one step at a time and find your own balance. Use the tips I gave you, but also create your own that will work for you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. What has worked for you? Have you tried implementing some of my ideas?