During this Covid-19 global pandemic many people found themselves having to work from home due to lockdown measures put in place by various governments across the world. For some, this is probably a very big change which requires a lot of adjustments. I have been working from home for a while now and in this post I will share some of the things that help me maximise my productivity while avoiding burn-outs, which were very common when I started working from home.
When I started working from home I had a very hard time adjusting. One of the greatest fears I had was that people might think I’m not working hard enough so I wanted to make sure that I work hard enough. This subconscious fear led me to working for longer hours with little rest which left me so drained by the end of the day. This was not healthy and it had a negative impact on other things that I enjoy doing. I needed to change the way I did things so I started doing some research. After trying different approaches, I finally found something that works for me. I will talk about things that helped me improve the way I worked.
1. Plan Ahead
It is very important to plan your day and write down what you need to do. This will help you prioritise what you need to do and also help with time management. If you don’t have a plan for what you want to do during a particular day you may find yourself working on things that are not very important which may disappoint you when you look back at the end of the day.
I had such frastrations initially. I would wake up so pumped up to work and started doing things as they came in my mind. At the end of the day I would be so exhausted but when I looked back at what I had done I’d find out most of the things I did were not very important. Guilt would then set in and I would work over-time to try and at least do something ‘important’. So how and when do you make the plan?
Personally, I try to write down things that need to be done during the next day at the end of the previous day or first thing in the morning on the day. I write down a lot of things and then revise the list, removing those that are not as urgent until I’m left with a very short list of 4 to 6 items that I think are very important, urgent and can be completed within the day. In addition, I try and estimate how long each task might take so I can have a faily good view of how my day will look like. At the end of the day I review what I did during the day and if there are outstanding tasks I add them to next day’s list.
2. Find Your Peak Performance Times
Almost everyone has a period during the day when their performance is at the maximum. This is the period where you need to do those tasks that require maximum concentration. Personally, my brain works at its peak between 7:00 AM and 12:00 PM so I try to allocate this time to tasks that are urgent (or hard) and need me to pay maximum attention. As the day progresses and I’m getting a little tired I then turn my attention to the ‘easy’ tasks that don’t require as much effort and concentration.
3. Try The Pomodoro Technique
I first heard of this technique from Steve Smith (aka Ardalis)’s podcast when a guest speaker was sharing tips on working from home. I was fascinated by it so I decided to do some research and try it out. So what is the Pomodoro technique? It is a time management method that involves working in short time intervals (pomodoros), usually 25-30 minutes, seperated by short breaks of 5 minutes. After 4 or 5 pomodoros you then take a longer break of 25 to 30 minutes and repeat the process. It is very important to be 100% focused for those 25-30 minutes with no distractions at all.
To achieve this I usually put my phone on
do not disturb mode. At the end of a pomodoro I then check if there are notifications that I need to attend to. I make exceptions though in case there is an important work call so I set my
do not disturb mode to allow notifications from certain individuals. It is also very important that during the breaks you move away from your work station and do something different.
This discovery changed my life. All of a sudden I was not as exhausted at the end of the day and I could get more things done. If you haven’t tried it yet I encourage you to give it a shot and see how it goes. I use an app that combines planning and the Pomodoro technique.
In this post I spoke about ways to improve productivity while working from home and avoid overworking yourself. The techniques mentioned in this post may not work for you but I decided to share them in case someone might find them helpful. It has been a difficult post for me to write since there’s nothing technical – I enjoy talking about technical things. Like always, thanks so much for taking your time to read. If you’re reading this during the Covid-19 pandemic please be safe and observe social distancing.