Stay Productive While Working From Home

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Working from home always sounded so blissful. Then, I tried it outside of my dreams, in my actual life, with a toddler, three dogs, a few door-to-door salesmen, and a neighbor who loves his lawnmower. Let’s just say things didn’t go as planned that first work-from-home day.

Over the years, things have gotten better. Like many professionals, working from home on occasion is a luxury my employer provides. Sometimes, bad weather keeps us home. Other times, it’s a sick child or a home service appointment. Regardless of the why, working from home is part of the modern work landscape, and it takes a certain amount of practice to get good at it. After all, how can you stay productive when no one is there to hold you accountable?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve asked that question of our team here at BGW. They were more than willing to share their suggestions.

Here are our top 5 tips for successfully working from home:

  1. Pretend like you’re going to the “office office”.
    When we work from home, we have a tendency to roll out of bed, linger over coffee, browse social media for far too long, and then try to get to work while still wearing our pajamas. When lunchtime rolls around, we’re rifling through the fridge trying to decide what to eat. Resist the temptation to work like that! Instead, act like you’re actually going to work in the corporate office.

    Set your alarm the night before, and make your lunch for the next day. Come morning, drink your coffee, eat your breakfast, hit the shower, and put on real clothes. Do whatever you would normally do if you were going into work. Dive into the day early, before you allow sluggishness and procrastination to wear away your motivation.

    Next, structure your day. Get to work in a “work” space — a home office or desk you can mentally associate with working. Don’t curl up on the edge of your couch and expect a productive day. Create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears, take breaks, and start on new tasks. Tools like Google Calendar can help. So can the oven timer. Be creative!


  2. Utilize technology to keep you focused.

    There are a million and one tools for teleconferencing, video conferencing, project sharing, and the like. That’s not the technology I’m talking about here (though it is supremely useful).

    Did you know that Internet browsers like Google Chrome allow you to set up multiple accounts with different toolbars on the top — for example, a toolbar for home and a separate toolbar for work? By customizing your toolbars for work and personal use, you’ll be able to add the shortcuts you need to stay productive (any web-based applications you use regularly for work) and delete the ones that steal your attention. I’m talking to you, Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest/Amazon/YouTube…

    If customized toolbars don’t keep you off social networks, you might consider working in a private window (Chrome calls this working “incognito”) to ensure you stay signed out of all social media accounts and that autocomplete doesn’t derail your web searches.

  3. Identify your most productive times.

    One of our teammates does his best thinking, he says, around 9 p.m., when the small tasks of the day are behind him and he can devote all of his headspace to the harder projects in life. I look at him like he’s crazy when he says this. My best time is first thing in the morning — before anyone else is up — and when I am fully rested. I’m a morning person. He’s a night owl. Others in the office are after-lunch rockstars. Everyone is different. Which one are you?

    Find your perfect time, and save your harder tasks for them. Use slower points of the day to knock out the easier stuff. Always, always, always save phone calls for your “best” times.

  4. Don’t stay at home if it doesn’t work for you.

    For some people, the home environment just doesn’t work. They just can’t get productive. The doorbell rings too much. Alternatively, the silence is deafening. Other people in the home who aren’t working are just too distracting. Sound familiar?

    If working at home is a struggle, get out!  Coffee shops, libraries, public lounges, shared workspaces, hotel lobbies, and other Wi-Fi enabled spaces better simulate the energy of an office and provide the human interaction that some people just need. Experiment with different locations until you find the one that works best for you.

  5. Know when to stop.

    It’s very easy to get caught up in work that you lose track of time or feel compelled to keep answering emails after your family has arrived home because you “only” worked from home that day. Doing so spells bad news for your mental health.

    Set an alarm in the morning telling yourself when to stop. You don’t have to drop everything when that bell rings, but you should start the process of saving your work and calling it quits for the evening. Remember, working from home should provide more work-life balance, not less.

Telecommuting is a major perk, but you must learn to manage its pitfalls in order to be successful. What are some of your favorite strategies?

 

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