Do you find it difficult to focus when working from home? This might be because of your personality type.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent the majority of my career as a remote worker and have gotten used to an independent working environment.
I used to play more online chess in those few months than I ever did. At home though, I usually stay productive before my first coffee. Consider these tips to help you stay on top of your game.
1. Take a 20-Minute Break Every 90 Minutes.
Have you been working hard for so long, that all you want to do is check your phone, just for a moment of rest? If you’ve been at work for the past hour-and-a-half, of course, that’s going to happen. Much like how REM sleep cycles every 90 minutes, so will periods of tiredness while you’re awake. These short breaks are designed to recuperate your brain and should feel refreshing.
Unlike a computer, the human brain can get tired over time. As your focus starts to wane you need to take short rests and work on other tasks. When you feel your attention wavering, the best thing to do is take a 20-minute break and then come back for another productive 90-minute sprint.
Tom Gibson explains it well in a Medium post:
“We need to start thinking of productivity and output in cyclical, rather than linear terms. Many already recognize that they have peak times during the day in which they’re better workers. Other times, they’re better thinkers. Other times, all they’re good for is Netflix.”
2. Quickly Decide Whether to Delegate, Defer, Delete or Do.
Ever since I started working remotely, I’ve paid a lot more attention to productivity. Before, it wasn’t so clear what meaningful steps in my work would be and so I found myself at home trying to avoid thinking about what needed to get done. One of the main reasons why remote work and productivity are often mentioned in the same context is that remote workers need to prove they’re doing something. However, it could be due to other factors as well.
One of the main tenets of productivity is Getting Things Done (GTD) from David Allen’s 2001 book of the same name. A key idea is the 4 Ds, which describes the best way to process your task list. Here are the basics:
- Delegate: Give the task to someone else.
- Defer: Give it a deadline for the future, and stick to it.
- Delete: Decide it’s not worth bothering with, and delete it.
- Do: Get it done!
Now, think of everything you have to do. If you don’t have a list, think of everything that needs doing and make a list. Every week, go through your tasks and make sure that they are up to date with the content quality guidelines mentioned above.
3. Set Your Work Hours (and ‘Do Not Disturb’ Schedule).
Did you know when your most productive hours of the day are? I discovered this by accident while looking through screenshots I took when writing articles. Most of the screenshots were taken between 11 am and 2 pm. Motivated and organized people work best when they have their routine and set tasks. I noticed that my day often went better if I was already deep into my most important task by midday.
A more systematic way of finding your most productive hours is to determine whether you are a morning or evening person. I like waking up early and staying up late. What are your thoughts on the topic? That’s your first question to ask!
If you’re looking for an intensive, time-consuming approach to improving your social skills, Chris Bailey might be what you need. His methods are simple but require effort and commitment over weeks.
4. Every Hour, Write Down Your Energy, Focus, and Motivation on a Scale of 1–10.
[Like this example from the Trello blog:]
You can use your data to create a chart that will show your most productive time of day and the times you’re usually slumping at. From this, you should make sure your settings for Slack and your phone Do Not Disturb schedule are such that you can’t be disturbed during specific hours.
5. Get Out of the House.
I am getting sick of not being able to find books in my house. Why is that darn neighbor kid always screaming? Your house comes with a set of many distractions and the least of which are routine and old irritations.
I figured out my most productive hours and get myself out of the house to a coffee shop down the street. Being very busy generally doesn’t make for great places to work, especially if you need to create more focused content like podcasts. Blocking off the noise and music with a set of headphones can help you stay focused and get your work done.
6. Why Remote Teams Are More Productive.
Even with all the distractions and jokes about ‘working’ from home, it’s still worth it to be part of a remote team. You can boost your productivity and happiness while saving on office space and transportation costs. Companies with remote employees seem more productive and happier than those who have to come into an office every day.
A study reports that at the very least, 37% of businesses with remote employees claim their remote workers produce more work than those who work in an office. Furthermore, 75% say these same remote teams are happier overall.
Fewer people know that happiness usually goes hand-in-hand with productivity. If you’re allowed to work in a way that makes you happy, then you’ll likely feel better and have less resentment towards others who confine you to an office space.
Personally, I think the biggest reason why remote teams are productive is that you have to keep yourself from slipping. When I started my new job, I was given clear goals and expected outputs and knew immediately that if I didn’t focus on the right things, then it would be hard to meet them in time.
When you only have to check social media at certain times, you’re in control of your own workflow and won’t get lost in the darkness. If you work remotely and have to avoid distractions, this will help to build your resistance towards them. In turn, this allows you to work more productively and be at your most productive self.