Make A Plan The Night Before
The evening before a working from home (WFH) day, draw up a list of everything you didn’t manage to achieve the day before, and make these items a priority. “If you set out clear objectives for the day ahead, you are more likely to stay focused and achieve your self-recommended deadlines,” advise the career experts at Michael Page. “Use a paper list or an application like Trello to create a list of tasks you need to complete and tick them off as you’ve completed them throughout the day.” Just remember, a bit of advanced planning can make all the difference. “If you are working from home and taking this quiet time to get some admin tasks completed, then try to separate them into manageable chunks to complete throughout the day or week,” adds the Michael Page team. “Planning and mapping out your workload in this way should stop you from feeling overwhelmed.”
Get An Early Start
Without the need to commute, it’s easy to stick to the same routine in terms of the time you wake up, which should buy you at least an extra half an hour to get some smaller tasks off your to-do list straight away. In fact, the Michael Page team say solving smaller problems first can be hugely motivating for the rest of the day. “Any period of productivity must start somewhere,” they say. “To help build up your momentum before tackling a big task, look at completing a few easy tasks, such as answering a batch of emails, clearing some administrative work, or producing a quick result or outcome. By doing tasks that are simple and easy, you switch your mindset into work-mode, and it can help you get into the mental zone of working towards tackling the bigger projects. Plus, it feels good to cross a few things off the list, and you’ll be more likely to keep the same level of productivity after that.”
Block Out Your Time
As much as we all want to be brilliant multitaskers, science tells us we’re not nearly as good at it as we’d like to believe. “Past studies have shown that as much as we would like to think so, our short-term memory just isn’t that good,” explains the Michael Page team. “This means that we can only process a certain amount of information at one time, leading to the conclusion that multitasking doesn’t work nearly as well as focusing on one thing at a time.” Instead, try blocking out some time in your calendar and use it to focus entirely on one task. “Ignore emails and other projects that need your attention. Focusing entirely on one thing can get you into the state of flow and will likely produce better, higher-quality work than if you were trying to do several things at once.” Later, you can block out another hour or two to go through your emails and catch up on anything that’s been missed.
Check In With Your Co-workers
It can be tempting to see WFH as free of distraction and a chance to get your head down. But by doing so, you risk being left out of the loop on big developments which take place on these days. “It can be easy to feel like you are working alone when you work from home,” agree the Michael Page experts. “However, it’s important to remind yourself that you are at work, and phoning [or Zooming] to update your boss or colleagues about your work or the status of a project will make you feel more connected with what’s going on in the business.” If you find it helpful, consider setting up a daily briefing with your colleagues – perhaps towards the end of the day – where everyone can bring each other up to speed on important projects or developments.
Take Advantage Of The Outside
Everyone knows how important it is to take regular breaks when working from home. But, sometimes, this just isn’t possible. If you still want a breath of fresh air, why not take your calls on the road – especially if face-to-face interaction isn’t necessary. Known as ‘walkabouts’, even in non-Covid times, many physical offices had started to encourage employees to take meetings on the go, with recent studies showing that discussing issues or projects in different settings can spark new ideas and creativity.
Give Your Wellbeing A Reality Check
Without the pressures of the commute or back-to-back meetings, WFH could offer you the time to check in on your health and wellbeing. Perhaps you re-commit to that early morning run? “Eat well, sleep well and exercise well – these are the three cornerstones of good physical health,” agree the recruitment experts at Hays. “There are plenty of at-home exercise tutorials online which cover the full range of ability levels – from the fittest among us to the athletically challenged – and serve as a great way to break up the day. Furthermore, don’t skip lunch and don’t compromise your sleep.”
Create A Family Schedule
If you have children, you might be one of the many who dread working at home. The key, says the Hays team, is to create a schedule ahead of time. “Ideally, it should outline the full day from waking up to bedtime,” they explain. “Your set ‘office’ hours, when food will be made, when it will be eaten and when any breaks will occur. Try to line up your work plan with your children’s typical routines – for example, parents of young ones may find it easier to schedule calls during naptime or when older children are at school. If there are multiple working adults in the household, you might also want to allocate who will ‘own’ each chunk of time, thereby helping to ensure everyone is able to have some distraction-free work time.”
Always Sign Off Properly
With no official ‘going home’ time, it’s tempting to just keep going until you’re done. While you can certainly use WFH time to catch up, working towards a 6pm or 7pm goal might make you more productive throughout the day, and less prone to procrastination. “Humans are creatures of habit, so a regular schedule is important,” agree the experts at Hays. “Set one and stick to it. If you are new to home working, try to adhere to your normal office routine as much as possible. Get up, get dressed and ‘arrive’ at your desk early to go through emails and create your daily task list. Then, when the working day is done, log off and focus instead on your personal activities to avoid burnout.” If you’re still happy to answer emails late into the evening, just be sure to switch off any alerts which might tell your colleagues you’re still online. That way, you can clear the inbox without being asked to action anything late in the day.
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