Productivity and GTD
10 Tips To Be More Productive While Working From Home
Working from home is a way of life coveted by many people, but it requires a good dose of self-discipline if you want it to be profitable and sustainable over time.
Even if you are the whole day glued to your computer, it is easy for you to cheat yourself doing things that seem work but are not. If you are an entrepreneur or work on your own, meeting social networks and reading certain blogs may be necessary to keep up and maintain your personal brand, but not at the expense of not advancing your projects.
After four years working at home most of the days, I think I’ve managed to build an environment—physical and mental—that allows me to be very productive. These tips can help you be more productive if you are in a similar situation.
1. Prepare a comfortable working space
The place in your house where you work should be only to work, and you should not use other places—like your bed or the couch in front of the TV—to work. Keep separate spaces so the boundaries between work and home life are clearly defined.
Use a clean and uncluttered desktop, where you’d love to work. Spare no resources to stay comfortable. You are going to spend many hours there, so buy a convenient chair, with which you can adopt and maintain a good posture for long.
Keep your place perfectly acclimated. Do not hesitate, an excessive heat or cold will ruin your workday. Lighting is also important. Try to find a place with good natural light, avoid reflections on the computer screen and use a good lamp that emits warm white light (no heat generated) when you are working at night.
2. Establish one (or several) routines
You need to maintain a certain regularity in your day to day so that your body and your brain know when it is time to work and when it is time to rest. Set a schedule that suits well your personal characteristics and include in it work time, rest time, leisure time, and time to exercise.
Experiment with different settings until you find a routine that motivates you and a schedule that works for you. I use two routines with a similar schedule, one for the days I go to the gym (4 days a week) and one for the rest, with more time for leisure and home life.
3. Plan every day
The hardest part is deciding what to do. You cannot go blind, you need to know what you are doing every day. Ideally you should spend five minutes at night writing specifically what actions you are going to perform the next day. If you go to bed knowing what to do the next day, you will sleep better and jump out of bed in the morning with a clear mindset.
To properly plan each day, previously you should have done a weekly review of your projects and tasks in progress. And for this weekly review to make sense, every few months you should have done a big picture review, at a higher perspective, of your goals and responsibilities.
4. Work on your MITs first
When you are defining your daily action plan, highlight the Most Important Tasks (MITs), that is, the ones you should get done as soon as possible so you can complete projects and achieve goals.
Set one, two or, at most, three MITs and get them done earlier in the day. If you do the most important tasks first, you will attain a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction soon, and the rest of day will be a breeze.
5. Work in time blocks with breaks between them
There are several techniques for working in blocks of time (alternating work with short breaks), but the best known—and the one I use—is the Pomodoro Technique.
Working this way you will better keep your focus, eliminate interruptions, avoid burnout, and as a result, you will increase your productivity and creativity. It is not for everyone, but I recommend you to try it for a few days and make the effort to get used. It will be worth.
6. Avoid distractions
Super-mega-important. The Pomodoro Technique can help you manage interruptions but your strategy to avoid distractions should consider other risks as well.
In your daily routine you must set a couple of specific times to deal with email, phone calls, social networks, blogs, whatsapps, etc. If you keep all these fronts open all day, that is, all the programs open and notifications enabled, you’re dead. Your productivity will tend to zero and your coveted lifestyle will not be supported in any way.
Here are some additional tips to better keep your concentration.
7. Remember why you are doing what you do
Over time, you will probably lose some perspective and with it, the motivation needed to continue working hard. You need a system to help you maintain your motivation.
Embed into your workplace posters, signs and reminders to help you remember your values and goals. Use a visual system to remind you every day why you do what you do, where you are and where you want to be. I use a piece of my whiteboard for this.
8. Find good, alternative locations to work from
Just for your information: you will end up getting tired of working every day at home. No matter how comfortable your workplace is, spending all day in the same place can become very hard, especially if, in addition, you don’t have the chance to interact with other human beings.
Find comfortable cafes, with wi-fi, good coffee, low noise, and nice people. Talk to someone about anything and do the tasks that require lower level of concentration. These times will give fresh air to your daily routine.
9. Use a system to get organized
Getting and staying organized is not as trivial as it seems. It is not just about drafting a prioritized tasks list and crossing off each thing you do.
Using a personal organization system like GTD will allow you to keep the necessary workflow to advance your current projects and goals, while keeping a clear perspective that ultimately has to do with your life purpose.
10. And, of course, do not forget to live your life
All this wouldn’t be any fun if occasionally and apropos you couldn’t break all the rules, timetables and schedules, and go for a coffee with your friend, watch the World Cup with some folks, do whatever you feel like with your family, or just relax on the beach for a while. That is why you have chosen this lifestyle and that is why your colleagues who work 9-to-5 are so jealous.
You are the master of your time. That is your greatest reward, grab it!