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A few months ago, millions of people around the world woke up every morning, hopped in the shower, had a bite to eat, and jumped in their cars to drive to work. Then COVID-19 came and everything changed.
Places like Italy, Spain, and India have introduced tough locks with very little outdoor exercise other than to get groceries. In Japan, a gentle lock was introduced even though most of the people stayed at home – my wife was one of them. She has been home for five months and has barely left the house, despite the ban being lifted two months ago.
She is one of the many who will no longer be able to work from home for the foreseeable future. It was interesting to talk to her and other customers about her experience and to listen to their frustrations. If you are reading this, you are likely being clicked through because you are in a similar situation and wondering how to maximize your time.
Here are seven ways to be more productive from home.
Related: How To Stay Productive While Working From Home
1. Clean your work area
Working in an office forces you to work within limits. You have a desk, a computer, and a few bells and whistles. This is not the case at home. It's a distraction heaven. You have children in the house, your cat scratches the sofa and wants to go out. The postman arrives to deliver your latest Amazon order and social media notifications are sent every few minutes on your personal phone. For all of these reasons, and probably a few more, you need to create a clean workspace.
Focus is the key to maximum efficiency, meaning you need to limit distractions. Francine Jay, author of The Joy of Less, says, “Surfaces are not intended for storage. Rather, surfaces are used for activity and should be kept free at all other times. “Keep what you have on your desk to the bare minimum. Always remember the saying "clean desk, clean mind".
2. Get the equipment
Once you have your work area set up, you need to have the right equipment. Three things will get you started.
A big monitor. The first thing my wife bought when she was told she had to work from home was a stunning 24 inch monitor to connect to her high-end laptop. It was worth every penny. If you're glued to a screen for more than eight hours a day, you want to limit the strain on your eyes. Your office may have usage restrictions, but at home you are in control. Paper work is one of the little-known secrets of successful people. Nowadays people turn to their smartphones too often by default. But as bestselling author Alex Banayan learned on his mission to interview America's most successful people, professionals use paper. I like paper, but recently a client drew my attention to something that takes things to the next level – Rocketbook. You use a Frixion pen to write on special paper and then use the app to scan the pages. It's analog and digital. And it's great. A good light. The strain on our eyes today is very great, regardless of whether we are staring at a screen or looking through documents. That is why light is so important. Two desk lamps that have made almost every recommended list of 2020 are the TaoTronics Stylish Metal and the BenQ Eyecare (what a great name).
Related: The real challenge in moving to a completely remote setup
3. Implement the Single Focus Time (SFT).
Darren Hardy, former editor of Success Magazine, had the opportunity to speak to the most successful people in the world. Hardy talks at length about the importance of focus and what he calls a 90-minute jam session. Not everyone may be able to do this, but the goal is to get to work for an uninterrupted job at least twice a day. No calls, no emails, no nothing – just purposeful focus, even if only 30 minutes, or as I like to call it, SFT. It's amazing how easily this changes your productivity.
4. Use a timer
Don't let yourself be caught more and more. There is always more to do in this crazy, unpredictable global environment. If you fall into this trap, you may not be able to get out. Set small periods of time to work on a task and once that timer reaches zero it will time out. It's amazing how fast we move when we're under the gun.
5. Take small breaks
One of the best and worst things about working from home is that people aren't watching us every waking moment. Gone are your managers and employees. It's all in your hands. That said, if you want to take a break, you can take a break. And guess what? If you are serious about increasing your productivity, this is exactly what you should be doing.
After the focus sessions, my best advice would be to just go for a walk. Get some fresh air and a change of scene. We all live a very sedentary lifestyle today that affects productivity. For our sanity and productivity, we need to go outside. What about those rainy days? A few easy stretches will be enough. It is important that we find a way to take our minds off work, even if this is only for a short time.
6. Use lists
I've always loved lists. They help me organize ideas, projects, articles, and problems into manageable chunks, which makes the task at hand much more workable. A to-do list is something everyone swears by, but the real key is prioritization. This is where Ivy Lee's method comes in. For the digitally minded people out there, I recently came across the Rocket 135 app, which forces us to only create nine tasks a day. You divide tasks into one large, three medium and five small ones. I love the limitation as it focuses us on being breakneck in our duties.
Related: Brain Hacks To Boost Motivation and Beat Work From Home
7. Have fun
That sounds a bit silly to say, but it shouldn't be overlooked. Happiness improves productivity. For most people, staying home for long periods is a big move in the opposite direction. Have you ever seen someone work the day before a long vacation? You drive all day. Some will do more in one day than the whole week. I like to call that the pre-vacation phenomenon. That is why it is imperative to have fun every week.
Now get off the couch and start producing.