The ability to work from home has been a dream come true for many. It has given us more flexibility and more time with our family. Moreover, it has allowed us to explore a completely new way of life.
With that, working from home is not free of pitfalls, problems, and complications. For instance, one of the questions remote employees ask most often is how to stay focused and productive at work. The good news is that, in most cases, all it takes is just a bit of organization — and the right digital toolkit.
Tips for Working from Home Effectively
These are some simple things you can do to improve your productivity when working from home:
Work on one task at a time
Juggling several things at once is probably the biggest issue for everyone working from home. While multi-tasking can sometimes be a good thing, in most cases, you will simply be dispersing your attention. When you’re not focused on one task, your productivity level will fall. This means that you will accomplish less or take more time to complete a project.
This is why it is better to stay focused on one task at a time — no matter how boring it may be. The quicker you finish it, the sooner you will be free and ready to move on to other activities. If you are having a hard time focusing on a particular task, consider changing your working environment. Try taking a walk in the park or working in a coffee shop. This can help you reset your focus and approach the task with more concentration.
Keep interruptions to a minimum
Even the smallest interruption can break your focus for a long time. This is evident in the study conducted at the University of California Irvine. It will take you about 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track after you’ve been interrupted.
Naturally, it will be impossible to completely remove all interruptions from your working day. However, try your best to keep these to a minimum.
Here are just a few things that you can do:
- Turn off notifications on your phone when you are working on an assignment.
- Turn off anything that you don’t need for work (TV, background activity on your laptop, etc.).
- Share with your team, family, and friends that you will be working on a task and need some quiet time.
- Let your calls go to voicemail and don’t answer emails.
Obviously, you won’t be able to keep to all of the above for the full length of your work day. However, setting a few hours a day is quite plausible and it will do wonders for your efficiency.
Use digital tools that can help improve focus
Digital tools have made working online a possibility. Messenger apps, project management software, chat platforms, and other software make our online work more efficient.
There are also tools out there that can help you stay focused and help your employer evaluate how much time you spend on each assignment. Time tracking tools like Traqq do just that. They work in the background calculating how many hours you spend working. By tracking active and idle time, monitoring tools help employers prevent time theft.
On an individual level, knowing that you have a time tracker on your PC can be an important motivator and a way to avoid distractions. In addition to time trackers, there are lots of other tools that can help you improve focus. You can try using a meditation app like Waking Up for improving your awareness and concentration. Moreover, you can use apps like Serene or Focus Keeper to get rid of distractions and better manage your time.
Take breaks regularly
You may think that working on a task until you finally finish it is the most efficient scenario. However, this is not always the case. The thing is that the longer you work without taking a break, the more difficult it becomes for you to focus. So, you may feel like you are doing the right thing by pushing yourself to keep working. In reality, your focus may already be gone.
This is why scheduling is critical. When you plan your day, make sure to set aside time for breaks so you don’t feel bad about taking them. You can also try to make your breaks fun and different so that your brain can disconnect from the task at hand.
Avoid putting in more hours
There have been several studies that indicated that we work more hours when working from home compared to working at the office. This is mostly related to scheduling and organization.
When you work in an office, your day is typically fixed. You know you will be going home around 5pm and you will try to finish all your assignments by then.
When you work from home, on the other hand, the timeline can get blurry. Now, if you don’t keep an eye on it, you may end up starting work early and “leaving” late. However, despite putting in more time, you may get less done. The lack of a specific end point to the working day can make you feel that things are less urgent. So, you may stretch out your work instead of completing it efficiently.
In the end, what helps you stay productive is a very individual thing. Different things work for different people — and finding that perfect work/life balance may take some time and research. What you can do right now is try different time management practices, use time tracker software for Mac or Windows, and incorporate focus tools. Finally, and keep track of how all of these are affecting your productivity.