As North America returns to school and the structure and routine that comes with it, many of us are also refocusing on our businesses.
I decided to take this opportunity to revisit best practices for working from home.
This shift in focus and a revisit of best practices is especially relevant for me, as I’m about to experience a change I’ve been waiting for: a dedicated home office space after three years of shared workspaces with my husband.
As seasoned self-employed individuals, we’ve navigated the dynamics of sharing a single home office facilitated by the presence of a physical business location. However, the closure of our brick-and-mortar office space in 2020 prompted us to adapt to a fully remote setup, and we have been working side by side since.
The realization that we each needed our own space came earlier this year during an extended online training event in Australia. While working opposite each other for a week (myself at night and my husband during the day) led us to discover that constant interruptions hamper our productivity.
This insight solidified our decision to create distinct home office spaces. The renovations began in May and are now concluding, prompting me to reflect on maintaining focus and productivity in my new workspace.
Here are eight strategies to ensure optimal productivity while working from home.
To prevent time from slipping away or overworking beyond regular office hours, it’s crucial to define specific working hours and structure your day. Without it, you will find yourself keeping late hours, working at all times, starting your morning late, becoming distracted mid-day, or working on nonimportant tasks.
I recommend allocating daily tasks and leveraging a routine that suits your energy levels. For instance, designate Monday mornings for administrative tasks, Tuesdays and Thursdays for meetings, Wednesdays for creative work, and Fridays for catch-up activities. Cap off the week with a Sunday review and planning session to set your goals for the upcoming week.
When we had an office commute, the routines we had to get ready and travel to work helped us shift our mindset. Emulate the shift from home to office by incorporating a pre-work routine. Dressing for work, collecting essentials (water and tea for me), and engaging in a brief intention-setting process can effectively transition your mindset. Similarly, end your workday with a deliberate routine that signals the shift from work mode to personal time. These rituals replace the traditional commute and aid mental transitions.
What can you do to create the transition from work to home?
Recently, I wrote the blog “7 Tips for Conquering Distractions Inside and Out,” which helped identify distractions and how you deal with them.
Start by identifying your personal kryptonite and then build a plan to minimize them.
For me, some things I do to help with distractions are to keep my desk and desktop tidy and keep notifications off to avoid getting distracted by email and messages. I also keep my phone on silent and flip it over so I can’t see any pop-ups.
What changes will you make to minimize your distractions?
Regular breaks enhance focus and prevent burnout. However, one thing to watch for when working from home is breaks that become drawn out.
Consider adopting the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break, with a more extended break after four cycles).
However, I switch to 90-minute no-break working sessions when doing deep work. Experiment and find the system that works well for you.
To ensure you return to work, I like setting alarms to remind myself the break is over.
I mentioned that on Sunday, I take time to review my day and finish planning my week.
This process has been a big part of staying productive, especially when I feel unmotivated, distracted, or under the weather.
Start by scheduling appointments and recurring tasks, then allocate remaining time for other tasks based on their importance and due dates.
On Monday, I start my day knowing what to do and when. Therefore, I’m not making decisions based on how I feel or looking at a long to-do list that can overwhelm me.
At the end of the day, I celebrate what I finished and firm up my plan for the next day.
This proactive approach reduces decision fatigue and empowers focused execution.
In a remote work setup, building and maintaining relationships requires conscious effort.
Establish consistent communication, whether through daily messages or regular meetings. Organize virtual or in-person social interactions to foster camaraderie, all while setting clear boundaries to ensure uninterrupted work time.
Find something that works for you and others, but ensure you do something to build relationships.
Leverage external support systems to enhance your productivity.
Join mastermind groups or accountability networks for mutual assistance, guidance, and motivation. Acuity Path runs masterminds to help small business owners with the demands of running a business.
Consider working with a coach, particularly one focused on mindset and growth. Being an entrepreneur is one of the most challenging (and rewarding) things I’ve ever done. My mindset has been the biggest thing I’ve had to work on through this journey. I keep working on it because new challenges appear as I grow and uplevel. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the coaches I’ve had along the way.
Outsourcing tasks outside your expertise can also free up time for high-value activities. For example, even though I am a designated accountant, I don’t do our personal or business taxes. I hire an accountant who makes it their priority to stay on top of the tax changes. I also use lawyers when needed and have an IT company to assist me with my tech needs.
Consider what your specialty is and your worth. Is there anything you are doing that could be outsourced to allow you to do more of what only you can do?
Guard against work encroaching on personal time. Log off and disconnect to recharge. When I plan my week, I first put my Taekwondo classes and any personal events and commitments on my calendar. I plan for life first.
Recognize that remote work suits some more than others, and choose a setup that aligns with your preferences and needs. I have a friend who hates working from home, and I love it. You will be more productive if you can match your work environment to how you work best.
Remember, the journey of optimizing productivity while working from home is ongoing. As my journey continues with my new home office, I encourage you to evaluate your environment, habits, and strategies, making necessary adjustments. By embracing these strategies, you can foster a focused, effective, balanced work-from-home experience.
Successfully working from home is a skill, just like programming, designing or writing. It takes time and commitment to develop that skill. Alex Turnbull
Successfully working from home is a skill, just like programming, designing or writing. It takes time and commitment to develop that skill.
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