These are uncertain times. As we move into a period of social distancing to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of COVID-19, many people are working from home.
Entrepreneurs and freelancers like myself are used to creating our office and setting our schedules. But for many, the next few weeks or months will be an entirely new experience.
How do you stay on task, organized, and motivated at home? If you live in a major city, you might not have much extra space at your disposal, so you may have to get creative.
For the weeks ahead I’ve made this mini-guide for productivity. Here are my top 10 tips for working from home and staying productive.
1. Get Up and Get Dressed
Something I’ve pushed myself to do every single day is to get up and get dressed. I have a morning routine that I look forward to every morning because it has worked so well for me and helps get me out of bed:
- Shower as soon as I am awake, and towards the end of my shower, I make the water cold so it wakes me up. I’m sure some of you are thinking I’m crazy for doing this, but there are some benefits such as: improved circulation, boosted metabolism, and increased endorphins.
- Get ready as if I am going to meet a client in-person. This has helped me change my mindset for the day because I am not just lounging around in sweatpants with my hair in a bun.
- I have breakfast every morning with my family. This has become a tradition and it’s a nice way to spend some quality time together before the work day craze begins.
2. Set a Schedule
It’s easy to get distracted when working from home, especially if you share your space with others. The best thing you can do is to create a weekly schedule (down to the hour) and stick with it.
Sure, you might feel like you’re returning to school, but setting a routine will increase productivity. Tasks can change daily and there is no “one size fits all” for productivity.
What’s important is that you start the day with a plan and you stick to it. Here are 5 daily scheduling methods to try.
3. You Are What You Eat
A balanced diet is one of the best things you can do to stay productive while working at home. In theory, this is already easier because you don’t have to worry about bringing your lunch to work or find something healthy to eat on a break.
According to the World Health Organization, “adequate nutrition can raise your productivity levels by 20 percent on average.”
Also, something I’ve been doing for the past several years is intermittent fasting. I’ve found that this helps give me a boost of energy and avoid feeling sluggish. It also helps me be more aware of what I’m putting in my body, so I also do the following:
- Avoid processed foods as much as possible.
- Avoid high sugar foods and treats.
- Drink a ton of water and when I get tired of just water, I turn to La Croix or Bubly.
- Typically, once 8pm hits, I don’t eat or snack.
I think what’s worked well for me to stay on a healthy diet is that I don’t fully restrict myself and I try to moderate my intake of foods I enjoy. I allow myself to indulge at times, but I don’t let it get out of control. This has been instrumental with sustaining a healthy diet and also changing the way I view food – less about deprivation but more about what my body needs.
4. Take Breaks
One of the downsides of working from home is remembering when to take a break. Rest fuels productivity. Just because you aren’t in a traditional office setting doesn’t mean you can’t burn out. Schedule break periods throughout the day and honor them.
Decompressing, even if it’s just for 10 -15 minutes at a time, will clear your mind and help you to focus. Robert Pozen, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, suggests that taking a 15-minute break every 75 to 90 minutes can help your brain consolidate information.
Getting blood circulating is key for a healthy heart and overall functionality. I know I love going to a gym, but in these times that won’t be possible. Invest in a yoga mat, free weights, and resistance bands.
There are many yoga, Pilates, and home cardio routines on the web. And because of the current situation, many studios are broadcasting routines and workouts via Instagram Live.
Take time to exercise and you will be more productive no matter the task you want to accomplish. One study showed that on the days that workers exercised, they saw an increase in time management of up to 72%.
6. Make Goals
Indeed, we don’t quite know when this will be over. That’s why it’s even more important to make a list of goals to keep your focus on the future. You should have bigger goals that will take months to accomplish, but you should also have mini-goals that can be completed within a week.
By setting goals and consistently meeting them, you can help keep yourself excited about whatever you’re working on, even though the situation might be less than ideal. This study suggests goal setting can improve worker performance by up to 15%.
7. Start a hobby
Even if you work for yourself, after a while you can get drained. Monotony can apply to even the biggest passion projects. That’s why you should start a new hobby. Learning something completely new helps to stimulate the brain. Hobbies create eustress, which is healthy stress that keeps us excited about life.
8. Engage with Your Audience
If you have a brand of any type, then you have followers on social media. Now is the time to engage with them and continue to build out your community. Show how your values align and how we are collectively going through the same struggles.
Building brand loyalty and keeping socials up to date is one of the best moves any small business can make during this time. Check out this great piece on how engagement is one of the three pillars of productivity.
9. Set an End Time
While this goes hand in hand with setting a schedule, it should be mentioned alone. One of the dangers of working from home is simply not knowing when to stop working. Unclear end times can lead to exhaustion and frustration if it starts to back into traditional family activities, such as dinner or movie time. The best ideas sometimes also come in the 11th hour, so there’s no need to stick to this every time.
Having an end time — one that is flexible in the case of last-minute inspiration — can help you be more productive. Here are practical ways to improve your time management.
Wellness continues to be seen as an important part of our overall health. Meditation increases our ability to concentrate. Taking a few minutes to clear your mind and focus on how you’re feeling and what you want can boost productivity.
Meditation can be simple; you don’t have to sit still for hours. Many apps have meditation components to get started. Once you have an idea of how to do it you can practice on your own.
Wrapping It Up
It can be hard in these uncertain times to keep focused and continue to find balance in your life. If you are used to going into an office and interacting with the world around you, social distancing might feel restricting.
Right now, it is even more necessary to make consistent and intentional efforts to keep a schedule, take care of your physical and emotional health, and continue to work on your goals.
More importantly, don’t be afraid to unplug and disconnect from what’s happening in the media. Doing so will allow you to focus on what you can control and be more productive with work.