Productivity improvements to make while you work from home

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Person working from home(shutterstock/Creative Lab)

Remote workers will account for one in four professional jobs in North America by the end of 2022, according to Forbes. As this transition takes off, it’s becoming increasingly vital to understand how to stay productive and balance work alongside life in this new environment. Tips and tricks that bring work-life balance and productivity to the remote workday may seem like productivity hacks, but they can be critical tools—particularly if you’re wrestling to strike a balance with your schedule.

If you find yourself working from home but struggling to stay on task throughout the workday, consider these productivity hacks that you should be doing while working remotely:

Create a space just for work

In many homes and apartments, it’s not uncommon for certain spaces to exist for a singular purpose. Bedrooms are for sleeping; kitchens are for cooking; and—if you work from home—the office is for working. Creating a dedicated space, even if it’s not a dedicated room, is great for maintaining focus and sticking to the task at hand, according to the Spruce. If you’ve got the space and ability to create a specific work area, this technique can help you create and stay in the zone, as well as away from risky temptations like the TV or refrigerator.

Decorate your workspace sparingly

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Stylish white professional office interior, minimalist loft workspace(shutterstock/Daria Minaeva)

Your workspace shouldn’t be sterile, but it shouldn’t be a hodgepodge of distractions like gaming consoles, TV, books and other gadgets that may tempt you to step away throughout the day. It should reflect the things that help you focus and bring you joy. Consider sprucing your workspace with plants, notepads, sticky notes, pens and pencils, photos of the family or beloved pets and other distraction-free personal effects. These will bring a smile to your face, pep to your step and motivation to help you rock the remote workday.

Change out of those PJs

Even if you switch out of your pajamas to your comfiest pants and a nice shirt, changing out of your rest and relaxation clothes into your professional clothes is a great way to change up your mindset. This will help you stay focused and productive as the day ramps up.

Create a schedule and stick to it

Start your workday at a consistent time, with coffee and breakfast in hand, ready to face the challenges of the day. Take your lunch break at a regular interval. Be prepared to end your day at a consistent time, too. It’s much better for productivity and mental health to have a dedicated, focused 8-hour workday as opposed to stepping away and stretching your work into your leisure time.

Utilize time management techniques

In addition to building a consistent schedule and sticking to it, consider time management techniques to help you blast through tasks easily. For example, the Pomodoro Technique can be used to block your day into 25-minute chunks with 5-minute breaks to help you stay focused. It’s a great tool to keep from burning out or getting overwhelmed. If you’d prefer to be heads down and focused for longer, consider 45-minute to 60-minute increments.

Take breaks

Breaks are important for relieving stress and mental burnout according to Vanessa Caceres, a health writer with US News. Caceres says you’ll return more focused, better equipped to solve problems and more prepared to tackle the tasks on hand. Breaks are tools to help you grab a bite to eat, make that second cup of coffee or hit up the bathroom as needed throughout the day—not check email or go through your inbox. It’s critical to build them into your schedule so don’t neglect your own self and needs. If your calendar has a tendency to fill up quickly, block off time in advance so you don’t have to juggle and compromise on from where this time will be taken.

Create daily and weekly goals

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Hands holding a weekly calendar to organize their daily schedule and productivity.(shutterstock/OlgaPS)

Plan your workload. While this seems straightforward, it’s easy to get sidetracked as emails hit your inbox, coworkers reach out with questions or clients need support. Hunkering down for a few minutes at the beginning of the day and creating a plan helps for staying focused, and has the added benefit of helping you list your individual contributions for your team.

Change up tasks

Time management techniques like Pomodoro are a great way to keep work fresh, but another technique is to change up tasks regularly. Intersperspaceyour morning with video-conference meetings, planned creative work such as generating code or editing an article, then pivot to checking and responding to emails. This is a great way to help the day pass quickly and ensures you won’t feel burnt out.

Focus up, and don’t multitask

Multitasking– such as taking a call while simultaneously working on producing content–may seem like a way to get more accomplished, but this can be deceiving. The Cleveland Clinic reports multitasking makes you less efficient and negatively impacts your performance—particularly if you’re engaging in complex tasks—because it divides attention. Whatever you’re working on, be kind to yourself and don’t try to juggle. Instead, dedicate all of your attention to the task at hand.

Don’t procrastinate

It’s all too easy to procrastinate on tasks that bring stress to our lives, but procrastination can lead to stressors that compound over time, according to Psychology Today. Bill Knaus, licensed clinical psychologist and former psychology professor, shares: “When distracted by stresses, you are likely to put more things off and suffer from a procrastination accumulation effect. This is where you feel stressed, put things off, and then feel stressed thinking about what you’ve left undone. As you do this, you leave more things undone and feel overwhelmed.”

Avoid negative cycles like this by tackling challenging tasks early, asking frequent and direct questions, and collaborating with your team for support where you’re able.

Eat well

When you take time for lunch, don’t recharge with junk food from the cupboard. Take the time to reheat homemade leftovers, make a fresh sandwich or salad or cook something you’ll enjoy. This will give your body much needed energy, as opposed to a temporary sugar high, and your mental health a boost.

Engage in video conferencing

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Man Working From Home Having Online Group Videoconference On Laptop(shutterstock/Andrey_Popov)

There’s something to be said about getting face time with coworkers. It’s easier to read the people in the room, generate creative ideas, build trust and connections and collaborate with a team. This can also help avoid feelings of loneliness or isolation if you’ve been working from home for an extended period. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and turn on the camera.

Put your phone in timeout

Smartphones are one of the best tools in the work from home arsenal, but thanks to the litany of built-in apps and features, they’re also a major distraction. If you’re not using your phone to dial-in remotely for a meeting or to track your Pomodoro session, consider putting your phone in timeout. This will remove unnecessary distractions and temptations.

Splurge on yourself

If you went into an office or in-person environment, chances are you’d grab lunch out with the team periodically. While splurging on these things regularly can be quite expensive, don’t hesitate to do something special for yourself when working from home even if you can’t meet up with your teammates. It’s a nice way to change the pace and enjoy a tasty treat while you’re at it, especially if you’re a work from home parent.

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