Many of us have been spending our days at home since the coronavirus hit the UK. Whether you’ve been working or on furlough these last few months, ‘the new normal’ has most likely taken some getting used to.
There are certain things I miss about pre-pandemic work life, like laughing with the people in my office and the staff room’s top notch biscuit selection, along with some that I don’t, like having to put on a bra before I start work.
While those braless days have been a perk of this pandemic, working from home has also had its challenges and the main one for me has been staying productive. Focusing on the 9 to 5 while surrounded by the noise and distractions of a busy household is no easy feat. Thankfully I have learned some useful tips and tricks during lockdown that have helped me to be more productive during work hours.
1. Establish a daily routine
When you are no longer required to commute to work, it’s all too tempting to set your alarm to go off five minutes before the work day begins and skip your skincare routine in favour of some extra shut eye instead. Although the extra time in bed might make you feel great at first, that mood will quickly vanish when you are racing around the house trying to cram all the things you usually do before work into the few minutes before you start.
Waking up early might mean less sleep but a slower, more relaxed start to the day will put you in a better headspace for work and leave you with time to spare for that second cup of tea.
2. Exercise on your lunch break
Before you panic, I am definitely not suggesting that you smash out an insanity session on your 30 minute break. Think light to moderate exercise that will give you an energy boost without reducing you to a pool of sweat on the floor, like a walk or a bike ride.
If you can, exercise outdoors – a change of scenery and fresh air will ensure you get a proper break from work. Check out my recent blog on ‘Easy ways to stay active at home’ for some simple exercise ideas that hopefully won’t rob you of the will to live.
3. Take regular breaks
Confession time – how many of us actually take five minute breaks from our screens every hour like we’re advised to? (Or am I the only person who completely disregards all health & safety advice?) Well it’s time to start taking that advice more seriously.
As well as giving your eyes a rest from the screen, a well-timed break can help you to re-focus on a particularly long, dull or complex task. If you find yourself getting distracted, get a coffee, step into the garden or even grab the duster and do a quick bit of cleaning. Anything that will take the pressure off for a few minutes and give you some space from the task. When you return to work, you will hopefully feel ready to crack on.
4. Write a ‘to do’ list at the start of the day
I would not survive in a full-time job without a ‘to do’ list. Thanks to one of my friends at work, I now organise my work using Trello which allows you to easily create a series of virtual lists and saves several trees in the process!
You can almost guarantee a positive start to any work day by putting an easy win at the top of your list, for example ‘check emails and flag important items’. Ticking off your first ‘to do’ of the morning will give you a motivation boost and put you in a productive mood for the day ahead.
5. Drink lots of water
If you can down a shot of tequila or vodka on a Saturday night, drinking enough water on a daily basis should be a breeze, right? Wrong. I always wake up with good intentions, heading straight to the tap to fill up my water bottle, but then suddenly it’s 6pm and my bottle is still full while my coffee jar is somehow almost empty.
But if you can commit yourself to drinking more water each day, you will eventually notice benefits such as higher energy levels, increased concentration, reduced appetite and clearer skin. Fair warning, you will also need to pee more often, but at least you’ll be hydrated and getting more work done. So before you reach for that third coffee, gulp two glasses of water first and leave it for 10 minutes – always does the trick for me!
6. Find an accountability buddy
Choose your most ruthless friend, the one who always calls you out for your awful taste in men, tells you when you’re acting like a drama queen and most importantly doesn’t listen to BS excuses. Every morning drop your appointed accountability buddy a quick message summarising the work you have lined up for the day and then check back in with them in the evening,
If you are the type of person who never struggles with procrastination, this tip might seem a little patronising, however if you’re a chronic procrastinator like me, an accountability buddy can really help you to stay on track.
7. Dedicated work space
When you’re working at home every day, the boundaries between work life and family life can end up blurred, which is ironic because now more than ever a separation of the two is needed. A dedicated workspace doesn’t have to be your own home office, setting up camp in the least used room in your house can also increase productivity. Simply putting a door between you and any distractions (such as your partner or kids or the snacks in the fridge) will make it so much easier to stay in work mode. It is also better for your mental health, as come 5pm you can physically leave that room and not return to it until 9am tomorrow.
What do you think of my seven tips, are there any you already use? Have you come up with your own foolproof ways to stay productive at home?
Remember, if you aren’t at your most productive right now, don’t be too hard on yourself. It is impossible for anyone to be productive 24/7. We are in the middle of a global pandemic – I don’t know what that means to you, but to me it puts things into perspective. The world isn’t going to end if Karen in Finance receives your report a day late. Apologise, move on and do better tomorrow.