As it becomes increasingly likely that many companies will choose to keep people working from home to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it becomes more and more vital to find ways to maximize the usefulness of working from home. A Great Idea has been running remote for its entire five years, and my own work history has afforded me the opportunities to connect and deliver solutions from out in the field for over a decade.
There are many enjoyable things about not having to go into the office – no commute, you can wear pajamas, fewer coworker interruptions to take into consideration. But there are also some issues – while spending more time with your partner, or children, or pets is wonderful, it can also eat into your ability to be productive. Not having the structure of on and off time can make it easy for work to melt into the rest of the day, making it difficult to balance your time appropriately. Here are some tips that help me to get creative while working from home.
Learn Your Patterns
Studies have been done that suggest that people need to take breaks in order to be able to maintain concentration on a task. While how long that is may vary from person to person, most adults can focus for about 45-50 minutes before it becomes more productive to take a break. Figure out what works best for you, and what you need the breaks to accomplish – making more coffee, having a bio-break, stretching for 10 minutes, going outside in the sunlight. Once you have a good rhythm set up, it’ll be easier to fall into line every day.
Let “Past You” Take Care of “Future You”
There are lots of different ways to let past you ensure the success of future you, usually informed by your patterns. For example, I know I’m not typically a morning person, but also, I know I’m most productive if I get up and start working early in the morning. Past me takes care of future me by ensuring I have an easy to reheat breakfast and some iced coffee in the fridge the night before, so I can wake up, roll out of bed, and get to work.
Another way to let past you take care of future you? Figure out what tasks you have to do any given day, and pick the thing you loathe the most to get out of the way first. Maybe it’s boring. Maybe it’s complicated. Maybe it’s just something you don’t like doing. Get it out of the way first while you’re alert and energized for the day, and you’ll feel accomplished. You can end up riding that energy for the rest of the day and discover yourself accomplishing so much more.
Choose Background Noise that Keeps You On Task
Lots of different people use background noise to help them concentrate. Some find themselves most productive when watching a show they know really well. Others prefer a podcast that stimulates their mind while they do a mindless task. Still others prefer music, with words or wordless. “Lo-fi hip-hop radio for studying, relaxing, and gaming” was a popular and memeworthy choice for a long time, with the soothing looping visuals and relaxed, chillhop music being the perfect combination for university students stressing out over finals. Why not stressed out people working from home, too?
Three Free Music Discoveries To Keep You Creative
- Insomniac’s Channel on Twitch: Every hour of every day, from live sessions to some highlights of festivals around the globe, you can count on this feed to give you some powerhouse beats, glow sticks not required though strongly suggested!
- The Illustrious Blacks’ Live the Hype Life lunches. Follow their Instagram to find out when they are back in the mix. You can revel in the wild, wonderful disco treats intermixed with fun flavors and unexpected gems culled from an enviable record crate.
- KCRW’s Eclectic 24: Want to get out of the predictability of your Spotify list? It never hurts to click in to this feed where the sounds err on the smoother side but are rich in textures, from soul to jazz, world music to pop confection. While the mix is unpredictable, the quality is guaranteed.
Write Checks You CAN Cash With Public Accountability
Publicly announcing a product launch or having a weekly blog post can put a little pressure on yourself that can help you stay on task. Writing a regular newsletter that keeps people up to date on what your company is doing, highlighting new material on your site or new offerings, these things can offer a little push to keep you thinking on your feet.
While this is a useful tool for personal integrity, it’s also a way for your customer base to hold your feet to the fire. If you create something your clients are interested in, they will ask for it when you don’t provide it, thus offering an incentive to keep your word.
I also like to leave post-it notes on the board behind my laptop, reminding me of my goals!
Know When to Connect and When to Disconnect
One of the hardest things to do when working from home is creating structure. It’s so easy to get distracted by things that need to be done around the house! I’ve found it useful to use my breaks from the computer to do other stuff around the house – cooking a meal, taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom. This way I can stay on task both when it comes to my environment as well as when it comes to my work!
There’s a lot of different ways to help yourself do this. You could block your time, giving yourself from 9-9:50am to deal with emails and social media, then break to take out the trash and recycling, schedule a meeting from 10-10:50am, then go and wash up the dishes. This way you’re giving your body a break from sitting at the computer, and you’re varying the areas of your brain you’re using, helping to spark creativity.
You could also use an app like Mindful Browsing to nudge you back into better habits online, or RescueTime to figure out when you use business apps the most, and how much time you really waste on Facebook. Perhaps an app like Freedom will help you block access to distracting websites on your laptop and on your phone, so you don’t sneak off for a quick scan of Twitter trends.
I also like to schedule a walk or other physical activity in the middle of my workday to break things up and to get my blood pumping. Adding that into my schedule when I know I’m typically beginning to flag helps me perk back up again, and allows me to take advantage of a nice day with a stroll in the sunshine. Often, a break away from the computer helps me think about my work in another way so I can come back to it fresh.
Working from home has its own difficulties, for sure, but with a little preparation, you may find yourself just as productive as you were in the office, if not more so. We might be in this for the long haul, so it’s worthwhile to spend a little time trying to perfect your at home situation!
By Shane Lukas, Creative Strategist for A Great Idea