Over the last couple of years, many of us have been working from home for the first time. At first, it may have meant a better work-life balance - working from home allowed you to do your laundry in between meetings, and you didn’t waste any time stuck in traffic.
But for most of us, the initial excitement quickly wore out. So, now you have to find a way to motivate yourself every day, despite all of the potential distractions around you - your phone, your housework, perhaps your children. You may even have less time than before because it takes you so long to get your work done!
Working from home and being self-motivated is a new skill, and like any new skill, it takes practice. But you can implement methods to make it easier to stay on track.
How do you ensure productivity when working from home?
You probably hated driving to work, being told when to have your lunch, those mid-morning meetings where nothing of any importance happened but they gave you something incredibly important - a routine.
Lack of routine is a productivity killer. James Clear, in the best-selling book ‘Atomic Habits’, puts it like this:
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” (1)
If you have no routine in place, you will most likely fail. For example, if you wake up and fill your head with your Facebook newsfeed, you have already set yourself up for an unproductive day.
Instead, you need a daily routine that includes getting up at the same time each morning and following a schedule suited to you and how you best work.
For some people, that might mean having a coffee and starting work straight away. For others, exercise and a quick shower are paramount to their morning before they can truly get stuck into focused work.
2. Avoid Multitasking
One study found that 70% of all emails are opened within 6 seconds of receiving them. Once you check your email, it takes, on average, 64 seconds before you resume your original task. (2) Think about how much time is being wasted!
We have become a generation of constant distraction. But every time we change tasks, we split our concentration, and it becomes harder and harder to stay on track.
Cal Newport, in his acclaimed book ‘Deep Work’, explains:
“Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.” (3)
Wherever you put your focus, that is where your energy will go. If you spend lots of time on social media or emails, you won’t have the ability to focus on the important stuff.
Instead, break up your day. Check your emails at set times, and set time aside for deep work. Deep work is uninterrupted work. While not possible for everyone, Cal Newport recommends setting up an automatic email response so that people know that you don’t check your emails between certain hours.
3. Frequent Breaks
Although work should generally be free from distractions, regular breaks are essential. This might sound contradictory, however, research shows that brief diversions vastly improve focus. (4)
The Pomodoro method is one popular strategy, where you are expected to work for 25 minutes before taking a 5-minute break.
The human brain simply cannot focus without becoming distracted for extended periods, especially now that our brains have become accustomed to constant stimulation.
However, what you do in that break matters! Checking Instagram isn’t going to help you; you will fill your mind with lots of information that has nothing to do with the task at hand.
Instead, you could do some light exercise, meditate, stretch, or use your Pro Massage Gun.
Self-massage is a great way to break up your day. For one, it relaxes you. Studies have shown that massage can help reduce work-related stress. (5)
Sitting down all day at your computer can leave you feeling stiff all over. You can use a massage gun anywhere you feel achy to help you to feel better.
In addition, massage guns help to improve blood flow. (6) Good blood circulation is not only associated with physical benefits; it also helps to keep your brain sharp.
4. Have a Set Work Space
Where do you work? In your living room? While lying in bed? Working from anywhere isn’t good for productivity. When you work all day from your sofa, it can be challenging to switch off and relax on that same sofa in the evening.
Our surroundings have a significant impact on our psychological state, and your brain shouldn’t have to work hard against its environment to stay on task.
Having a set space for work that is not used for any other task will increase your productivity. Ideally, your workspace should have its own room, but a section of a room can work where this is not possible. If even this is difficult, then having a fold-down table that you put out for work and then put away when you’re finished can have the same effect; you can even make the setup part of your morning routine.
However, if you need to share the space, set up your chair so that it faces a wall or outside rather than something distracting like a TV!
Being isolated from distractions, such as other family members, is important. If you can’t shut yourself in a room, consider a pair of over-ear headphones. That way, you won’t be able to hear anyone else, and they are less likely to distract you.
A decent desk and office chair can also make a huge difference. You will sit in your work chair for many hours each day, so it is essential to consider your comfort and not put unnecessary strain on your body.
5. Learn to Prioritise
When we are still tired in the morning, there is a temptation to start the day with an easy task, such as answering emails. However, once you fill your head with these types of tasks, it can be challenging to switch to deep, focused work.
Instead, write down your MITs - Most Important Tasks, and once you’ve sat down in your workspace, start the day by doing 2-3 of them. You will feel so accomplished that you’ll have the drive to keep pushing forward!
Once you have completed your MITs, you can then spend the rest of the day doing anything else that needs to be done without worrying about running out of time.
Have a clear routine, set up your workspace, get your most important tasks done early, and work without constant distraction. Remember to take breaks, but be mindful that what you do in your breaks matters. Make sure that whatever it is, it will be helpful to your focus.
It won’t always be easy, and some days are bound to be harder than others. However, deep work is a skill, and with practice, it will become easier. Without a day filled with unnecessary procrastination, you might discover that you suddenly have lots of extra time!
- Clear, J., 2018. Atomic habits. Penguin Publishing Group.
- Iqbal, S. and Horvitz, E., 2007. Disruption and recovery of computing tasks. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems,.
- Newport, C., 2016. Deep work. Grand Central Publishing.
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2011, February 8). Brief diversions vastly improve focus, researchers find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 8, 2022
- Rapaport, M., Schettler, P. and Bresee, C., 2012. A Preliminary Study of the Effects of Repeated Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Healthy Individuals: A Study of Mechanisms of Action and Dosage. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 18(8), pp.789-797.
- Imtiyaz, S., Veqar, Z., & Shareef, M. Y. (2014). To Compare the Effect of Vibration Therapy and Massage in Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR, 8(1), 133–136.