As concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have prompted many shelter-in-place orders across the country, this measure has resulted in millions of Americans now working from home (WFH).
Though technology can ease many of the challenges associated with this work arrangement, staying productive while at home isn’t always easy. If you’re finding it hard to stay on top of your tasks or meet your deadlines while working from home, these 10 tips may help:
- Work Out a Schedule With Your Family
With many schools having closed for the time being, more young children are now at home ‒ often trying to complete remote assignments from teachers, but without the benefit of in-person instruction. For parents who need to work while they’re home, caring for kids can make the struggle to stay productive even more difficult.
If you find yourself in this scenario, it’s important to establish a clear schedule for the entire family. If you have a spouse, perhaps one of you could work in the mornings and the other could work in the evenings. Or, you might consider waking up an hour earlier to have more time to get work done while the house is quiet. This could help alleviate some of your workload later on.
- Designate Your Own Workspace
Though it can certainly be tempting to work from your bed or couch, try to set up something more official. Maybe it’s a makeshift workspace in the dining room, or perhaps you have an actual desk or office space in your home. Ideally, your workspace should have a door, so you can shut out any distractions, and it should be stocked with all the supplies and equipment you may need close at hand, such as a computer, printer, paper, headphones, etc. You’ll want to avoid having to get up repeatedly to retrieve things you might need, as this will only cut down on your productivity.
- Get Up Early – and Dive Right In
With everything that’s going on, it’s easy to want to sleep in. However, if you’re having a hard time staying productive, sometimes getting up early is a good strategy. Set an alarm for an hour or so before your spouse or kids wake up. Make yourself a cup of coffee and dig into your emails or one of your heavier assignments. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done when the house is quiet.
- Take Breaks
You can only work for so long. If you really want to be productive, consider taking regular breaks and give your mind (and body) time to recharge. Every hour or so, take at least a few minutes to stand, refill your water or pet your dog.
A few times a day, take longer breaks to interact with others, too. Spend 20 minutes playing with the kids, take a walk with your partner or pet, or talk to your parents to see how they’re doing. Take your mind off of work for a bit, to help yourself recharge.
- Eliminate the Digital Distractions
You probably don’t check social media very much at work, but it is often fair game at home. Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole. One peek at a post’s comments and, before you know it, you’ve lost an hour of work time.
To keep these digital distractions from getting the best of you, do what you can to eliminate them entirely. Remove social platforms from your bookmarks and log out of all your accounts. Disable alerts and notifications and put your phone in the bedroom when you’re trying to work. Save social media apps for the evening, once you’ve logged out of work for the day.
- Set Times for Checking Email
Unless your work requires you to be on email 24/7, designate times when you’ll check it. If your inbox is constantly up and in view, any new message can be a distraction. It can take you away from your task at hand, disrupt your focus and extend the time it takes to accomplish your to-do’s. Tending to email may be more efficient when done in chunks.
- Make a To-Do List Every Day
Keep yourself accountable with a daily to-do list. At the end of each workday, jot down a task list for the next day, detailing what you need to get done and by what time. You should also include any meetings or calls you’re participating in. The goal is to pull up that list as soon as you log on the next morning to help you get off to a good start.
- Multitask While You Can
You’re going to have other tasks to tend to throughout the day when working from home. You might have to feed and walk the dog, do dishes, run laundry and more. To keep on top of these, find opportunities to multitask where you can.
Need to get up and refill your coffee? Turn on the automatic vacuum cleaner on your way. Heading to the kitchen? Run a load of laundry before you settle back in. Work on those smaller tasks where you can.
- Try Meal Prepping
There are no more vending machines around the corner, and you can’t just walk down the street for a quick lunch with co-workers. When working from home, mealtime responsibilities may fall on your shoulders (and maybe those of your kids and spouse, too).
Meal prepping is a great way to keep all that cooking from bogging you down. On Sundays, make a few meals in bulk and portion them into food storage containers. This can help you from having to stop work and make on-demand meals throughout the week. This works well when you have a lot of people living in the house, because not everyone is hungry at the same time. This provides options for people to eat when they’re ready.
- Have Office Hours, if Possible
If your employer will let you, set specific hours for when you’ll be available ‒ by phone, email or just online and working. Getting your professional work done is important, but having time to wind down, enjoy your loved ones and just relax is critical, too ‒ especially during times of high stress. Make sure you’re setting reasonable boundaries on both a professional front and a personal one.
The Bottom Line
Working from home certainly comes with challenges. But establishing a schedule, setting clear expectations with your loved ones and eliminating distractions can all help to ease the burden.