The home isn’t always associated with productivity. When the word “home” comes to mind, people often think about a cosy living room couch, a relaxing bath, a family dinner, or a good night’s sleep. That’s precisely why it is so hard when people try to work from home. Our brains are so used to thinking about the home as a place wind down and recharge after a long day at work, so when we shift to remote working, we need to re-train our brains to associate “home” with productivity as well as relaxation. Below are Working Den’s best tips to do just that.
Our homes are filled with clutter, some are sentimental, some kept for convenience, and other things – like old grocery receipts, cardboard boxes or empty shampoo bottles – remain in the house because we haven’t found time to throw them out. But clutter is the enemy of productivity, not to mention it crowds up our space and makes it more difficult to find things we need. If you’ve ever had the experience of digging for the remote through piles and piles of clutter on your couch and coffee table, you will understand that it’s a major time-waster to look for things in your home.
So if you want to save time and be more productive at home, maybe it’s time to sort through everything you own, declutter, and organise them. There are so many ways to do this, but the most common is the KonMari method – go through every single item in your home, and decide whether each piece “spark joy” in your life, either through its functional use or its sentimental values. When you are done, you can discard or donate items that no longer spark joy, and organise the rest. This process, although intimidating and time-consuming at first, will make it so easy for you to find things in your home later on. Even better, when your home is free of clutter, your visual and cognitive space will also free up, making it easier to be more productive.
Separate “productive zones” and “relaxation zones”
If you’ve ever entered a room and completely forget the reason why you came in, you will understand that spatial boundaries are powerful factors affecting your productivity at home. Our brains map out memories and assign specific memories to spaces, and when you cross the threshold of a doorway, your brain resets and triggers memories associated with that space. When you are at home, a place filled with memories of togetherness and relaxation, it’s no wonder that your brain cannot completely focus on being productive.
The good news is, you can rearrange your home and trick your brain into being productive. By separating productive zones – your work desk, home office, etc. – and relaxation zones – your bed, living room couch, etc. – you can prompt your brain to enter “productive mode” just by entering your home office or sitting down on your work desk. It is important that you never fuse productivity with relaxation – don’t work from your bed or your couch – because it will blur the boundaries between “work” and “home” and make it harder to be productive or relax later on.
Stick to a routine
A good, solid routine will help you beat any productivity slump. Think of routines as you in “autopilot mode” – when you have a good routine, your muscle memory will take over, and you will not feel the inertia pulling you away from productivity.
Setting up a routine is different for everybody, because everyone has different priorities and different productive hours. If you are more productive in the morning, you can schedule your “productivity hours” then and shift other activities around to get more done. It may be difficult to stick to a routine at first, and you may need to switch things around to optimise your schedule, but if you discipline yourself and stick to it for at least a month, your brain will be wired to get things done when your schedule calls for it.
Plan and prioritise your tasks
When a task seems so intimidating and overwhelming that you don’t know where to start, procrastination will ensue. If this is a problem for you, a little preparation and planning will go a long way. You can break a big task into smaller to-do items, and rank them in terms of priority and urgency. Organising your tasks will make it less of a challenge to work on, and even helps you create a mental map to conquer a big project.
When you know how and when you can tackle your tasks, you should block the time for deep work, or time where you eliminate all distractions and focus on getting things done. You can set a Pomodoro timer to focus for 45 minutes, during which time you can turn off your phone, block social media on your laptop, close your home office door, and turn on some background music to dedicate your undivided attention to work. After the timer goes off, you can relax for 15 minutes, and repeat the cycle as needed. This is a proven method to increase your productivity and get more done during a short time.
This advice may seem counter-intuitive for an article about productivity, but knowing how to relax well is a key to maintaining a healthy level of productivity. Human bodies need proper rest to work, and when your inner battery runs out, you need to clock off and recharge to get your energy up for the next day.
We find that a 30-minute exercise, a healthy dinner, a relaxing bath, and a good night’s sleep around are key elements of a good nighttime routine. You should structure your night so that you can completely relax, so when you clock off for the day, remember to turn off your work emails and notifications and focus on winding down. You should also limit screens at least an hour before you go to bed. When you wake up relaxed and rested, you will find it much easier to be productive and focus on work the next day!