Working From Home? Here’s How To Be Super-Productive

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Planning to work from home? Here’s how to make your work-from-home day incredibly productive:

1. Set An Objective For The Day To Complete Sizeable Tasks A, B and C. Don’t Let The Work Day End Till You’ve Completed Them

Use the threat of a delayed ‘clocking off’ time to pressure yourself to focus on the work, to work with a sense of urgency, and to be on your guard against scope creep.

Initially, you’ll find yourself working to midnight.  That won’t happen often. As you’ll rapidly learn to …

  • Work regular hours
  • Ignore the distractions of home
  • Guard against scope creep
  • Accurately estimate how long tasks will take
  • Avoid the sort of tasks that could take far longer than anticipated
  • Focus unremittingly on the day’s key deliverables from the get-go, ignoring almost all other tasks and incoming requests

2. Schedule Your Day’s Tasks, Doting Your Schedule With Mini-Milestones And Deadlines

Set a time for ‘clocking on’ and a target time for ‘clocking off.’ Estimate how long it will take you to complete each task, and race against the clock to hit those estimates.

Break down larger tasks into mini-milestones, e.g. first full draft of the report to be completed by 10.30am, second draft by 11.15am etc.

If you do this right, you’ll feel a continual sense of pressure to hit the next impending deadline, one that’s at most 90 minutes away. The only exception? When you’re having a break…

3. Take A Short Break Every 60-90 Minutes Or So, To Help Maintain Concentration

Short regular breaks make you more effective than if you were working non-stop for many hours at a stretch.

You may wish to make breaks conditional on task completion. For example, “I’ll allow myself to have lunch as soon as I complete this task.”

Pay attention to how the work is making you feel. If the work is leaving you feeling stressed and frazzled, take more breaks. If you’re really enjoying it and time is flying by, don’t worry about missing breaks.

Ensure breaks are strictly time-limited, avoiding things that could grab your attention for longer periods such as TV or talk radio.

4. Stick To Tasks With Predictable Time Requirements. Typically, Ones That Are Small Enough To Complete Within A day

When working from home, you should generally avoid tasks that could easily become time-sucking black holes such as

  1. troubleshooting complex technical issues
  2. doing anything for the first time – particularly if it involves software or form-filling
  3. documenting processes
  4. updating things at scale

5. Religiously Guard Against Scope-creep. Deliver The ‘Next Usable Version,’ For Now. Tell Yourself You’ll Revise It Later

You’ve got a lot to do. Sometimes this means you have to deliver the ‘this will do’ version of the work, rather than the higher-quality version you’d like to deliver. The version you deliver will be less comprehensive than you would like. It will be less readable. It will look worse. But it will be done.  And as Scott Allen once observed “Done is better than perfect.”

This approach has several benefits:

  • The imperfect version is usually of greater utility than the alternative – no version at all for a while.
  • You get to move on to your next task, allowing you to complete that task sooner.
  • You get feedback on the imperfect version, which may help you improve it, or may show that there’s no point doing further work on it.

Bear in mind that the beneficiary of your work probably has no idea of the scope you had originally planned, so they will likely be oblivious to your cutbacks. Chances are they won’t miss what they didn’t know they were due to get.

6. Separate ‘Work’ From ‘Home’

Teach the members of your household that ‘working from home’ means you’re working – and not to be interrupted.

Ban distractions while working e.g. no tabs with Facebook/Twitter/news/personal email. No TV or talk radio on in the background.

Aim to work regular hours.  Have an ideal finishing time, so that once you become skilled at homeworking, you don’t tend to overrun too much, causing domestic dissatisfaction.

When you’ve finished for the day, shut down work email and remote access to work systems.

Don’t try to simultaneously combine work time with looking after young kids. It’s almost impossible unless the kids are i) asleep ii) old-enough to pretty much look after themselves. If you have young children that need looking after, get a childminder, or take turns with friends minding each others kids so the other person is free to work undisturbed.

Keep your home and work phone lines separate. This is easiest for all concerned, helps stop you answering work calls out of hours, and it avoids eight-year-olds answering calls from clients.  It makes it easy for the business to pay for only your business calls, and you to pay for only your household calls.

If the household phone rings, ignore it. You are not at home, remember. You’re at work.

7. Take Advantage Of The Quiet Of Home

If you’ve got reports to write, proposals to create, text to edit, lots of data to analyse, meetings to prepare for, or reading to do, do them on your day at home. You’ll get them done far faster at home than in a noisy open-plan office.

8. Take Advantage Of The Lack Of Interruption To Get Important & Urgent Tasks Done

Do you absolutely positively have to get that tender document or proposal done, or that product specification signed off? Then work from home. Let your phone go to voicemail.

9. Take Advantage Of The Lack of Interruption To Force Yourself To Focus On Those Non-Urgent Tasks You’ve Been Avoiding

We all have tasks we’ve been avoiding for months, but which we know we should tackle. Some of them are unpleasant. Other tasks are intimidating in their scale, making us reluctant to even start on them. A few tasks make us feel guilty because we know we should have completed them ages ago. Working from home creates the ideal distraction-free environment for FINALLY tackling these tasks.

10. Use Music To Aid Your Concentration

Many people find that having music on in the background helps them to concentrate. Whatever type of music works best for you, set up some playlists so you have hours of music at the ready to help you concentrate. If you don’t have a large collection of background music, services such as Spotify, Deezer or Napster will give you unlimited music streaming for around a fiver a month.

11. Caffeinate Your Brain To Your Usual Degree

Just because you won’t be passing your usual Starbucks doesn’t mean you can function without your daily caffeine hit.

12. Work From Home When Snow, Floods And Transport Strikes Threaten To Make Your Commute A Nightmare

Let your more macho colleagues waste two hours of their lives pointlessly struggling into the office, while you avoid that unnecessary grief. Spend those two hours working instead.

13. Just say ‘No’ to Windows Updates

The same goes for Flash updates, Java updates, Adobe updates. Leave the updates till the end of the day, so they don’t mess with your productivity.

hSo’s homeworking solution can give your staff secure access to work files and emails from home. Our services can extend your existing office phone system to give your homeworkers the same functionality they would get in your office.  To learn more, give us a call on 020 7847 4510.

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