Practical tips on how to stay productive while working from home

April 16, 2020
5 minutes read

Working from home sounds like a dream to some and a nightmare to others. Regardless of which camp you’re in, working from home during a pandemic is certainly not the same as simply working from home.

If you’re struggling to stay focused, cut yourself some slack. Businesses are struggling. New rules and regulations are introduced every day. Kids are out of school. These distractions wreak havoc on productivity.

To say that staying productive during a pandemic is hard would be a massive understatement. But it’s important. Here are some ideas to help you stay on your game!

Work when you’re most productive — or able

A lot of advice out there says to start a morning routine and begin your day with a structured schedule. This is likely sound advice for many of you out there. And that’s great! In fact, research supports it.

But for others, the 9–5 routine doesn’t work out so well (that’s the life of an entrepreneur!) Sometimes you may work first thing in the morning. Sometimes you can start your day with yoga. And sometimes you might just feel like starting your day with an episode of Real Housewives. It depends on the day and how you’re feeling — especially now. You might not have a choice of when. If you have roommates, kids, or even pets that demand your time and attention as well, your work schedule could be subject to theirs.

And work where you’re most productive

Many studies have proven that context influences our behavior, and our environment can trigger mental cues, habits, and emotions. If you can, dedicate a specific space to be your “office.” No space available? Try other environmental cues — different hued lighting, music, even hang a sheet or curtain in a different color to change up your scenery. Or, you might be at the mercy of your home WiFi and be confined to a specific area in your home where the connection is fast enough.

You’ll want to find where works best for you. Everybody has a different system so it’s worth experimenting on where you work best. For Lisa-Jo Baker, a corner in her kids’ playroom works. Experiment in your own home and see what you like.

Working where you’re most productive could also mean wherever the kids can’t walk in on you. A closet. The car. A bathroom. The garage. Wherever you can find peace and quiet.

Here’s a fun “activity” to try with the kids: Get them to make an “On a Call: Do Not Disturb” sign for everyone in the family. Each person can hang their sign on the door handle when they need privacy. This gets the kids involved and (hopefully) helps them understand the message.

Track your time and try actual productivity techniques

Time tracking apps are a great way to get visibility into how you actually spend your day. Tools like Clockify, Toggl, and Harvest make it easy to track time against projects, and they also come with integrations and browser add-ons. A platform like RescueTime will give you insight into how you’re spending your time and ideas for optimizing it.

There are also a number of productivity techniques you can try to more effectively manage your time:

  • Pomodoro technique
  • Time boxing
  • The Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule
  • The two-minute rule and time pockets
  • Eat the frog
  • 1-3-5 rule
  • Getting Things Done (GTD)
  • Zen to Done (ZTD)

Get support

It is so hard but so important for entrepreneurs to be able to ask for help when they need it. We’ve said this before: “As a business owner, the last thing you want your employees (or investors) to know is that you’re feeling overwhelmed, but the longer you try to cover it up and overcompensate, the worse it will end up. As cliché as it sounds, asking for help is one of the strongest things a person can do. Acknowledging your limits and taking the right steps to overcome them is a sign of a strong leader, and will make you a great example to your peers.”

And here’s the thing: We’re all going through this together. Not a single person in the entire world is unaffected by the pandemic. It’s time to come together and support each other. Taking something off your plate or even bouncing ideas off someone else can help you stay on track.

Here’s a cool idea entrepreneurs can borrow from consulting agency sparks & honey:

No team of your own? Tap into your community. Like we said, everyone is struggling right now.

Embrace technology

Though we’re kind of forced to use technology more than normal these days, this can be beneficial even for the tech-averse. With technology, you can automate mundane tasks and focus on the part of the job that invigorates and inspires you — or makes you the most money.

Depending on your business, technology can improve productivity in a number of ways. Set up automation for post-purchase emails instead of sending them manually, set marketing reports to generate and share automatically, or streamline your invoicing process. Canadian TV host turned YouTube influencer Steve Dotto uses Wave to send invoices, which allows him to spend less time collecting money and more time earning it.

Upgrading your internet connection can make a difference too. More working from home is pushing our internet connections to the limit. With more people connected at one time, having video calls, streaming content, and doing other high bandwidth activity, your home network is likely seeing more action than it’s ever had to handle before.

Investing in noise cancelling headphones is a simple, yet effective way to improve productivity. No budget for these? Try using earplugs, it can make a world of difference.

Limit Netflix and social media

Standard advice, and while it’s important to take breaks, I can’t be the only one who takes well-intentioned breaks that turn into an hour-long mindless scroll session. We spend an average of 144 minutes per day on social media — and usage is spiking during coronavirus times. Nielsen says streaming statistics are mirroring this trend: “Staying put in our homes can lead to almost a 60% increase in the amount of content we watch in some cases and potentially more depending on the reasons.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest pandemic news or social distancing debate, but limit your news intake to once or twice a day if you can. And schedule streaming for time when you’re not working.

If you lack self-control in this area, you can try some platforms that will block the sites for you. Here are a few to check out:

  • StayFocusd
  • SelfControl
  • Offtime
  • Freedom
  • Moment
  • Limit
  • Flipd
  • Forest
  • AppBlock
  • LeechBlock

Mind your mental health

If your mind is fogged up and you’re not in a good headspace, it’s tough (if not impossible) to stay productive. This is where mental health comes into play — and it’s especially important as we’re forced into social isolation, new routines, and endless disruption.

Even when we’re not experiencing a global crisis, mental health is a challenge. Nearly 20% of American adults experience mental illness. And it hits entrepreneurs even harder, with 32% struggling with more than one condition.

Some ways to improve your mental health include:

  • Eat a well-balanced and healthy diet
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get outside
  • Stay active
  • Play an instrument
  • Paint or draw
  • Read
  • Meditate
  • Chat with friends and family
  • Do something creative
  • Talk to a therapist

Embrace video recordings

Everyone is on video chat these days, both for work and for fun. Virtual teaching, meetings, happy hours, you name it — we’re doing it on video chat. But this isn’t always convenient or even possible, especially when working around others’ schedules.

Record, edit, and send videos to your customers and team. This gives you the ability to document the video, giving everyone something to refer back to. Plus, if live video makes you nervous or just isn’t your thing, it can take some of that pressure off.

You can check out apps like Loom, Wistia, BombBomb, Soapbox, Samestate, and Vidyard for video recordings.

Set realistic expectations

Though you might be home alone with all the time in the world, we can’t understate the mental duress we’re all going through with our current circumstances. A distracted mind is a less productive one, and that’s okay.

What are your at-home productivity hacks? How are you staying focused on work during all the chaos in the world? Let us know on Twitter!

By Alexandra Sheehan

The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.

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