Commuting to work from the bedroom via the kitchen to a front room, repurposed as an office, might seem in theory like heaven for most of us. The reality in practice is that it’s not as idyllic and stress free as we might imagine.
Kids squawking and fighting mid Zoom to your boss, dog barking at the postman during an important client call and questions over what’s for tea from ALL members of the household as you attempt for the umpteenth time to balance the figures in the report with that ever faster approaching deadline.
Meanwhile you’ve taken to wearing more comfortable clothes, not bothered so much with the hair do but despite this you’ve tried your best to get into a routine. Unfortunately those around you are not respecting your needs.
Even social distancing WF-Homers, living alone, will experience interference. Pets that crave attention and start to act in a peculiar way because they can’t adjust to you being around and shortage of digital distractions. Lets’ also not forget the extended family who may be of a certain age and in need of regular support.
Then there’s your own idiosyncratic behaviours. There’s a fridge that constantly calls your name when you step by to make a cup of tea and that annoyingly addictive app called TikTok that once you start you cannot stop. Gazing at the weird and wonderful things people are doing…mostly dancing to The Weekend’s Blinding Lights. Add to all of this the general smartphone interference of WhatsApp group chat, Facebook, Instagram and stalking competition on LinkedIn and you’ve spent another day not achieving very much.
So, with all of this “noise” how can you possibly concentrate and get your work done?
The good news is you’re not alone and many home workers have struggled during lockdown. So, what can you do to improve your productivity?
Create a Routine that Fits with your Situation
All too often we fall at the first hurdle. We set ambitious schedules and on the first day it’s in tatters because X happened, or Y became a priority. Remember these are highly unusual times calling for fresh thinking. You’re not in the normal workplace, you’re in a different environment and that demands a routine that accommodates the interplay with those sharing the space and your own needs.
If you don’t have the luxury of a “panic room” office, build a day that makes time for those you are living with. One further point here, be aware of your own motivations, behavioural tics and weaknesses.
Are you an AM animal or more a PM person? I for one fall into the latter camp, so when given a choice choose to read, study, prepare work in the morning and get lively with greater energy and engagement later in the day! I set my routine to accommodate that and if I do have a 7.30am Zoom just make sure the Americano has an extra shot.
Have a plan and stick to it
Just because you’re at home it doesn’t mean you can’t plan and achieve things that have work-based objectives but match this with a plan that includes domestic tasks. E.g. If you can improve the ergonomics of your living space, you’ll feel better and be more productive and also less guilty about those nagging tasks. The key is to hold yourself to it.
Set achievable goals
You’re more likely to realise that plan IF you’ve set tasks that are within your scope of time, skills and capability. Don’t go too soft on yourself but equally don’t miss out on ticking off those challenges you’ve been putting off.
Mix it up
All work and no play…you know what they say…well its true. Even domestic chores can be stressful and hard work, so build in time for an activity that gives back. Exercise, take a dance class or Yoga online, learn a new skill that you find fun and enjoy.
Make time for breaks
OK so it might seem like life is one big break right now but actually its quite stressful, the whole situation is fraught and your mental and physical health is all important so take care of it. Schedule in regular breaks.
Famously in our household I treat the family to my monkey dance if something particularly good has happened. As you can imagine it’s not pretty sight, but it is a bit of fun. Something like a version of Jim Carey meets Ed Balls mid Gangnam Style. Perhaps rather than goofing about you’d prefer a cup of tea and a piece of your favourite chocolate…that might work too. Whatever it is be sure to mark a positive outcome, good feedback and getting a tricky job done.
Speak to trusted friends
Be conscious of your physical AND mental health. It’s always good to stay in touch with those you love and trust. Social time is healthy time and lockdown can steal away valuable interactions. Win that time back with an online quiz with friends or simply a phone call with a relative.
Use tools to keep you on track
There’s no shortage of super clever software packages that promise to organise your life and projects but the one I hold up as the most impactful is the low-tech Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is a beautifully simple approach to time management. The method was originated by Italian student Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. He was struggling to complete his university dissertation and found far too many things distracting him and aligned with his own procrastinating tendencies facing the real danger of failure. He turned to a domestic and very popular kitchen gadget the Pomodoro Timer. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato and therefore gives the device its design. The timer is literally a large red tomato that has a setting of up to one hour. The Pomodoro Technique uses the timer setting of 25 minutes in length for a typical session, 50 minutes for longer work but with intervals of 5 and 10 minutes respectively before embarking on further work.
When you’re working on a Pomodoro session make sure everyone is aware so they won’t interrupt, if they do just let them know when you’ll be free to give them attention.
I bought my Pomodoro Timer for the princely sum of £5, the best return on cost of any time management tool I’ve invested in.
You can also use an online version https://tomato-timer.com/ but just be wary of getting side-tracked if you do.
It looks like there’s still time for many of us to become that WFH champion, so no time like the present, set that Tomato and go!
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