Working from home can be a fickle mistress. Believe me, I of all people should know. Prior to the entire COVID-19 induced lockdown, I spent the first few years of my professional life in positions that allowed me to work remotely. Every uni graduate’s dream? Yes. A recipe for disaster just waiting to be easy-baked like a goddamn Sara Lee mix? Also, yes.
Adjusting to working from home can be difficult. It starts out fun, crawling from bed a minute before the business day opens without having to worry about a commute, running late, or even pants. But then as the comfort fails to vacate your work station/bedroom desk set up, something more dangerous creeps in: idle fuckery.
Here are five hacks to increase your productivity while you work from home, as told by an experienced idiot.
The “Eat the Frog” method
Coined by Brian Tracy in his aptly named book Eat That Frog, this method posits that the task you’re dreading the most, the one you deem the most unpleasant – is the one you should do first (hence: “eating the frog”). And it isn’t simply about getting it out of the way – there’s science to back leaving the easy stuff for last.
You’re most alert and switched earlier in the day. Sure, get your coffee in and whatever, and warm up the old human CPU, but the fact remains. This fresh mindset is not to be wasted on something as low-effort as catching up on your emails or basic admin. Once again – eat the damn frog, already.
See also: “Biting the bullet”, “Ripping off the bandaid”, “Waxing the Armenian”.
The distraction replacement method
This following hack comes from a friend of mine who shall remain anonymous who, how to put this delicately… had trouble keeping his hands off himself. Whether this applies to your everyday work from home distractions is not important – this is effective against 99% of intrusive urges.
Every time you find yourself mentally drifting, or disassociating, or simply meandering about with no meaningful action being taken, replace what you’re about to do with rigorous physical action. No, not that you grub. Exercise.
My personal distraction replacement includes 20 push-ups and 20 sit-ups every time I veer away from the main objective. With the exception of days that involve extraordinary circumstances, or the not-so-extraordinary circumstance of a hangover, it has yet to fail me. Bonus points for fresh air – doing a lap around the house, going for a quick swim, bicep curling your dog. At the very least, you’ll get ripped if nothing else.
Set yourself obligations
No one likes to disappoint other people. If you do, you’re probably a sociopath. Regardless, committing yourself to planned check-ins with superiors or meeting deadlines will keep you going at a desired pace. Agree to be transparent about what you’ve achieved by lunch. Update your team members on ongoing projects by two. Turn in that monthly report by three (which reminds me, I have a report due today). You get the gist.
The safeguard here if you don’t adhere to what you’ve said is three fold:
- You look like a right pillock whose word means nothing, thereby motivating you to resolve it out of pure ego.
- People might be inclined to ask questions, thereby motivating you to resolve it so the questions stop.
- People also might be inclined to give you a rinsing, thereby motivating you to resolve it, because you can’t afford to be fired in this economy.
Scheduling rewards almost requires no explanation – everyone likes to look forward to something. A work from home day is a marathon. Not a sprint. A marathon that requires a bit of “life” in the whole work-life balance. The one caveat? Be very careful about over rewarding, either through quantity or intervals. It can become a slippery slope, and before you know it, you’re four seasons deep in The Sopranos with marinara stains on your chest hair.
And the most important lesson of all when it comes to working from home productivity…
… don’t work in your own bedroom. Lounge room, bathroom, in the backyard, anywhere – just make sure it’s not happening in the bedroom. As although it may be quiet and secluded, it’s also comfortable. Too comfortable. There’s no mental partition between work space/home office space and chill space, which may be your own undoing. Best migrate to a part of the house with less of your belongings, and far less of your bed, unless you want to run cognitive circles all day.
Hope this helps with getting those work from home jobs squared away, and remember – this quarantine is only temporary. You’ll be slinging banter in the old bull pen in no time.