Tips on Staying Productive While Working from Home
Don’t let distractions disrupt your flow.
Constant chatter on a Slack group, family members dropping in for a quick chat, or simply the inability to work for more than 30 minutes before getting sucked into yet another cat video on the internet.
These distractions are all too common now that a majority of the labour force in Singapore is working from home. Yet, the demands of the job remain. A task that you procrastinate on today will simply end up in tomorrow’s to-do list. Below, we’ve rounded up some ways to help you stay focused and on task.
Establish a morning routine
If work begins at 9 am, start your day an hour and a half before so that you can slip in an invigorating yoga session, take a quick shower, and enjoy a light breakfast. Having a consistent morning routine gives your mind time to power up and mentally prepare itself for a full day of work. By stacking familiar tasks, your brain develops a healthy routine that over time, begins to stick.
Tackle your most difficult task first
Draw up your to-do list for the day and put the most complex task right at the top. While our tendency is to delay harder tasks for easier ones, it is more ideal for our brains to solve difficult problems while we are still fresh and energised. If you try to clear a series of minor but tedious tasks before embarking on a cognitively demanding task, your brain might feel too fatigued by this point to remain on task.
Schedule breaks and honour them
Think that downtime might make you less productive? Well, research suggests that breaking up long hours of work with short breaks will in fact help you to feel more focused and productive. Even if your day appears to be packed to the brim, be sure to block out two planned, 15-minute breaks so that you can come up for air in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Being able to step away from your laptop is also helpful in preventing eyestrain especially if you spend long hours at the computer.
Besides squeezing in a power nap (which has been shown to improve cognitive function and decrease fatigue), you can also take a walk, meditate, or do some gentle stretches to relieve any tension from your neck, shoulders, or lower back.
Set up a proper workspace
Instead of working from the couch or the dining table, invest the time and money into setting up a proper workspace in a quieter part of the home. A space that is fully dedicated to work signals to your mind that ‘work happens here’. You don’t need a large area, but you do need to carve out enough room so that your workstation not only encourages good posture but grants you easy access to any work-related equipment that you might need.
Make your boundaries known
Let your spouse, children, or roommates know when you can or cannot be disturbed. This way, you won’t be pulled away abruptly from tasks while you’re in a productive state of flow. If possible, setting a physical boundary–such as working from a room with a closed door–is a great way to tangibly protect your time and space.
For parents who have to care for children or assist them with home-based learning activities, consider drawing up a schedule that splits the chores so that you can put in a full day of work without interruptions. This way, you might supervise your child on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while your partner takes-over these duties on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Limit your exposure to communication channels
Resist the urge to refresh your email every 15-minutes or keep your WhatsApp, Slack, or Microsoft Team apps open in the background. While the ability to communicate with your colleagues is important, it also hinders your ability to work on tasks that require long stretches of cognitive focus. Research has shown that it takes the brain an average of 15 minutes to re-focus on a primary task after it has been distracted by an email or text.
If possible, revisit emails or chat groups once every two to three hours. Tell your team members to call you if something requires your urgent attention.