Effective Tips For Working From Home.

How to keep your productivity up while working from home?

 

What is evident is that it’s not that easy to work from home. Home is made for comfort and everything around at home Echos Comfort. Every single item like Couch, seats, swing in the porch and oh yes the bed. The feeling of “Finally being at home” is epitomised once you finally reach home after a tiring days’ work. It was NOT the place that was going to be used for serious official work. A few emails and calls may be but definitely not a full day of office work. However, due to the challenges of current situation, we all are forced to work from home.  A home that was built for comfort and love and not for Productivity.

No one is born productive. If you do not believe me, just check out the cute infant and babies, they just eat, sleep and yes fart and poop in between. They just Rest, Rest, Rest. Given a choice, so would we. No one needs any “Self Discipline” to rest. It is our default setting and a setting that is supposed to get activated the moment we are home.

Home Sweet Home.

And we are supposed to, and have been for a  month now, work from HOME.  I mean, does anyone even realize that the term “Work From Home” is an Oxymoron.

The ability to be Productive is a culture thing. Your own culture and that of the environment in which your life has been shaped so far. Remember, you may have lofty ideas, but if you have not developed a culture of productivity, well nothing really happens.

Always remember what “Peter F Drucker” said, “Culture eats plans for breakfast.”

Hate it or love it, we are destined to work from Home and keep our company, country and economy running during these trying times.

Here are some simple and yet effective tips that would improve your productivity at your new work place, Your Home.

 

  1. Establish a morning routine. The reason I have put this up first is because it is by far the most important thing to be productive at home. Not only does it sets the tone for the rest of the day, it helps you be on top of things rather than playing catch up for the rest of the day. Getting up early is key. At our home we all get up at around 5 am including my 88 yrs old father. Now that you do not have to commute to office, you can get some physical exercise in. Some brisk movement and deep breathing exercise really does wonders to your energy level as well as your mood. Best yet, if you have kids at home, exercise with them. Teach them different exercises you used to do when you were a kid yourself. You could workout with your live-in partner or your spouse as well. If alone, you can connect with a friend over video platform and exercise together. These days I am competing with a friend about who can do more push ups at one go? I have already reached the count of 25 in just a week. I am also working out with my daughter. This can be followed up with deciding your meals for the day. Yes! The entire day. This simple act takes the “drudgery” out of making meals 3 to 4 times a day. This helps you take stock of your grocery stock and the needs for day as well as for the future. This will help you decide if you would need to make a quick run to the local “permissible” outlet for the groceries or you are good for now. Take out the trash, clean up your room / home and tidy up your bed. Freshen up, take a shower, personal grooming and get appropriately dressed for breakfast, all of it before 8 am . Choose those breakfast preparations that are not only healthy but also less messy because you really do not want to have too much to clean up, afterwards.

And for Heaven’s sake, please shower and wear comfortable and tidy clothes.

The most important part is that you should not be a slob. Slobs are never active and it has nothing to do with their internal energy, but more to do with their surroundings. Untidy, unkempt and dishevelled surroundings suck the energy out of a person and they become akin to “Slow Moving, yawning, scratching, Bermuda wearing Sloths”.

 

  1. Have a designated working place. This is one of the most important thing you can do to have a productive working environment even at home. “Designated Place” would mean a place where you will always work for office. Even if it would be set up daily morning only to be removed by evening, after work, this specific place would ensure that you get accustomed to that place and start working instead of adjusting the work place. This does not mean that it has to be a working desk unless your kids have allowed you access to their rooms. It could be a corner of your dining table or a portion of your bed or even a place in your balcony if the weather and size of balcony permits it. And the best thing is try and keep that designated place with the bare minimum of work as possible. Also, try and make that place a bit less accident prone like spilled coffee or water etc., on power cables or junction boxes.

Having a designated place also ensures that your kids or your other family members adjust to your working place accordingly and lend it the seriousness that it deserves.

In case you have pets, create a working place that is less likely to be “Sound bombed” or “Scampered” by them. Nothing will put you off more than a slimy drippy and half chewed “mouse” or a “power cable” that is now half chewed up.

  1. Make a List before Work Starts. Make a list of all things that need to be done for work and as well as for home, for the day. Having done that, you now need to prioritize both of them, based on what are the “Musts” and which ones are “could be done if time permits”. Remember when you say “Yes” to something you are, at the same time, saying NO to doing several other things. Hence, a good amount of thought should have gone into what you are saying yes to.

This situation is also a golden opportunity to do things which you were putting off all this time because you were too busy. Learning a new language, learning copy-writing, learning a new musical instrument, learning video processing etc., so many options. If you are on a personal learning journey as well, ensure that your list also contains some elements of this journey as well so that you have a gradual but sure progress in your learning journey.

The key to prioritization is, brutal priority. There are a lot of things to do at home as well as for office. You really cannot end up wasting your time on things that really do not help you move forward or eats up into your personal time with family.

I usually plan the day with my wife and daughter as well as my father to let them know some of the times in the day that would require “Domestic Silence”. This ensures that you do not have to “Hush up your family members” during meetings or important discussions. Usually I make a list with my Wife and divide the work for the day. Making that list actually is the most important thing that makes my day really productive.

 

  1. Take some breaks. Taking breaks is very important. Remember that you may not be having most ergonomically sound working environment and hence it would be prudent for your back as well, to take a break and stretch. Best thing to do is have a 45 + 15 Minutes rule. Work with undivided focus for 45 minutes and then take a 15 minutes of break. You could also look at your list to find which of the Home chores you could do in 15 minutes. Sometimes I just go to the kitchen to cut the vegetables in advance for lunch or dinner, or make a quick visit to permitted shops for buying something or even checking on my elderly father if he needs something. However one of the things to absolutely avoid is to drink too much coffee or tea at home or make a dash to refrigerator and take out a munchie. I know the kitchen is right there and so is the refrigerator, but control yourself and get a few things done or just stretch and drink some water.  In the current situation to build your immunity, avoid any cold drink and just have room temperature water in good quantity. If you have pets, spend some minutes of this break with the pet to stop it from getting impatient for your attention and thus leaping all over you during important meetings. I usually have some chore or the other listed for these breaks.

I mean while writing this blog. I just took a break of 10 minutes and drank some water, checked on my daughter and went over to the kitchen to wash 3 vegetable groups and peeled the potatoes. These are what we are going to have for lunch and once my wife gets done with her online Japanese class (she teaches) she will cook. My turn is the dinner.

 

  1. Avoid Multitasking Completely. Work with absolute focus, without trying to wash your laundry, or trying to cook something, or watching a movie on subtitles while working. When you work, just work. Multitasking tends to reduce a person’s IQ at the same rate like “consuming marijuana”. This is not something that has been made up. This finding is the result of a longish study conducted by one of the premiere institute of UK. The biggest issue with multitasking at Home are accidents and mess. You want to create a mess, go ahead do multitasking at home and put yourself as well as your family members to the risk of accidents.

 

Remember all the hospitals are too busy trying to handle an outbreak, your ailments and accidents would not be addressed to easily. Keep safe by avoiding any kind of multitasking. Just imagine what would happen to all your communication if you were cooking while shoulder-propping the cell phone and talking to someone, and the cell phone falls on the floor and breaks apart. I know you could quickly run to the nearest repair centre……. Or you could order a replacement online….. but….It’s a Lockdown remember. One of the biggest enemies to productivity is Multitasking.

 

  1. Work normal hours. You are at Home. You are working from home. Hence do not try to get overboard trying to finish everything and keep tabs on everything. Remember the Work List. Try and stick to it as much as possible. Many times, I just record a video of my views and upload it on drive or shared place and send the link to the person who wanted to connect with me later in the day. This almost completely removes the need for a meeting after my “Work Hours”. Celebrate the fact that you do not have to travel long distances in noise, crowd and pollution and arrive home too tired to spend any time with your family members or partner. Specifically if you kids are at home, they too are not able to step out of their homes.

Your family members have been politely keeping their noise and work to the minimum during your work time but they too deserve some time of yours. Never forget that because of the current situation you have “Invaded Family Place” with your work. Try and keep this invasion to the minimum. No matter how challenging and involving the work, this is a “Home” use this time to make it a “Great One”.

 

  1. Do not keep awake too late. I have seen new “Movie clubs” sprouting up on FB and Watsapp groups, where they discuss movies and serials and prompt others to watch it. Everyone who is present there is trying to watch as many movies as they can. And this usually means waking up late at night to watch them.

 

Which in turn shoots your next day as you get up late with horribly low glucose (energy) levels. Watch movies and those serials on Netflix and other such sources, but ensure that you sleep well and at time that allows you to wake up early and fresh. There is also a very scientific reason for the same. Sleeping later lowers your glucose levels horribly thus making you excessively sluggish and irritable the next morning. This affects the rest of the day as little gets done and you have to continue into the late evening to finish your work and again since you are tired from work, you need entertainment. This cycle just repeats itself as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Get out of it. I and my wife have started a new thing of watching part of the movie together and then completing it together the next day if we are unable to finish it before 10 pm.

  1. Reduce Your Meetings. One of the biggest waste of times is Meetings. Everyone knows that the other colleague is at home. Where else would he/she be. And thus we populate each other’s calendar with meeting requests. Choose your meetings very carefully.

Not every meeting needs you. For those meetings where you would be a spectator you could ask the meeting to record the meeting and send the link of the recording to be watched for updates. Start recording videos with your inputs and thoughts and sending the videos if you are unable to find time from a colleague for a meeting. This is way better than sending an email because there is better communication through videos. Consider doing that. You will suddenly see that you can get more done during the day.

 

  1. Maintain the Significance of Weekend. Weekdays are essentially for office work, business work. Just like in normal circumstances, family members, kids and even pets should be aware of your working time. This should be kept as similar to that as possible.

This means that you must provide time to them after normal working hours and much more time during the weekends. Plan something special with your family for the weekend. If you are alone, promise yourself something relaxing or something that is intellectually stimulating, over the weekend. Else you can kiss your ‘Worktime good bye”. I do Weekend early mornings roof-top bird photography with my daughter. It’s fun, gets you amazing quality time with your kid and it’s a great way to start your day. This weekend our plan is to do Karaoke songs with wife and daughter, one Viday Voux song and one oldie song from 1970s Indian Movie.

 

  1. Home Has Noises, Deal with it. If your home is alive, it would have noise. Kitchen noise, noise of utensils being taken out from dishwasher and arranged in their cabinets, sounds of articles being taken out of their wrappers, sounds of food processors, sounds of your family members having an animated discussions with one of their friends, sounds of kids scampering around and your worried spouse running after them, sounds of arguments and well the list is endless.

Here again, the morning discussion of the plan comes in handy. For those important meetings that need more domestic silence, I let them know in the morning. For other meetings I let my home be, well …. Home. One trick that you can do is that you arrange your workspace such that your webcam / camera points to a wall behind you. Nothing would make your family more conscious and consequently irritated if there daily activities are caught in the camera in open view of others. I know of some colleagues where this resulted into an instant argument and finger pointing with their spouse. Some people (like yours truly) are sensitive to sounds and this comes in the way of productivity. Hence what I do is for most part of the day I keep some light music on which works as a rudimentary “Noise Cancellation” for the domestic sounds. Kind of Works. I actually get suspicious about the “Home Health” of a house that does not have “Home Sounds”.

 

  1. Minimize Your Social Media Foot (finger) Print. Things that are happening around us these days are not normal. I mean other than the 1971 war, I do not remember anything like this that made me stay indoors just to keep healthy. Naturally, now that we are “Isolated” from others, we need to connect even more. And well guess what, what could be better than so many platforms in which you are connected to thousands of people. However there is a catch.

With strange situations around it tends to bring out strange behaviour out of otherwise sane people. People also share opinion, news, arguments and points of view that may be opposed to that of yours. This results into a massive “Hook” that keeps you getting back into it. “How many people have liked my post?”, “Did he take it personally?”, “How dare she writes this on my wall, got to get back to her”, “Cant these guys see how this government is doing to keep the china virus infections under control, why are these people criticizing this government so much?” and so on. They become such a time waster. The more you post or visit social media, the more you end up reaching for it during the day to see the updates. I have put all my Watsapp groups on silent. If I need to connect to someone I just call them up. The feeling is a lot better. However social media is also important for its mass reach. Well keep a fixed time for Social Media. Being at home does not mean that you tune into social media every 15 minutes as if it was some kind of compulsive disorder. Get at it 2 to 3 times a day and usually fix those times and also fix standard duration. I too mastered this art by observing my wife. She has fixed 2 times in the day when she checks out her Social Media, but she will never do that when she is resting or doing something else. Resting is never the best time for social media. It’s actually quite the opposite. Just this habit has opened up huge reserves of time for my productivity and time in the same 24 hr day.

 

  1. Do Not Forget To Grow. Tragic, as it may be the current situation, this is also a time that you could use to learn something new or practice the hobby that you did not have the time for, earlier. When you make the daily task list in the morning, keep some items too in the list to forward your personal targets during this lockdown time. I have a target to finishing two books. This helps me utilize my personal time better and helps me keep away from being a “Social Media Gossipy bum” as well as a couch potato who is binge watching Netflix. 

My wife is preparing for Japanese language exams in July and my daughter is getting better at photography while preparing for the University Entrance Exams. Having a personal target related tasks also keeps you focused. Some people are also using this time to prepare for some profession related citification. There is time for that.

  1. Take Care Of Your Posture. Most of your house was not designed for the ergonomics of productivity. You are probably using the side of dining table, the study table of your child, the couch at the living room or the side of bed. In almost every case you are not sitting in your optimum posture. This might create some major lifelong problem unless you adhere to the 45 + 15 minutes principle and stretch and move around.

There is already a nearly 1,000% rise in “Back pain and spasm” complaints to the doctors. And guess what, people with back pain are not exactly a priority right now. Many of my friends are suffering from serious back pain cannot even go for a physiotherapy. So take care of your posture and keep healthy and productive. In case you do get some back pain please do not self-medicate as some of the pain-killers are “Kidney Killers” too. One of the safest things you can do is to soak some “Fenugreek Seeds” overnight in a glass of water and drink that water first thing in the morning as well as eat up those soaked fenugreek seeds.This gives amazing “same day” relief and also has absolutely no side effects whatsoever. But then Prevention is better than cure.

 

  1. Keep Your Home Well Ventilated. Yes there are sounds, heat and dust out there which you wish to prevent invading your home as well as your work. However, keeping your windows cracked provides the air circulation that is crucial for keeping your Home healthy. When you stay locked up in a room or a home, your body smell pervades the home which is rather unhealthy. Besides if you breathe in a closed home / room you end up utilizing the oxygen content in the air in your room. This makes you sluggish and lethargic and many times a bit agitated.

These things also have a very long term consequences on your lungs. Keeping the AC on at all times is excessively bad for your skin moisture and keeps your body from regulating temperatures naturally which eventually horribly reduces your immunity. Guess what, probably for the first time in our living lives, the air has been this clean. Get that nice clean air into your home so that you keep at your healthy best and productive.

 

  1. Take It To The Next Level. When you apply these simple tips and as you get better at working from home you need to start making “The List” in the evening for the next day. This puts a very satisfying defining of “done” to your day and mentally and physically frees you to spend time with your family, hobbies, parents, pets and or friends. And the best part is that you would start planning work in “minutes and hours” and family time in “experiences and memories”.

 

Stay Home and Productive.

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