Working From Home? How to Find Your Rhythm
Learning how to embrace change and manage stress are probably our #1 way to stay productive with our work during these strange times. Pushing ourselves to do more, be more, create more, and sell more, can lead us to burn-out. In the case of self-discipline and productivity, less is actually the new more.
Why? Well for starters, many of us aren’t used to working at home. Although it’s a welcome idea in theory, in practice, we have much more to contend with than just business. Many of us have kids at home demanding our attention, dogs that need walking, meals that need making, and the list goes on. It’s something of a juggling act.
As ecommerce website specialists and Shopify Partners, we do most of our work from home, so we know a lot about how to manage time, stress, and attention to our benefit. We also work with ecommerce business owners around Ireland who struggle with productivity, especially right now, and that inspired us to reach you and anyone else who is trying to carve out a more productive path from their home office.
Many people admit that working from home influences greater productivity. The flexibility to choose when and how you want to work removes the pressure of having to perform according to someone else’s schedule and style. Your natural flow begins to emerge as you discover that perhaps 8 am is a better time for working out than for filing invoices, and a 20-minute nap at 2 pm gives you the boost you need to tackle the rest of the day.
That said, unless you have a boss that’s tracking your hours, you’re in charge of your own time management, and it’s not always a welcome responsibility. There are several productivity tools that enable more effective working skills, but when it comes to measuring your own productivity, you’re really the only one who can.
Laura Mae Martin, Google’s in-house productivity expert, recommends three strategies for optimising work-from-home arrangements: planning your day the night before, allowing room for flexibility in your schedule, and choosing a consistent spot to work from. These are excellent, useful tips, and we’ve expanded on them below to help you prep yourself for productivity.
HOW TO BE PRODUCTIVE
Start Here: Perform A Self-Directed Case Study
The simple act of noticing our behaviours (and neuroses) and documenting our observations can provide some surprising insights about ourselves. For one week, just notice your habitual behaviours and jot them down next to a timestamp. Don’t judge, try to change, or fabricate anything. Just record exactly what you do and when you do it.
At the end of the week, perform a mini-analysis. When were you most productive, lazy, distracted, tired? When were you most mentally and emotionally connected to your work? Plan your next week’s schedule around those insights.
Set A Weekly Schedule & Write It Down
That’s right. Take out the good old fashioned notepad and pen and draw your schedule. The act of writing things down connects and commits us to the content. It’s in every writer’s toolkit. It also establishes accountability with yourself. When you see that schedule posted on the wall next to your workspace, it will remind you of the commitment you made to be more productive.
Keep in mind that it’s an overarching schedule, that is, it doesn't contain the fine to-do details. Note those when you make your day’s plan the night before (coming up).
It’s critical that you create this schedule at the beginning of every week and change it up as necessary. Why? Flexibility. To avoid chaining yourself to unnecessary rules. We’re human, we change our minds, preferences, and style on a regular basis. Why not work with ourselves rather than against ourselves?
Include these elements in your weekly plan:
- Mental breaks, nature breaks, food breaks, and stretching breaks.
- Small chunks of time devoted to work. You’ll know from your mini self-inquiry how much a small chunk of time is for you.
- Daily exercise.
- Time devoted to being online, whether it’s to check messages, have Zoom meetings or do research.
Assign an Anchor
Productivity expert James Clear recommends choosing one task that anchors your attention. Think of it as an overarching priority for the day. To assign your anchor, perform a daily check-in with yourself to determine where you are in the process of working toward your goals. The main tasks in this daily check-in are reflection and analysis: Where are you and where do you need to be? Then choose the most critical task for taking you through the next step in the process.
Assigning an anchor is a great way to wrap up the workday and help you plan out the next day’s tasks. With your anchor as the focus, you can plan everything else you want to do the next day. Schedule your breaks, and depending on what your work is, create a task list in order of importance. Some people like to get the “yuck” work out of the way first. Others like to start with the work they enjoy to set the right tone. This is your call, and it doesn’t hurt to experiment with your schedule one day to the next to discover what works best for you. But your anchor is the central focus holding it all together.
Create A Suggestive Environment
A suggestive environment is about teaching your brain associations. A baby’s brain grows new neural connections in response to what they’re exposed to, and our adult brains work much the same way, though they require a bit more training.
Start by clearing known distractions. They’re different for everyone so you have to know what steals your attention (squirrel!) and keep it out of the office. Does the ping of your mobile phone cause a knee-jerk reaction to check any and all messages? If so, turn off your notifications. If you need messaging for work, turn off the ones not work-related.
Some experts suggest getting dressed every morning just as you would if you were going to an office. But this is where that case study data come in handy. Does working in your pyjamas disable your work, even a little? If so, get dressed before you work. Only you know this, and it’s your job (and power) to decide just how “suggestive” you need to be with yourself.
As important as it is to create a comfortable and productive work environment, you must also have spaces where work isn’t allowed. Like every relationship we have in our lives, distance and downtime are critical to its health. They’re also essential for our security. Create spaces that you can go to when you need some mental chill time.
Honour Your Flow State
Positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi defines flow as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best” (1). Your degree of focus predicts your level of involvement in a particular task. When you’re truly absorbed in your work, ideas spring up and breed without boundaries, and actions are seamless movements. In essence, you leave the trappings of time.
Flow state isn’t just for creatives in the traditional sense of the word. Creativity is much less about what we do and more about how we do it. In that sense, every single one of us is a “creative” and has creative work to do.
Exercise Every Day
Exercise has two benefits as it relates to productivity. When you make exercise part of your daily routine, you’re not only contributing to your physical health, you’re boosting your productivity too. How? First of all, you’re allowing yourself to engage in non-work related activities. Although that seems counterintuitive, it’s not. Remember the importance of distance? Physical exercise also releases endorphins, powerful neurotransmitters that combat sluggishness, mental fog, and stress. When we exercise, we’re essentially conditioning ourselves to be alert, focused, and in control.
Most Surprising Tip? Do Nothing
Sometimes the solution to a challenge is doing the opposite of what you expect would lead to the best outcome. When you don’t have the buzz of the office around you, it’s easy to be led astray down a slippery slope of distraction. There’s a “thought monster” who incessantly reminds you of all the things that don’t really need doing, like having a sixth cup of coffee, or straightening the blinds, or wiping an innocent smudge off the window––anything that prevents you from getting work done. That may be a signal that you haven’t given yourself enough downtime.
Let’s clarify downtime. It’s like turning your laptop off for the night. That means it can’t check messages, watch YouTube, or plan. Downtime is doing nothing at all. Give yourself a few 5-minute downtime sessions every day. Just stop what you’re doing, go sit in a comfortable space, like your backyard, and simply be.
You don’t have to run yourself into the ground. If you’re trying to manage an ecommerce business and take care of life responsibilities, we can help you with the business part. We’re Shopify Partners and we can help with every part of your online business. To find out more, schedule a free consultation with us here.
June 11, 2020