Meeting Goals When You’re Busy AF (+ a Giveaway!)
REMEMBER CUBICLES? Those uniform, utilitarian people-dividers that portion employees’ workspaces into more manageable, focused compartments?
While they may increase productivity, they also create an environment that discourages individuality and shuts out everything except for the work in front of you. Horses get blinders; we get cubicles. Well, good news – with remote jobs on the rise, cubicles will soon be a thing of the past.
Working from home instills a sense of freedom and control that’s hard to find in the conventional workplace. You often get to create your own schedule, set your own rules, and design your own work environment. But if you’re not careful, your work may soon take a backseat to comfort, clutter, and obsessively checking the replies to that snarky political comment you made on Facebook.
But before you throw on your finest pair of work pajamas and go about piecing together the to-do list you scribbled on eight different scraps of paper, here are just THREE simple tips to help you maximize productivity while working from home.
One: Separate Your Work From Your Rest
Many people choose to work remotely because they’ve realized that they’re most productive when they can choose how they work. They’ve ditched their cubicles for their condos, and haven’t looked back since. But after 3 days of working in bed, they notice that they’ve been completing less work and at slower rates. They struggle to get into a productive mindset. This is because our brains aren’t operated by a switch labeled WORK MODE; they function on patterns.
If the space you work in just so happens to be the same space where you eat, sleep, or watch TV, your mind will automatically assume that you’re preparing to eat, sleep, or watch TV. Now, I don’t know your particular role description, but chances are it’d be best if you weren’t in the same mindset for work that you’d be in to watch a Simpsons marathon. So in order to feel truly ready to work, you’ll need to set up a dedicated space to do so – be it a desk or a table (although the delineation between the two seems to be whether or not you put food on it). Hell, you can even get a leather recliner and call it your “Command Post.” All that matters is that your brain recognizes said space as the place where work is done.
Two: Limit Your Internet Browsing
(And put away your smartphone, too. That’s cheating.)
It’s safe to assume that if you’re working from home, you’re spending a majority of that time on your computer. While the internet is filled to the brim with helpful resources and tools, there are just as many (if not SO MANY MORE) sites whose sole intent is to distract you from what you’re doing. If you’ve ever panicked an hour before a deadline because you spent the past two days watching Kitchen Nightmares freakout compilations on YouTube, then you’re already familiar with the seductive distraction that the World Wide Web offers. Luckily, there are tools out there (online; go figure) to help you avoid giving in to that little voice in your head reminding you how much you love watching Gordon Ramsey make people cry
The first step to becoming the ultimate WFH badass is understanding the habits that get in your way. Webtime Tracker is a Google Chrome extension for keeping track of where you spend the most time on the internet. You may not even realize that three of your seven work hours today were spent on Buzzfeed. (But let’s be honest – you probably had a feeling that was the case.)
Now that you know where your time goes, it’s time to get it back. This Chrome extension is a life-saver for those who find themselves mindlessly reading and rereading their Facebook feed. With Block & Focus, when it’s time to sit down and work, you can protect yourself from the siren song of your favorite websites by restricting access. It even allows you to schedule breaks, during which you have free reign on the interwebs.
In order to tackle your work most effectively, you need a coherent, organized to-do list. There are many apps out there fit to do the job, but Any.Do is my personal favorite. With a seriously user-friendly design, Any.Do allows you to compartmentalize tasks based on your priorities, set notification reminders for certain times or progress points, and even sync your browser with your phone.
Three: Set The Tone
So you’ve set up a dedicated workspace; you’ve blocked CNN, Facebook, and Tumblr; and now all you need to do is work. But… you’re still in your jammies, the blinds are drawn, and the only noise you hear is the incessant ringing in your ear from ingesting near-lethal amounts of caffeine. It won’t take long for your eagerness to work gives way to procrastination. To avoid this, you need to set the tone for productivity.
The same way working from home grants you the freedom to set your own hours, it also allows you to create the kind of environment in which you excel. We each have our own idiosyncratic proclivities and motivators, so tailor your work environment to suit yours.
For example, when I sit down to write a blog or draft a treatment for a pitch, I depend on a few elements being present so that my work environment is set to #GRIND mode:
I love sweatpants as much as the next guy, but if I’m in my pajamas (or less), I don’t feel ready to work. Instead, I feel like I’m ready to read a book and go to bed. Changing into clothes that are suitable for being in public tells my brain that I’m alert and ready to be productive.
🗃 AN ORGANIZED DESK
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a naturally organized person. My college apartment was covered in a layer of clothes so big you’d have thought it was a new take on carpeting. But visual clutter lends itself to a certain mental clutter. I noticed that I would work much more efficiently when I made sure I could actually *see* the table I was working on. Shocker, right?
🎧 INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC
If I could listen to podcasts or my favorite bands all day as I work, I totally would. But, sometimes it seems nearly impossible to write from my own voice when I’m constantly hearing someone else’s. Instead, I listen to Ambient and Classical music* – two genres I don’t listen to much outside of work. The lack of vocals allows you to hear your own voice, and the music helps set the tone (and avoid radio silence).
*(My current go-to listens are Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror by Brian Eno, Spotify’s Modernism playlist, and Forest of Polarity by Rooftops – for when I’m in a playful mood.)
If you’re finding yourself weighed down by procrastination and distraction, give these three tips a try. Some may fit with your ideal work environment, others may not. The important thing is that you find what helps YOU be most productive, and make sure those elements are present. Not only will you work more efficiently, you might also find that you are capable of producing better content than you ever thought.
Just once, I’d like to see a cubicle do THAT for anyone.