Master the Home Office Lifestyle!
Working from home can be pleasant and liberating if done right. However, it can also be demanding and might offer some pitfalls. The liberation comes along with some decent challenges since you are responsible for structuring your day and your environment.
At the same time, it is your responsibility to keep away from distractions in an effort to not lose your focus. However, there are some things you can do to radically boost your productivity and, ultimately, your chances of mastering the home office lifestyle.
The current times are challenging for people and companies. The Corona Virus is forcing people in many countries to work from home and to communicate solely with digital tools. Some industries find that more natural than others. Not every company has even set up the infrastructure for employees to work from home. Also, not every employee is prepared and used to do that. It needs practice, knowledge, and some sort of behavioral design to make the most out of it.
Now is the right time to sharpen your skill-set and prepare for the future of work.
6 Step Framework
The following 6 steps will set the framework to become super productive while working from home:
1. Smooth operating system
The foundation for any productive remote work is a setup that runs smoothly. The tools you use must work properly! Otherwise, you are at risk of running into too many errors and experience too many interruptions. As a result, your concentration drops, energy fades, and you might lose your enthusiasm and, ultimately, your commitment. Your setup includes everything from your internet connection, VPN, software, hardware, compatibility Mac & Win, logins, passwords, … you name it. If it is too slow, unstable, wiggly, unsmooth, or unpleasant, everything is already set up to fail. Hence, invest in a great setup and the best tools to create a super-strong foundation for productive work in your home office.
2. Create a space for focused attention
Make sure you create a space in your home for focused attention. Otherwise, fighting distractions will drown your energy and attention levels. Be strict: No tv, no phone (if possible), no social media, no couch, no partner sneaking around you. In the best case, you have a separate room where it is just you and your computer. Every distraction will higher the odds that your mind and attention drift away. Furthermore, make sure that your surrounding is design-wise, somehow engaging and supportive to your individual personality.
3. Set distinct times
It sounds super straight forward, but without setting precise times to start and finish your workday, it becomes nearly impossible to get a grip on it! In the best case, you place your times already the day before or stick to your regular working hours, even when working from home.
The good thing about showing up in an office, against all the odds, is that it structures your day in a transparent way. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured and requires much higher effort, to be shaped into something that supports your purpose.
If you need to shape it every day once again, you might lose your grip. That is why it is best to set up your own system (times) and stick to it. It needs discipline! Define your time; otherwise, everything else around you will try to steal significant parts of it. Set clear boundaries when you work and defend them from everyone and everything that tries to break your routine.
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4. Define chunks of time
Try to work in defined chunks of time. That can be 1-hour intervals of focused work, with 5 to 10-minute breaks or whatever feels comfortable to you. Maybe use a timer app (like Gestimer for Mac) to frame your work in time sections. In that way, you create a clear distinction between focused attention and breaks, e.g., free time at home. Ask everybody around you kindly to not interrupt you within your defined chunks of time. The focus that gets lost due to interruptions is enormous, and the energy it takes to get back to the same level is too big as a tradeoff. Frequent breaks make it nearly impossible to find your way into a state of flow and focused attention.
By distinguishing sharply between times to get things done and spare time, you give your brain a clearly framed setup to operate. That structure makes it way easier to be productive and to stay focused.
5. Start your day with a clear goal in mind
Precise goal setting is helpful for any working environment. However, it is especially beneficial when working from home because it adds structure and priorities to your day. A new surrounding demands even more discipline and effort to find your rhythm. Our homes are usually a space for joy and relaxation. All of a sudden, our cozy surrounding interferes with hard work and demands a focused and productive behavior.
If you are not used to it, make sure to align with clear goals rather than falling for all the things you’d like to do instead when leisure is within reach. Set the three “Most Important Goals” (MITs) in the morning or the evening before. Then go after them first thing when you start your home office day. In that way, you’ll gain momentum and strengthening a feeling of accomplishment and, ultimately, win the day.
6. Make communication a habit
The in-person social connection is entirely missing when working from home. Therefore the lack of intuitive communication with team members and peers has to be replaced intentionally by new behavior and communication habits.
We are all social animals, and we need some kind of human interaction in our routines. Sharing a laugh, seeing emotions on people’s faces, all that is important for our health and energy levels. Business-wise it helps to keep everybody on the same page and makes sure that the right person is working on the right task. To keep the workflow and spirit up, schedule weekly video meetings, and implement the tools that make it easy to exchange knowledge and solve problems as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Finally: Conquer distractions
While working from home, every distraction can feel like a welcoming relief from a faltering approach to find focused attention. The home office is at heart a combination of your beloved, relaxing home, and a place where you have to be focused and productive to get stuff done. Finding the balance and setting up a structure is key to mastery.
Sleeping in, doing laundry, extensive breakfasts, calling your mum or best friend and flipping through social media, becomes all of a sudden close at hand and super attractive to your brain.
When you are aware of this scenario, and you are expecting it to happen in the first place, it is way easier to recognize the pattern and conquer it in the moment of its appearance.
The environment and structure you set for yourself in your home office defines your behavior. Period. It determines whether you will be productive or not. The act of setting up your environment and adjusting your behavioral habits demand a certain amount of discipline and a determined investment of energy. But done well, it puts you on your path to home office mastery and unfolds all the benefits and liberations of working from home.
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