Still working from home? Many of us are. Feel like you are not getting enough done? Or, on the other end of the scale are you finding yourself still sitting at your keyboard way into the evening, working away, simply because the work is there, your office is there and well, why not? If either of these scenarios sound familiar you need a better work from home plan.
Here are some tips that will help you create one.
Start Work Early
Rising before the sun is a habit shared by most successful people. In a poll of 20 executives cited by Vanderkam, 90% said they wake up before 6 am on weekdays. This makes sense from a productivity standpoint — you will have fewer distractions and a close to a peaceful environment to focus.
Believe it or not, one way to work from home productively is to dive into your to-do list as soon as you wake up. Merely starting tasks first thing in the morning before the rest of your family or roommates have woken up can be the key to making real progress.
Plus, according to one study, waking up early can also make you happier. Some evidence suggests that morning light exposure, which results in a phase advance of the sleep/wake cycle, improves depressive symptoms in seasonal affective disorder.
Dedicate Mornings to High-Value Work
Work on your high-value tasks first thing in the morning — cut the planning and start doing real work when you are most active.
Don’t waste all that mental clarity and energy on planning what to do for the next eight hours. If you are a morning person, you can get a ton done in the early morning hours. It pays to focus on essential tasks for the day during your morning.
A plan from yesterday makes it easier to get started right away when you get up. Kenneth Chenault, the former CEO and Chairman of American Express, once said in an interview that the last thing he does before leaving the office is to write down the top three things he needs to accomplish tomorrow. Then he uses that list to start his day the following morning.
If You’re Not a Morning Person, Work When You’re Most Productive
When you’re working from home, it’s important to recognize when you are most focused and energetic and to plan your schedule around that. Energy is the critical component we all need to consistently produce our best work, no matter where we are.
For example, if you’re a morning person and are most clearheaded, creative, and productive from 9 am to 12 pm, use that burst of energy to get things done at that time.
If you are a night-owl and need a few hours to ease into the day, leverage your afternoons and evenings. If you are productive between the hours of 3 pm and 11 pm, plan your tasks accordingly and make those your work hours.
The point is that you can increase your energy by working with your body rather than fighting against it and forcing it to fit into anybody’s clock other than your own internal one. It’s better to concentrate your energy into a specific period than randomly insert it across chunks of time.
To capitalize on your most productive periods, save your harder tasks for when you know you’ll be in the right headspace for them.
Prepare For a Successful Day in Advance
Planning your day the night before will give you back a lot wasted hours in the morning and lower your stress levels. The first quiet hour of the morning can be an ideal time to focus on meaningful work without being interrupted.
Try this tonight. If you’re happy with the results, then commit to trying it for a week. After a week, you’ll be able to decide whether you want to add “night-before planning” to your life.
Structure Your Day As You Would Normally
When working from home, you manage practically everything — calendar, projects, tasks, and breaks. Without a proper structure, you can quickly lose focus or burn out.
To stay on schedule, segment what you’ll do and when over the course of the day. Use an online calendar to create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears and start on new tasks. If your mornings are for writing while in the office, use the same schedule at home.
You should even dress the part and remind yourself you are in work-mode. That means comfortable work clothes — not pajamas. And remember to take breaks, refresh and recover. When you live in your office, it’s easy to overwork. Log off when you’re supposed to. And resist the urge to come back to your computer after dinner.