According to Global Workplace Analytics, 3.7 million people work remotely at least half of the time today in the US. While this is good news for the planet, traffic congestion and introverts across America, working from home can be challenging when it comes to productivity and organization.
As we all know, the ability to be productive while working from home can be severely hindered by distractions in the form of kids, pets, food, televisions, phones, and that annoying drawer in the kitchen that is suddenly begging to be organized!
The recipe for success when working from home is all about habits. Habits take repeated and consistent effort to maintain, but when established, they allow us to take control of our working environment – an absolute must when it comes to work productivity at home.
In fact, there is a chemical reaction that occurs in the brain when we create habits – dopamine receptors are engaged. Dopamine is the “feel good” chemical that gives us the motivation to continue a behavior. It makes us crave more of that feeling. Dopamine is released when we do things like cross items off a to-do list, receive a reward for a job well done, or repeat a habit to the point where it becomes natural.
There have been several key strategies that have greatly helped me to stay organized while working from home. Here are some of the things that have helped me to create a system to stay on top of my personal productivity.
I use an app called Hours Keeper to track all of my work. This is a very basic app, which suits my needs. However, there are others out there that allow you to track specific things that you are doing, such as Toggl and Timely. For my purposes, Hours Keeper works because it allows me to produce a report of my daily, weekly and monthly hours. I can quickly look back and see how much time I have spent doing what and for whom, and whether I am on target for my goals. It keeps me focused too – when I know that the clock is running, I am highly aware that I am working for someone and their time is valuable, so I respect it totally.
Organize your work into blocks
Whether that means emailing, making phone calls or working on a project, establishing specific time to work on a task will help you to stay focused. Take it a step further by mapping out your desired goals for the day, then putting them in order based on priority or whether completing one task will make another one faster or even unnecessary (photo). Get your hit of dopamine by crossing the completed tasks off your list! For more tips on time blocking, check out our blog post “8 Time Blocking Tips That Boost Productivity & Office Organization”.
Use an analog clock
Analog clocks allow you to visually see time passing. Keep one near your desk or wherever you work, and refer to the clock rather than your phone, which can be very distracting. The Time Timer is another good tool for viewing time passing.
Visualize time in increments
I like to think of time by the hour and half hour. Keeping an eye on the clock and pushing myself to do another ten minutes until the hour helps me organize time in my head and create small incremental goals. A ten minute break fits in nicely at the start of the hour, and then I set a new time goal. Remind yourself of these increments during moments of distraction – it will help you to stay focused.
Turn off notifications
I know you’ve heard this before, so I won’t harp on about it but – TURN THEM OFF! It will make a huge difference in your productivity level. Our devices are defaulted to distract us, so we have to make a conscious choice to remove some of this noise. One trick I like for this is to only have apps on the “home” screen of my phone with button notifications turned off. The ones with notifications on are relegated to the second page, so that I don’t see them unless I go looking.
If you own a business and spend time on social media, which is rife with distracting pings and beeps, take some tips from our blog post “Ten ways to Stay Organized while Posting to Social Media”.