There’s been a lot of changes going on right now. With Covid-19 people are now working from home and doing school online. Since I have some experience with working from home I thought I could use my expertise to provide some quick tips for my seniors and couples who find themselves in this new work situation!
Below are my 5 tips to make sure you are staying productive and getting your work done efficiently, so that you can use your free time to get outside, learn a new hobby, or FaceTime a good friend.
Wake Up Early
I know this is not everyone’s favorite, but waking early can be a game changer for your productivity. Take some time to go through your morning routine, have your cup of coffee, plan out your day, and then get to work. My brain is always most active in the morning and I find that I am able to fly through tasks and have so much energy to get things done. However, in the afternoon I definitely start to slow down. If you want to start waking up early but are struggling with it, try to start by just waking up 30 minutes earlier. The more times you do it, the easier the habit will become!
Turn off Distractions
Especially right now, it is so easy to get distracted. We are constantly checking the news and social media. But this is super damaging to our workflow! Every time you look at your phone, not only do you spend time distracting yourself with mostly surface level information, but you also take additional time away from the task you are working on. Every time you leave a task, it takes your brain more time to get back into it. You can’t just jump back into your workflow after scrolling through instagram for a few minutes.
If you need to, put your phone in another room and turn off computer notifications like new emails. You can always take breaks to check, but it puts the focus on the important work that you’re doing instead!
I loveeee batch working! Whenever I feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do, I set up my calendar with my batch working times and instantly feel better. Batch working is a longer period of time (usually 1-2hrs) where you are focused intently on one task. This is usually a pretty intense task. For example, when I was a student I would use batch working to focus on papers and studying. I would set a timer for 1 hour to study a certain topic. Then I would take a break and switch to a new topic. That helps you compartmentalize your classes and also make sure you are devoting time to each class. This batch working also works great for papers!
Be careful with batch working – you can’t do it all day. Since this is an intense work time, you can probably only handle a few of these per day (maybe 3-4 sessions of 1-2 hours). The rest of the day can be used for smaller tasks that don’t require as much mental energy (“busy work” from school, emails, etc.)
Set Daily & Weekly Goals
So, how do you decide what you need to batch work and how to prioritize your tasks? It is important to have an idea of deadlines and what needs to get done so that you are meeting your obligations, and you don’t want to overload one week. I keep a physical planner where I write out all of my deadlines. At the beginning of the week, I look over what all I have due and set big goals for the week. This is usually something that I have a deadline upcoming or just a major project or task I want to finish. Once I have my big weekly goals, I go about planning my days. Usually big goals can break down into smaller tasks and that’s how I split out my week. I also add in my daily tasks of things like emails.
For example, if you have a research paper due on Friday that could be the big weekly goal. The smaller tasks might be finding sources, reading through the sources, making a draft of the paper, doing a final edit, getting a peer to review, and doing all citations. Now, let’s assume this is a super basic research project and the total time involved is 15 hours. You could theoretically do that in 2 days. But, this project involves asking a peer to review and also doing multiple edits. It’s always important to take breaks in between edits so that you come back to the project refreshed. So, planning this out over the whole week and front loading the research onto Monday and Tuesday will give you flexibility to easily finish by Friday. And you won’t feel nearly as stressed!
This one is so important. You have to take breaks!! I recommend taking a 15-30minute break after a batch working session to get outside, go for a walk, fix a snack, and just get away from your desk. I also recommend taking a 5-10 minute break every hour outside of batch working to do the same. Try to avoid the urge to just scroll social media during these breaks. Our eyes need a break from the constant screens. It can also have a negative impact on our mental health to spend too much time on social media, especially now.
Finally, make sure you set some limits to your work. I usually try to work between 7:30am and 6:30pm (I don’t always work this whole time but those are the lower and upper bounds). I like to give myself work-free time in the early morning and later evening to work out, make dinner, hang out with my husband, and watch a show. If you’re constantly working, you’ll get drained even with the smaller breaks. Weekends are another great example! I know as a student it is super easy to think of weekends as opportunities to catch up on work. And while you may need to get work done on the weekend, try to also schedule some fun activities with friends! Maybe this looks like a walk around the park, or a zoom hangout (since we are currently sheltering in place). It could also be doing a fun hobby or reading a book. It’s important to re-energize ourselves with leisure activities as well!
There are my 5 productivity tips for working from home (and just working in general!). I hope they are helpful to you as you navigate this new season of work! If you have productivity tips to share I’d love to hear them. Comment below with your favorite tips!