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How to Be More Productive While Working From Home

It had been on my calendar for weeks, a meeting with a representative from the House of Parliament in the United Kingdom. We were scheduled to discuss gambling restrictions and other important iGaming topics. When the day finally arrived, I got up early and got my coffee started. I took a shower, brushed my teeth and began getting my clothes ready.

I grabbed my favorite shirt and got it ironed. Then, as I was deciding what pants to grab I had a moment of clarity: I don’t need to wear slacks because the meeting is on Zoom. So, I grabbed my favorite sweatpants and slippers and jumped on the video call —this is what it’s like working from home during a global pandemic.

Maybe you’ve had the opportunity to work from home in the past. These days were likely refreshing breaks from the monotony of the office. You had the flexibility to get your work done and your chores — while enjoying the comfort of your home. You probably even enjoyed your new “coworkers” and the extra time you got to spend with your loved ones and pets.

Well, here we are — six weeks into a global pandemic and massive work-from-home movement. COVID-19 has caused businesses around the world to move their operations virtually which has led to an uptick in employees working remotely.

Suddenly, the pleasantries of working from home are now the distractions preventing you from getting work done.

Now, not only are your household chores calling you whilst you’re on the clock, but so are the news channels, online articles, social media notifications reminding you that there’s an entirely different world than we’re used to just outside — and you’re still expected to carry on business as usual.

It can be distracting working from home — but facing a global pandemic makes it even harder. Maybe you don’t have a home office, so you’re making do at the kitchen table. Maybe you’re not used to autonomy and are having a hard time staying focused. Maybe you’ve been promoted to a full-time teacher, full-time parent, and full-time employee in the wake of the pandemic.

Whatever your situation may be, working from home can be a challenge. To help you handle the distractions of working remotely, I’ve put together a few techniques I personally use to be more productive while working from home.

Distance Yourself from Social Media

Social media is a gift and a curse — especially during a global pandemic. Of course, social media is a great way for you to stay connected with your family and friends and combats the feeling of isolation. It can also be a useful tool for growing your personal and business brand. However, when it comes to productivity, social media can also be one of the biggest disturbances.

In fact, when COVID-19 began to really spread throughout the world, I found myself spending a lot more time on social media than I ever had. I was following stories, participating in discussions, and generally, just falling down a rabbit hole of despair and darkness.

It got to the point where I was unable to get much work done. Ultimately, I had to take a “coronacation” and spent some time completely offline. After a few days away, I felt rejuvenated and more focused again.

In a study from Udemy and Toluna 56% of employees surveyed believe social media distracts them from getting their work done. Being productive while working from home is mostly about limiting distractions, with social media being enemy number one.

Try these techniques to start distancing yourself from social media during work hours.

  1. Leave your phone in another room: Phones are pesky. Try telling yourself not to check your phone for 30 minutes and leave it next to you while you work. You’ll probably find yourself picking it up innately after a few minutes. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to get distracted with social media on your phone. If you put your phone in another room while working, checking Twitter or TikTok becomes an inconvenience.
  2. Log out of your accounts and uninstall apps: If you want to keep your phone around for other reasons, then consider logging out of your accounts or uninstalling the social media applications. This step also applies to your desktop. By adding barriers to accessing social media, you make it less enticing.
  3. Use social media blocking applications: There are several apps you can install on your phone or desktop to improve your focus and prevent you from accessing social media. These apps block your ability to access the sites or apps entirely for a specific period of time. Apps like Offtime, FocusMe, and AppBlock can fight off the urge to mindlessly scroll.

Learn to Take Breaks and Turn-off

It’s important to get your work done in a timely manner — but not at the risk of burning out or negatively affecting your physical well-being, especially during a pandemic. One of the biggest challenges when working from home is to balance your work and personal life.

Your traditional work routine is gone. You don’t have your water-cooler conversations throughout the day or anywhere to go for lunch. You don’t have a drive home to decompress after a long day. To make matters worse, communication channels are strained and managers may be reaching out to you at all hours of the day with questions.

As a result, the lines between work and home are blurred and it can be challenging to take breaks or know when you’re “off the clock” officially.

If you don’t take breaks or learn how to turn-off for the day while working remotely, you’re probably going to burn out and put added pressure on yourself and your relationships.

In fact, there have been ample studies conducted on the perfect amount of time to work, and newsflash — it’s not 8 hours. The ideal work-to-break ration is 52 minutes of focus and 17 minutes of break.

Try to build this into your daily schedule. Also, be aware if you notice yourself losing focus or procrastinating. Whenever you catch yourself being unproductive, step away from the computer or go for a quick walk to recalibrate.

The way I see it, when you’re feeling unproductive you can either take a few minutes to rest and recharge or continue being unproductive in the same environment. I prefer the former.

Between relaunching Great.com, co-hosting the Becoming Great podcasts, and creating and posting daily content on my social media profiles, I have a lot on my plate currently. Therefore, it’s important to stay as productive as I can. So, when I’m feeling unproductive or unfocused, I personally choose to take a short nap.

I find that taking the time to rest actually reinvigorates and refreshes my mental state so that when I go back to work, I’m much more focused.

Take Care of Your Physical and Mental Health

You can’t be productive if your body and mind aren’t up to the task. I recommend establishing a routine not just based around a workday, but around your personal health. If you are healthy physically and mentally, you will be much more productive during your workday.

Try to cultivate a specific schedule that you find yourself being most productive. I personally split my day up into two sections.

I wake up and have a morning session, and then take a long break for lunch, usually three or four hours. During this break, I try to work out or meditate. Then, I pick up work again in the afternoon and end my day around 8pm.

The benefit of working remotely is that you have more flexibility. This autonomy should play into your work schedule. Find out what hours work best for your mind and body and try to structure your day with that in mind.

Maybe you’re more focused after a workout. Maybe you’re a morning person and prefer to get a jumpstart before the sunrises. Maybe you find that meditation or a cup of tea improves your productivity.

We’re all different and have unique preferences — don’t be afraid to lean into them. Working from home gives you complete control over your day, so use it to learn what routines make you more productive.

Find Joy in Your Work

A lot of people find techniques to justify procrastinating. A classic example of this is cleaning or completing household chores. If you are doing something productive, even if it wasn’t what you should be doing, you still feel some level of accomplishment for your procrastination.

I personally recommend combating procrastination by prioritizing work activities that you enjoy most.

Joy is one of the most undervalued impetuses for productivity whether working from home or not. If you enjoy what you’re working on, you’re more focused and less stressed about its outcome. 

If you’re feeling distracted or overwhelmed with a job, consider stepping back and looking for ways to find joy in that task. I often break down large projects into smaller segments and find which of those more manageable tasks I enjoy the most and start there. After completing a few of the jobs I find fun and stimulating, I’m more excited about finishing the others.

Working from home is a tricky task. I was working from home prior to the coronavirus, so I’ve already experienced and overcome many of the hurdles that you’re likely facing if you are new to remote work. The line between work and personal life is tough to walk, and it can put a lot of strain on your relationships.

If you find yourself struggling to stay productive while working from home, consider the advice above. While there isn’t a silver bullet for optimal remote work productivity, you can create a more productive at-home environment that is more conducive to work.

Between scaling back on social media, making time for your mental and physical health, and learning what it is that you enjoy about your job, you will likely be in a more positive, joyful headspace every day and be ready to tackle those tasks.

Erik Bergman

Erik Bergman

Erik Bergman cofounded Catena Media and helped grow it to over 300 employees and a $200 million valuation before stepping away to start Great.com, an iGaming organization that donates 100% of its profits to environmental charities. Erik inspires change and positivity through his work, social channels (@SmilingErik), and his podcast Becoming Great.

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