Have People Around You

Are you as productive when working from home? Many people feel they are not, and compensate by working even more hours. The numbers show that the time we save by not commuting to work has become extra work hours, not extra free time.

If you feel your productivity is dropping when working from home, spend part of your workday working together with someone else. You do not have to work on the same thing, and you don’t even have to know the other person. If you take your laptop to a local cafe or co-working space where other people are working, you will work harder. It is exactly the same effect as when people exercise harder in the gym than they do at home. Get out of the house for part of your work-from-home days.

How a Box Will Increase Your Energy

Looking at clutter uses energy. Brain scans show that the more objects you have within your field of view, the faster you get tired and lose focus. Even though the brain is capable of filtering out all the items that are not relevant to the task at hand, it does spend energy doing so.

To increase your focus, you need to see fewer objects. But you don’t need to throw anything away (unless you want to). You simply need to group items together. Take a number of items that have some relation to each other and put them in a box. Eight pens, a pile of paperclips, a tape dispenser and a pair of scissors become one object when they go into a box.

It is important you can satisfy yourself that the items belong together. Throwing random objects into a box doesn’t trick your brain. It will look at a box it knows contains unsorted junk and continue thinking of all the items in the box. And now you have added an extra item: The box.

Get out some boxes and remove some clutter from your field of vision. You will notice increased clarity and energy. You just might get around to tasks you have been putting off for weeks.

Single Tasking Day

Today 2/22 is “Single Tasking Day.” That’s a made-up holiday, but there is a serious purpose behind it. We pride ourselves our ability to multi-task, but we are not really good at it. Unless one of the tasks is completely automatic – like walking or breathing – we are not actually multi-tasking. We are just switching our attention between several tasks. And every time we switch, we lose a little (or a lot) of time before we are productive on the new task.

Celebrate Single Tasking Day by selecting one task from your long list of half-finished tasks, and work on that one until it is complete. Every incomplete task takes up space in your mind. Notice how you feel lighter and more in control of your life once you can cross that task completely off your list. #SingleTaskingDay

Work Fewer Hours

Are you working too much? When working from home, many people are working more hours than before. The hardest hit are those who already worked a lot.

There are some people who get paid by the hour and need to work a lot of hours to make ends meet. But too many people are simply putting in a lot of hours without actually creating value for anyone. You can always spend extra time on a report, attend another status meeting or put more illustrations into your PowerPoint presentation.

Track how many hours you work this week. Next week, work one hour less. You will find that knowing you have less time will focus your attention. You will get just as much done.

Create Your Own Sound

Create your own sound. I don’t mean you have to gather a few friends and create an indie band, though that can certainly be rewarding for some people. But the sounds around you affect your mental state. Most of us don’t live in the countryside where you only heard birdsong and the buzzing of bees. Working from home, we are free of the hellish soundscape of the open plan office, but we often live in urban surroundings. We have traffic noise, neighbors, barking dogs, and maybe even our partner speaking too loudly on a Zoom call.

You are unconsciously listening and processing all of these sounds. That takes energy that could be used for something more useful. To get more done, personally and professionally, create your own sound surroundings. If possible, avoid headphones. Consider a small indoor fountain to create the soothing sound of running water. There are “white noise machines” that emit a constant low-volume noise that masks other noises in your environment. Or you can play instrumental music at low volume through your computer speakers or a separate speaker connected to your phone.

Sound affects your mood and your productivity. Don’t just accept the sound the world pushes upon you. Create your own sound like you create your own life.