Please do NOT let this be you…
#WFH Day 136… Haven’t left the house in three days. Ate stale cereal, milk was past its expiration date, but ok, I think. Still wearing the same PJs as the weekend. Thinking about skipping my Zoom meeting to play video games. My TPS report is two weeks late, but I’ll get to it… Someday.
Some of us really struggle to stay in the groove while working from home. Without a concrete plan to follow, working remotely can go from a dream to a constant nightmare or worse, unemployment. Days easily roll into weeks, and weeks into months. If you’ve upgraded your workspace and made a plan to make your family’s wellbeing a priority, it’s time to incorporate these tactics and make you a #WFH legend!
One issue with working without direct supervision or the decorum of an office is too much freedom. Humans are almost instinctively attracted to structure and routine. We thrive in environments where we know what is happening next and can make fewer decisions to survive (more on that later).
Without your boss within earshot and your rival coworker is plotting to surpass you nearby, you must create your own framework to keep yourself motivated and moving. When given the option of exercising, eating, FaceTiming friends, or going out for a coffee instead of working, we might just choose to do anything but work.
This is why creating a consistent schedule for yourself while you #WFH is so important. Sit down on Sunday evening and look at your time commitments and write down when you plan to exercise, work on certain projects, or have free time.
Another tried and true tactic for many remote employees is starting work at the same time every day. Some people also do something that signals the start and finish of the workday, like grabbing a coffee from a local cafe before work starts and leaving the house for exercise when the day ends.
Once you have figured out your plan for each day, do yourself one other favor: schedule breaks.
We’re talking about both macro and micro-breaks. Marco breaks include stopping for morning tea, lunch, a dog walk, or exercise throughout the day. But don’t forget to take micro-breaks as well. Get up and stretch, make a cup of tea, watch a silly video, or call a co-worker or friend.
Many people forget that in a normal setting, you have both intentional and unintentional micro-breaks throughout the day. The most cliche micro break is a trip to the water cooler where you’d stop and catch up with co-workers along the way. At home, it’s just you and your sink tap so you need to find ways to interject both breaks and small human interactions through out the day. Try taking a coffee break outside of your home at least once a day.
Why are breaks important? One study showed taking a break to surf the internet – though not for more than 12% of the day – helps improve productivity and employees concentration.
Further, Andrew Bennett, a social scientist, studied micro-breaks for his doctoral thesis while he was at Virginia Commonwealth University. His major finding was that micro breaking by watching a funny video clip left people invigorated and more attentive, with lower fatigue and smaller delays in their response times during a cognitive test.
So, despite what your in-office boss may have said, there is a place for YouTube and Google breaks at home.
Mise En Place
Want to build a positive habit? Make it absolutely as easy as possible for you to take the next step toward your goal.
Chefs have a term, “mise en place,” that literally means everything in its place. Organizing all the tools, measuring out all the ingredients and seasonings, and having serving plates ready to go allows chefs to cook a meal in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
Apply a little “mise en place” to your life…
Want to eat healthier? Prepare healthy, easy meals in advance.
Want to work faster? Set up your workspace or computer to only have the exact things you need open and ready for you.
Want to workout first thing in the morning? Book your gym class and lay out your gym clothes the night before.
The great thing about working from home is that you are in control of your environment more than ever before. Make your workspace like a chef’s station. Build systems into your schedule and your living space that make success easy.
Make Fewer Decisions
This is a serious game changer that ties into our first two tactics.
What is a simple way to feel less stressed, more productive, and generally happier? Easy, just make fewer decisions throughout your day.
Our waking hours are essentially made up of thousands of decisions both small and seemingly trivial and large and impactful. While the modern boon of choices may seem like a good thing, it is actually very draining for our old cavemen and cavewomen brains.
When you waste your decision making energy on which one of 400 hundred different cereals you should have, or picking out clothing in a massive, overstuffed walk-in closet, or whether you should walk the dog before having eggs instead of cereal, you use up a limited resource.
Save your brainpower for more important decisions by reducing the number of choices you make by either automating your decision or delegating it. For example, decide in advance that next week you’ll have a green smoothie for breakfast every day, buy the ingredients, and make the same thing at the same time each day.
Stop Ticking Boxes, Start Crushing MITs
So you think you’re super organized because you’ve got a to-do list as long as the Great Wall of China on Monday morning?
While ticking off to-do items can give you a momentary serotonin boost for accomplishing something, you may be distracted by your list and miss what’s really important.
Instead, scan your list for the tasks that will really move the needle towards your goals. Remember the 80/20 Principle, which states that 80% of outcomes (or outputs) result from 20% of all causes (or inputs) for any given event. That means that 20% of the items on your to-do list will generate 80% of the outcomes you really want.
Reorganize your to-do list to prioritize these big-ticket tasks. Select 3 MOST IMPORTANT TASKS that would be the most impactful if completed for each day. Make that your success list.
In the book “The One Thing,” Gary Keller, founder of the largest real estate company in the world, says,
“To-do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you in all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction. One is a disorganized directory and the other is an organized directive. If a list isn’t built around success, then that’s not where it takes you. If your to-do lists contain everything, then it’s probably taking you everywhere but where you really want to go.”
The really cool thing about being in charge of your work schedule is that you are free to structure your day as you wish. That means you can prioritize crushing your MITs and do them when you feel the most motivated.
#WFH Over and Out
That’s it for our #WFH Crash Course. I hope you enjoyed this series and picked up a thing or two that will make working from home more productive, satisfying, and healthy.
Let us know if you liked this series in the comments? Anything we missed that keeps you going when working from home?