Staying Productive While Working From Home

Working from home is new for a lot of people, which means you are trying to figure it out quickly. I have been working from home for 4 years. In that time, we have had two kids (a now almost 4-year-old and a 3-month-old). I have been through the ringer, so here is advice from me, someone who has seen a lot.

Everything Starts the Night Before

Sunday night is crucial. It can set the tone for the whole week and allow you to go to bed with a clear plan Monday morning. I take a good 15-30 minutes to get prepared – here is what I do:

Sunday night:

  • Create my to-do lists, breaking down each task and goal to accomplish by the end of the week
  • Clear my notifications – E-mails, social media, and Slack notifications so I don’t have to clear a big backlog of junk, and unnecessary messages Monday morning
  • However, I do not respond to clients, staff or colleagues at this time. I don’t want anyone to expect that they can call or e-mail me on the weekend or after hours and get a response

Sunday-Thursday Night:

  • Prepare my clothes & toiletries for the next morning, including laying out my gym clothes to change into first thing
  • Place my books/journal for my morning routine on the table next to my chair
  • Prepare healthy snacks – Veggies, nuts, etc.

The Morning Routine

Starting well in the morning sets your pace for the whole day, I am sure many of us have seen the “Make your Bed” speech from William McRaven a US Navy Admiral.

I have created a morning routine that works for me in this season. If you count all of the morning routines I have created in the last 10 years alone, you would find at least 8-12. It constantly has to change. One season it’s working, another it gets stale. Here is my current morning routine under quarantine:

  • 6:00 – Read, meditate, pray
  • 6:30 – Read a business book
  • 7:00 – Clear notifications (e-mail, social media, Slack)
  • 7:15 – Make Breakfast with my oldest daughter
  • 7:30 – Eat breakfast and play with my kids
  • 8:15 – Get ready for my day, brush teeth, etc.
  • 8:30 – Start working

Due to my structured night-time routine, my mornings are seamless. I am working on being a morning person, but since it is still a battle, I want to make sure my only task is to shut off my alarm, get dressed and sit in a chair.

Three Ways to Stay Productive While Working

As mentioned above, every season looks different for what works and what doesn’t. When it comes to productivity, the first two months this year were tough. In the past week, I have hit my sweet spot of productivity thanks to these three recent finds.

The Mastery Journal

I follow John Lee Dumas (JLD) from Entrepreneurs on Fire. He created a “Mastery Journal” and this week I downloaded the fillable PDF. It has been a game-changer! He focuses on productive hours worked in short bursts. The goal of short bursts of time is to do it completely focused. No e-mail, no phone, no social media. You choose a task you want to accomplish and go 100% at it until your timer goes off. Here are two ways to keep on track.

Egg Timer

Use the ‘Egg Timer’ on-line. This keeps your phone away from you and even turned off if needed. Be careful with the volume on your computer when the egg timer goes off, it usually startles a few choice words out of me.

Stay Focused Extension

Download the ‘Stay Focused’ Chrome extension. I have added websites I waste time on to the extension like Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, & Twitter. I am allowed 10 minutes on those 4 apps during my workday. It keeps me from going down rabbit holes where you expect to be on Twitter for 10 minutes and an hour later you end up finally getting back to work! If you need LinkedIn for your time block, delete it from your list of “blocked sites” the day before.

Finish Well

Finishing well is just as important as starting well. I like to close off my day by again clearing notifications, creating a to-do list for the next day and decompressing. When I used to work full-time, I was a good 15-20 minutes away from home. In that time, I was able to settle my mind and come home without the burden of the workday on me.

Now my transition is down 12 stairs in a few seconds. This is the hardest part for me right now, switching from work mode to family mode. Here is what has worked:

  • Taking 10-15 minutes to myself
  • Closing off my computer
  • Listening to music on my phone
  • Pacing the hallway and setting my intentions for the night eg. play with my kids for 2 hours, cook dinner, ask my wife about her day
  • Playing a game on my phone or scrolling personal social media
  • To end this time, I leave my phone upstairs and head downstairs

None of those things are work-related and not having my phone on me (or even in sight) when I head downstairs helps me relax. The end of day decompressing is something I still need to work on so if you have any tips, please comment below.

Added Resources

Books:

Podcasts

What works for you in this season? What isn’t working? I would love to hear from you.

Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales & Marketing, VEA Pros

 
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