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How to stay productive while working from home

2020 was a year that none of us will forget, not in the least because so many of us have had to work from home. Here are some tips for staying productive and sane during this situation.

Working from home sounds great in theory – hey, I can wear sweats! No rush hour traffic to deal with! But the reality is quite different when WFH becomes a decision that wasn’t yours to make. So many of us are juggling not just our work responsibilities but kids, schooling, pets, elderly parents…you name it.

Working from home was a major adjustment for many of us and even though we’ve become pros at it, there are times when you get to the end of the week and feel as if you didn’t accomplish what you set out to do on Monday. Feeling unproductive puts a real emotional strain on us and there is the danger that you feel you need to work longer hours in order to make up for the lost time. The result of that is a blurring of time between work and life and that’s not good for anyone.

To help, here are 5 tips to keep yourself accountable, collaborative, and productive as you work from home.

1. Create “work cues” for your brain

We’re all familiar with the ritual of getting ready in the morning and commuting to work on the daily – it’s so familiar, that if you are suddenly thrown into a situation where you don’t have that external pressure, it can leave you feeling unstructured.

A Monday to Friday routine (or whatever your workweek typically looks like), tailored to your new reality, is key. Perhaps your new “start of the day” cue will become exercising first thing or catching up on the news. Whatever they are, try to keep them consistent if possible, so your brain goes “Right, that’s done now; time to get dressed and get into my work headspace!

2. Take Advantage of your natural energy levels

Everyone has their peaks and ebbs throughout the day. Some of us are early birds; others plow through 8 hours of work in the afternoon when they feel most energized – we’re all different. Take some time to think about what works for you and use it to your advantage. Try keeping a productivity log for a couple of weeks to see if an energy pattern emerges on a regular basis; it can be enlightening.

3. Your Personal Office Space

If you’re lucky, you have a designated office spot in your home with a proper chair, desk space and the tech equipment you need. However, for many people, the dining room table has become the de facto office and requires negotiating “table time” with others in your household. Some people who share the same workspace at home have found that they need to have a regular schedule, say mornings or afternoons, and then switching out with their partner. That is truly a situation that tests your ability to be flexible and considerate while maintaining a routine at the same time!

If you are fortunate enough to be in a room with a door, close it to shut out distractions. If you are near a window with natural light you might try adding some plants or other greenery to boost your energy levels and mood.

Regardless of what your home office setup looks like, try to stick to one spot, if possible. This can be challenging if you’re wireless, working on a laptop or tablet, and that living room sofa looks awfully tempting – unless, of course, that is your home office!

4. Keep in touch with colleagues

All of us are too well aware of how easy it is to just email and video chat with our colleagues about work-related matters only. Time seems so precious and there can be a natural tendency to just stick to business. But checking in on one another and asking about what’s going on in each other’s lives can help keep us connected to our teams and coworkers. It’s also a good reminder that there is more going on in life “out there” than just what’s happening between the four walls of our own homes.

If you’re one of the many who are juggling child care and other family responsibilities, it’s also crucial to keep in touch with your co-workers and be upfront with them about important details such as your availability on a given day. Sharing these scheduling challenges with others helps to normalize the situation for everyone.

5. Take A Break

The challenges we’ve been facing through the pandemic are ever-present and stepping away from it at least once a day is important. Maybe that’s a walk around the block for you or journaling or picking up a book you love and re-reading it. We need to keep reminding ourselves of the good things that are happening in our lives and not only be kind to others but to ourselves as well.

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