Working from home had such a sexy allure for many of us pre-Covid, the idea of not having to get up so early, no more commute, catching up on the latest Homes under the Hammer or Countdown at lunchtime and basically being free to do what we want any old time.
The last 6 months were very different to the picture I just painted, we were thrown into a mosh pit of restricted movement, home schooling and mask wearing, and that image very quickly changed from a Dali to a Dilbert.
There are so many things we all want to achieve, so many responsibilities, tasks and goals, but let me share what I know works having written 3 books on personal productivity and coached thousands of business owners and managers to get more done.
1. Start by Getting Clear on your Priorities
Prioritisation is a simple thing; we can often overcomplicate it. Break your yearly goals into quarters, when you look at the upcoming quarter, your priorities should become evident. If it’s not clear or you cannot make decisions alone call in your manager or boss to help you clarify your goals and priorities. Don’t start working until you have this piece clear.
2. Remove the distractions
I think it is fair to say, living through a pandemic is a distraction. As much as we try to avoid the daily figures and another conversation about Covid, it’s difficult to avoid. Constant connectivity and intrusive algorithms sure don’t help the situation. Phone, laptops, tablets, we are never free from technology. Technology is a wonderful thing, but it brings with it some disadvantages. Take back your own time and attention by turning off all notifications of mail, tweets, and posts. Go to email and social media when you have assigned time for it, not whenever someone else wants to get in touch.
3. Master Interruptions
Managing interruptions when working from home can be a real challenge, whether it’s the dog that’s needs to be walked, the children arriving home from school or the postman making his daily visit, we can often feel overwhelmed and a victim to all the distractions. Start by letting those around you know you are trying to focus, this can be done verbally or by an agreed symbol such as a baseball cap or a USB light indicator such as the Luxafor Flag, When my family see the light they know not to interrupt me. Another of my favourite methods is using headphones. Not only does it block out the surrounding sounds it can also alerts those around you that you are trying to focus
4. Clear your mind
It is difficult to focus when you have a lot on your mind. When I have a lot to do I can approach my work in a very scattered way, jumping from task to task. When I realise what I am doing I will Do a mind download, get everything out of my head and onto paper so that I can see what I have to do and make sure I am focused on my main priority. When everything is out of my head I can then plan and schedule the work that needs to be done into my calendar and I feel more in control again.
5. Focus on the Next Action
There will be times when you have everything organised, your notifications switched off, your priorities clear and there is nobody about to disturb you, but you still can’t focus. It might be because you are feeling overwhelmed with all that you have to do or with the size of a task that lies in front of you. Always break down large projects or goals into manageable parts, you don’t have to map them all out from the start. Just take action on the first step and each step will inform the next. Always be focused on the next Action.
6. Watch your Wellbeing
There was a time when our wellbeing was at the bottom of a list of all the things that were important, now we know how important our wellbeing is to our focus and productivity. Nutrition, Sleep and Exercise are as important to focus as knowing your priorities. Take a look at your daily habits and see where you need to make adjustments in order to feel more energised and in control of your day. It might just be drinking more water but you will see
7. Work with your Energy
Don’t fight yourself and try to focus at times that don’t work for you. If you focus best in the morning, work in the morning. If it works for you in the afternoon, work in the afternoon. Most people work best in the morning when the circadian rhythms dictate more alertness. There are a few that don’t conform. Understand yourself and realise that sometimes you don’t have to go with the flow. Swim downstream if it gets the job done, you might find rising a little earlier than usual can help you to feel more in control of your day, you can focus and get work done before the household wakes or you might use the time to meditate which will help you to live more in the present moment and learn how to naturally hone your focus. Take breaks when you are tired, learn to know your body and make it work for you.
If you want more help staying organised working from home, you can download my free guide Staying Productive Working from Home .