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Matias Arabolaza
Matias Arabolaza

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How to be productive working from home

Work from home is everyone’s dream. The illusion of having entire control of the time, responsibilities, and freedom is something that many want. But while some people adapt quickly, others struggle and decrease their productivity.

In my career, I had the experience of working both in office and from home; Something that gave me a very good picture of these two way of working.

With the current situation of COVID-19, many people and companies were forced to implement WFH (Work from home) practically overnight, without having the necessary infrastructure or the right culture.

Furthermore, many companies were totally unprepared for this and had to take on this challenge. People in confinement are experiencing moments of uncertainty and fluctuation in mood and emotions, which can directly affect their productivity.

I want to bring you 10 tips that will help you cope with this stage in an easier way:

1 — You have to work:
Yes, although this sounds too obvious, many people confuse working from home with barely working.

This has to do with the freedom that this mode offers to us, the idea that no one “sees” us and having our own schedules, working little or nothing, can be tempting. But beware, companies don’t take remote working lightly.

There is nothing better than mentalizing yourself and starting the day with all the desire, that at the end of the day, working, the mind is busy and the day goes super fast :).

2 — Eat that frog
While ago on a trip to NYC, looking for a book that talks about productivity, procrastination and effectiveness, I read “Eat that frog” by Brian Tracy. The book focuses on a saying that says:

If the first thing you did would be to eat a live frog first thing in the morning, nothing worse could happen in the rest of the day.

In practical terms, these frogs would be the task we have been delaying for a while.

Having identified these tasks, we will realize that they are the most impact on our day or our work week.

Let’s imagine examples: That meeting that is postponed day after day, that task that you don’t want to face because it is scary, that email you have to answer that is impossible, that course that you won’t be encouraged to start, etc.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be something that takes a lot of hours. Sometimes they can be tasks or things that don’t take soo long, but they’re tasks that have a big positive impact on us.

3 —Beware of procrastination
Procrastination, the art of delaying things. Procrastinating is leaving things for “later” or “never.” It’s one of the things that point number 2 tells about.

In the internet there are thousands of articles, hundreds of books and videos that tell us about the subject, since it can be very difficult for many people. And of course, this directly impacts our productivity.

Is necessary procrastinate? What is what truly makes us dilate the time? I encourage you to read more about procrastination.

4 — Use techniques to control your times
While working in the office as well as at home, reading a little about productivity and how to be effective in both areas, I found some techniques that could help you improve your productivity. Among all the ones I saw, I’ve chosen two of them: Pomodoro and Rest budget.

“Pomodoro” technique:
Consists of dividing our working time into 30-minute sessions and 5-minute breaks. These sessions are called pomodoros. When the four pomodoros are reached, a 20mins break is made.

For this, there are desktop applications, mobile apps, and we can even do it manually with a timer.

“Rest Budget” technique:
The Rest Budget technique consists of having a “time” budget for rest. Unlike the Pomodoro technique, we’re going to be responsible for managing that budget. This technique is much more flexible than the Pomodoro one.

First thing we need to do:

  • Define the time to work, for example, 8 hours.
  • Defining the time to rest from those hours, for example, 1 hour.

Every time we take a break, we put a timer, and we reduce that time from our budget.

This technique has a little more flexibility, since it doesn’t “tie us” to 5 minutes breaks, but is based on what we need at that time.

5 — Set your work environment
Setting your environment to work will make your day to day easier. Also, it will prime you to start your workday in an environment dedicated exclusively to that. The armchair, is not a good place to work all day, it is, to take a short break or change places from time to time. But having your workplace is going to help you focus and be able to work quiet without distractions.

6 — Have a schedule
Set up your routine. Having a schedule to respect, is going to be that you have a much more defined structure in your day. Believe me, it’s tempting to get up 5 minutes before working, but it’s not the best way to start the day.

7 — Visibility
Even if we work standalone, in the case of being freelance, we will always have a team to respond to (our project colleagues, the client, etc.). The best thing we can do is give visibility about what we are doing and how we are moving forward, what is blocking us and what we need from others.

How do we do this?

Let the team know you have a break or go for a walk. We’re going to eat. If we have meetings. Today many tools like Outlook, Slack, Skype, let us see the calendar and status of each person. Don’t be afraid to use these features.

8 — Breaks
An important part of our day are our breaks. Although in many moments we go into flow mode (so much inspiration that we can’t stop working), we have to take a break. For this, our pomodoro tools or rest budget will help us.

9 — Environmental changes
Throughout the day we will get tired of our posture or environment. Taking advantage of every corner of our home is key to having a change of light, air and position. That’s why it’s recommended to have a “base” place to work most of the time, but it’s also good to spend some time in the armchair, garden, outside or where we think it’s convenient.

10 — Avoid distractions
A great ally of procrastination is distractions. Techniques to control your times are going to help at this point. But you also have to prepare your environment to cover these risks.

For that reason, try not to have the cellphone around when you work. Notification sounds, even if you put it on vibrate mode, will make you want to check it and know what’s going on.

Avoid having social networks open all the time, WhatsApp, news. Any of those things are going to distract us and make us lose focus on what we were doing. Don’t be tempted by “just look and don’t answer” because most of the time that triggers major distractions and you can lose between 20 and 30 minutes of your day.

Many of these points deserve an article on themselves, but in a very short way these tips will help us to keep us productive in our working hours from home and also in the office!

Top comments (6)

pavelloz profile image
Paweł Kowalski • Edited

Number 9 was very big for me. Even if the change is go to the balcony every 45 minutes to see some green trees. Creative process requires stimulants ;)

Having said that i think schedule (6) is the most important, in general.

matias2205 profile image
Matias Arabolaza

Thanks Pawel for your comments! I Agree with number 6! I think is the pillar of everything.

jalal246 profile image
Jalal 🚀

thanks for sharing your experience, Matias. I totally agree with Pawel, number 9 is very important and crucial to maintaining mental health. very important to do, and we always fail to do it because eventually, we consider ourselves literally "at home".

matias2205 profile image
Matias Arabolaza

Thanks for your comment and taking the time to read it Jalal! :)

formicidaemate profile image
Benjamin Saul

Awesome tip, going to start using some of them right away. I

matias2205 profile image
Matias Arabolaza

Thanks Benjamin!