Helen is working from home and tries to focus…

IMG_0158More and more employers are trusting their employees to work from home. This way, the employees can improve the balance between their working life and private life. They also can use their time more efficient by doing small household chores while they are working.

There you are…everybody is out of the house and you intend to get some work done. There is enough work to do, but the distractions are trying to get your attention. Plants are begging for water, you have laundry and an empty closet and there are unpaid bills on the table. The mess in the living room is structuring itself by making huge piles. One hour later, the situation has not changed: the amount of work to be done has increased and the distractions are even more persistent. The cat movies on Facebook seem to be more interesting by the minute and your girlfriend just called you to do something for het at home for you’re there anyway.

You definitely need a plan: How are you going to turn this day into a productive WORKday?

  • Start the day with the creation of a To-Do list. Write down 3 – 5 things. Usually, there are a lot of in-between-activities which consume time and prevent that you work on your actual To-Do list. If you make your To-Do list too long, this will only lead to frustration.
  • Management of expectations: explain your environment that you are working from home and want to get your work done. Let them know when you are available for them and when you are not. Please be aware  that after every distraction it takes roughly 20 (!) minutes to get back in your flow.
  • Make sure you have a specific place where you can do your work. This provides you with a transition between work and being at home, making it easier for you to get started. This also limits the amount of distractions: when you are sitting behind your desk in a separate room, the desperate cries for water from your plants in the living room can not reach you any longer. Your workplace needs to be tidy, so you can get started right away without having to find your desk back underneath paper piles. Everything you need for work, needs to be available on the spot. Now, close the door.
  • So, now you are sitting behind your desk, knowing what you are going to do without diversions: it is time for action. Focus! There was a time that multitasking was a hot item. It was considered fun to juggle different tasks, but this led to the inevitable conclusion that each task took three times as much time for you weren’t using your full attention. Anyone who can do math, can see that multitasking is not only exhausting but also takes extra time. So, back to old school focus, aiming to do one thing a time. If you are lucky this will get you in a nice flow, making you forget about the rest of the world. This way you can really get things done. Amazing, isn’t it?!
  • Measure your productivity! Years ago, Helen sat down with her To-Do list and an endless amount of frustration. Every day the list grew longer and longer. She wondered: didn’t she do anything during the day? She started working harder and harder but the To-Do list kept growing and so did her frustration. Until the moment she threw her To-Do list out of the door (temporary). She made a new list: a Done list. Every day she wrote down what she had accomplished that day: the things of her initial To-Do list and all the other things that were thrown in her direction during the day. It turned out that she was very productive. This was the first time it was actually visible! When you have got a lot of ad hoc things to deal with everyday and they control your To-Do list, make sure you also have a Done list to visualise your productivity. You may realise that your productivity at home is much higher than when you are at the office the entire day (something your employer would really appreciate to know).
  • When the distractions are taking over your attention: write them down and schedule them. This way you empty your mind again and this allows you to focus on the task at hand at the current moment.
  • Work is a high performance work out. Most people consider work part of life, we need it for an income and partially we work out of habit. Fortunately, the image of work is subject to change. Not many people work six days a week anymore, but 40 hours a week is still a tremendous amount with a large impact! This is not easy: work is just as heavy as a daily high performance work out. High performance activities can not be done on a regular basis without taking good care of yourself so make sure you are well-rested, eat healthy meals, get enough exercise and maintain your social contacts. We are no machines which only need a bit of power to endlessly continue their task (with exception of the iPhones, which are out of power within one day). Not only do you need to charge your phone often, you also need to recharge yourself. If your phone reaches the 1% power indication, you eagerly search for a charger (who doesn’t). People on the other hand, continue without recharging themselves even when their power indication is well below the 1%. It is odd we take better care of our devices compared to ourselves.

Helen and Nadine

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