The challenge of being productive working from home

Hello! Seiiti Arata. If you have to work from home, but you are not able to produce the results you would like, I will show you a detail of how your brain works. Understanding this detail, you will learn how to implement a series of specific techniques that will make you produce more and even better than if you were in the office.

The problem with the lack of productivity in the home office is that most people do not plan to work from home. And failing to plan is planning for failure. Many believe (wrongly) that it would be enough just sitting down, opening the laptop and starting to work as if you were in the office.

Experience shows that this does not work. Just as you prepare to go to work, in the same way that your office is designed to make it easier to do your work, you also need to prepare your home and routine to make your home office experience something productive. That’s exactly what you’re going to learn now.

Working from home is more productive as long as you organize your routine and your environment. With routines, your brain makes less unnecessary effort.

The biggest mistake for people who can’t be productive working from home is not having a transition between home and work. This happens due to the lack of a routine.

When we work in an office, we are forced to have a routine. There’s a time for us to arrive and be at the office. This requires that we leave the house at a certain time, that we have to get ready to go out, that we have to eat before leaving. See how the simple fact of having an hour to arrive and leave … and having a specific place to go, this alone generates a series of demands that create a routine for our life.

A lot of people say they don’t like routines, but what science says is that our brain loves routines.

To understand this, we need to understand that deep down we are just animals looking to survive. And to survive we basically need to eat and store energy. Our brain is by far the most energy-consuming organ in our body. At least twenty percent of our oxygen and glucose are consumed by the brain.

And how can we make the brain consume less energy? The secret is to create routines. This statement can be confirmed by examining graphs that measure brain activity. If the person being measured does an activity they have never done before or are not used to doing, the brain activity is intense, and consumes a lot of energy. If the person makes a habit, an activity that they are used to doing, the energy consumption is much lower.

And what does this have to do with the home office? When we are working from home, we have more freedom of choice. This may sound good, but the lack of a routine will make your brain consume more energy. This hinders your productivity and can make you feel tired before your time, without enough energy to work at your best performance.

You probably don’t need to wear office clothes to work from home. It is the routine that makes your brain understand that it is time to work.

When we wake up, we shower, eat and take transportation to get to the office on time … We are running a routine. This routine is a kind of transition from home to work. Our brain understands that when we perform that routine, it’s time to work.

When we work from home, on the other hand, if we don’t have a routine that marks this transition, our brain may have difficulty getting into work mode.

There are those who say that you need to get dressed in work clothes so that your brain can understand that it’s time to work. This is not really true for everyone. There is nothing magical or special about that office outfit. At most, office clothes help you as a memory hook for you to remember that you need to work, but this is a very small benefit compared to the great advantage you have through a routine.

What you need is a routine, but the routine doesn’t have to be the same for everyone.

If there are people who feel better in work clothes, there are also those who prefer to work in pajamas. A tip that I will repeat several times today is the following: Wanting to force yourself to follow rules imposed without good reasoning does not make sense.

If you want to try on wearing office clothes, do an experiment multiple times alternating between days when you are wearing office clothes and days that you are wearing your house clothes. At the end of the day, do a self-assessment of your productivity and try to find out if it really worked for you. If using office clothes has not increased your productivity, you don’t need them for the home office.

What you need is just to have a routine. Something that marks your transition between home and work. Once you have that, the details of the routine are not so relevant and should be adapted to the lifestyle of each person.

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The work environment is decisive for your level of productivity. Organize your space and set boundaries with those around you.

A well-known recommendation is that you should prepare your work environment to improve your productivity. We even talked about it in episode 17 of the Productivity Arata series.

Ideally, you should have a specific environment to work from home. If it’s a room or office with a closed door to the rest of the house, great. If this is not possible, at least try to have a specific table to sit and work.

This little table does not have to be extremely organized and clean like a surgery room. Forget the photos you see on social media and focus on your reality. You don’t have to feel guilty every time you look at your messy table. If that messy table is working well for you, it’s okay. The big problem is if you spend a lot of time looking for things because of the clutter. This is not productive.

However, there are people who work best in chaos, with everything they need on the table. There are also other people who produce better with a minimum of objects around because they feel good when they are in the organized environment and with few visual distractions. So, my question is what kind of person are you? Remember that instead of wanting to follow imposed rules without good reasoning, you must create the environment that works best for you

There are two categories of recommendations. One is the category related to personal preferences. Another category is related to the formation of routines. You need to focus more on the category of recommendations that help you form routines. Wearing office clothes or keeping your desk minimalist are just personal preferences.

Now, I’m going to give you a tip that will help you form routines, that’s why this is an important recommendation for you to follow, even if at first you feel resistance and don’t want to try it. The tip is as follows: avoid working just anywhere, randomly. If you are the type of person who keeps getting up to try different places to work, it is sometimes on the couch, sometimes at the table, sometimes in bed, it will be more difficult for you to create a work routine. This hinders the transition from home to work mode.

In addition to creating the routine by clearly defining a specific physical place to work, you also need to create a routine in your interaction dynamics with those around you.

If you share the house with other people, have an honest conversation with each one, explaining that you are working from home and that you need total concentration while you are working. It is not because you are at home that other people can call you to talk, ask you to go buy groceries or do any other type of activity that you normally would not be doing if you were working in the office.

The virtual environment is just as important as the physical environment. Organize your apps and notifications to be more productive.

An advanced technique to increase your online productivity is to create a virtual work environment different from your virtual leisure environment. To do this, you must create two different profiles on your computer: one for work and one for leisure.

Your leisure profile is free. There are your social networks, your music, games and everything else you want. In your work environment, everything must be configured to promote your productivity.

That means deleting social media shortcuts, blocking time-consuming websites, installing task management apps. The idea is that when you log in to this virtual work environment, you will not be faced with distractions and this way you will have fewer choices ahead of what to do and all the available choices will inevitably lead you to work.

If you can, also separate your messaging apps. If you open an app to talk to your boss or your colleagues, the ideal thing is that you don’t have family and friends in the same app. Even if you don’t open these groups, just seeing the notification there will already fragment your attention, which can take your focus off work.

Don’t let your phone get in the way of your productivity. Use an old cell phone to isolate yourself from everything that is not part of work.

The biggest fragmentation of attention that exists is the mobile phone. If your job does not require you to answer calls, ideally, you should leave your phone elsewhere in the house, off or on airplane mode.

Install all the applications you need to work on your computer and minimize your contact with your cell phone during working hours. If you are unable to get rid of it completely, configure it in the best possible way to eliminate unnecessary notifications.

However, you may be the type of person who uses your phone a lot to work. In my case, for example, I use my phone to work with a text editor, spreadsheets, apps to communicate with my team, task management, file sharing, finance management, time tracking, statistics from my sites, calendar of professional appointments, and so on…

Because of that, I always use my most modern phone to keep all my apps related to work. And I use the older mobile to add friends and family to chat groups that don’t require an urgent reply from my side. This old phone stays in the drawer all day and I only check it occasionally, usually in the evening after I’ve finished my tasks for the day.

In some times when I get more focused, I only look at this personal old phone on the weekend. Thus, it is impossible for any notification of anything other than work to appear while I am working.

If in your case you use few apps to work, you can do the opposite: use your newest phone (the one that takes the most beautiful selfies and has the most storage) for your personal life. And use an old phone just to install the apps you use at work.

The biggest challenge of working from home is to stay focused on work and avoid distractions. If you have a device on hand with notifications from friends, news sites, games, messages popping up all the time, it’s very difficult to focus.

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Organize your schedule as if you were in the office. Be clear about the division of your time of the day exclusively for work.

The fact that you work from home does not mean that you have no specific time to work. Some companies require employees to be online at specific times, but there are cases where this is not necessary.

In one way or another, so that you can create routines that will save energy from your mental effort, it is very important that you have a specific time to work and another time to rest and take care of your housework.

Determining your schedule avoids two problems. The first is the problem of taking care of the house when you should be working. The second is the problem of you working all the time, forgetting to take care of other aspects of your life.

To free up more time for your productivity, try to automate the routine tasks of the house as much as possible. Use as many appliances as possible, such as a dishwasher, washing machine, robot vacuum cleaner. Cook your meals in bulk, preparing food for several days. Schedule when you are going to clean the house.

If your work gives you the freedom to make your own schedule, the best technique is to find the times of the day when you are most productive according to your chronotype.

Adapt your work schedule to your most productive moments.

In the book “When – The scientific secrets of perfect timing“, Daniel Pink analyzed a series of scientific researches that conclude that people generally have three energy stages during the day: a Peak, which is the period that you feel most productive; a Low, which is the period when you feel tired; and a Recovery, which is when you resume part of your energy.

Biologically speaking, most of the people surveyed have peak energy close to noon, low energy during the afternoon after lunch and a recovery of energy between late afternoon and early evening.

But that does not mean that this is exactly your case, because there are other chronotypes: that of people who have peak energy at night and do not work well in the morning and that of people who have peak energy in the morning and not work well at night.

If you have the possibility to make your own schedules, try to adjust your work moments to match your peak energy. If you are a more morning person, focus your efforts on the most demanding job early on. If you are nocturnal, leave this job for the night. If you’re like most people, your peak energy will probably be there by the end of the morning. In periods of lower productivity, try to do less demanding tasks.

Use blocks of time for total immersion in the activity.

Time blocks are periods that you define to focus entirely on an activity. For example, let’s say you have to write a report. You define a block of time of fifty minutes and, during that period, you promise not to carry out any activity other than writing that report. You close all your applications that are not needed for that activity or even turn off your mobile phone, lock the door and just write the report.

The use of blocks of time is one of the best productivity tools, as it makes it easier for you to enter the flow state, that productivity stage in which you work so concentrated that you don’t even notice the time passing.

The most well-known block of time is the Pomodoro Technique. By this technique, each block should be twenty-five minutes long and you should take small breaks of five minutes between these blocks. And as I said before, you must not follow rules imposed without good reasoning.

If this division works for you, great. But if you think that twenty-five minutes is a short time for your work, nothing prevents you from defining larger or smaller blocks of work. Your rest block can also be bigger or smaller and, most important of all, you should be satisfied with what you have accomplished at the end of the day.

Be accountable for yourself and the company in the form of daily goals.

Another big challenge for the home office is the issue of accountability, transparency, accountability with your boss, with your customers and with yourself. Can you really, at the end of the day, look in the mirror and be satisfied and proud of yourself for what you have accomplished?

You can become an extremely productive person by working from home. A study by Stanford University showed that people who work at home are up to 13% more productive than those who work in the office.

When you are in the office, with other people watching what you are doing, you are hardly comfortable to see things unrelated to work on the computer. But when you’re at home, with no one watching what you do, it’s much more tempting to be distracted by doing things that have nothing to do with work.

One way to avoid this waste of time and energy is to create daily goals and account for those goals. If your job already requires goals, great. Try to break these goals (which are usually monthly or weekly) into daily goals and write down what you can accomplish.

If your job does not formally require goals, create goals for yourself, prioritizing performance goals over result goals. Performance goals are those you have control over: the number of hours you will work each day, the number of pages you will write, the number of calls you will make.

By doing so, you can reconcile the dream of working at home with high productivity that will not only make your bosses or customers happy, but you will also be happy with the quantity and quality of the work that you produced. Congratulations!

Whether by your will or a condition imposed by reality, the home office has become mandatory for many people. You must accept this reality and enjoy the benefits of working from home.

If you want to go further and become a true productivity ninja, I invite you to attend a special class on the Productivity Ninja course on time management.