With each day that passes, it becomes apparent that we won’t be returning to office life anytime soon. Many people struggled to adjust to operating from home at first, unused to working from a makeshift space at the kitchen table, and not knowing what parts of their office life to keep. Did one dress up like they were going into the office? Or was working in pajamas acceptable? And as for lunch, how to take a break for the appropriate length of time without sliding down the slippery slope to non-productivity?
If you’re still having a bit of trouble settling into the work from home experience, here are some tips that could help you.
This method is quite simple: Pick a task, set a timer for 25 minutes, and begin. When your timer goes off, take a five-minute break. Repeat the 25-minute timer three more times, and take a 15- to 30-minute break when the last 25-minute block of time is up.
The Pomodoro Technique is a great productivity hack with the potential to help you get through the workday without feeling like you’re spending unending hours staring at the computer without really getting anything done. The idea behind its effectiveness is two-fold: On one hand, it offers regular breaks to decrease the chance of fatigue, while at the same time it creates a sense of urgency to complete the task at hand. I used the Pomodoro method a few years ago when I had to study for the GRE, and it made the long hours at the library so much more bearable.
Pomodoro timer apps are available for download on virtually every device these days, even smartwatches. So you can use them on your work computer or cell phone, whichever works best for you.
Turn on Some Tunes
I feel as though too many of my sentences these days start with “I saw this video on TikTok,” but the reality of things is that I have learned quite a bit during the hours spent scrolling on the app. In one video, a college student claimed to have written a five-page paper—which was due in a few hours and hence the employment of this method—in an hour, thanks to a sped-up Mario Kart track. Since the video went viral, many have jumped on the trend with reported success.
The reason why it works is that video game music is specially designed to keep players focused and motivate them to complete in-game tasks, which then translates to increased productivity when used to tackle work-related tasks. It’s not the best method for absolutely everyone, since the increased tempo of the music can be a bit anxiety-inducing.
Alternatively, playlists tailored to help with focus are available for listening on platforms like Spotify and YouTube. Popular accounts like Chilled Cow and Chillhop Music stream live 24 hours a day, so you can tune in whenever you want to.
Create a Task List
I’m a big believer in approaching tasks strategically. For me, this means mapping things out clearly before I attempt them. There’s just something about being able to check things off a list that spurs me to do more. The more I accomplish, the more I’m motivated to press on, possibly because I know that this will trigger even more serotonin.
If you don’t use a project management app like Todoist or Trello to manage your daily life, it’s not too late to start. These tools afford you the ability to divide things by category, schedule reminders for specific dates and times, and even create recurring tasks so you don’t have to worry about remembering, say, a weekly work check-in.
These productivity apps are useful for a range of things. For instance, you could set reminders for your twice-weekly chemical exfoliation sessions, schedule daily prompts to journal, outline an agenda for your Zoom meeting with teammates, keep a list of chores to tackle around the house, manage client goals, and review your workweek. This way there’s a lot less pressure to remember each and every single thing that you have to do.
Take Regular Breaks to Move
Hours spent slouched over a keyboard can take a toll on the mind and spirit, especially at a time when a lot of recreational outdoor activity isn’t 100 percent safe. The human body isn’t designed to spend so much time in a sedentary position, and all that time spent sitting can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, higher cholesterol, and an increased risk of heart disease. Scheduling intermittent breaks to move throughout the day can mitigate these risks by improving circulation, lymphatic health, preserving bone mass, and building healthy muscle.
Regular movement is also great for mental health as it can boost energy levels, improve mood, help to combat anxiety and depression, and decrease stress levels. There are many simple ways to do this, such as setting up your smartwatch to receive reminders to walk a certain number of steps every hour, working at a standing desk for a portion of the day, and getting in some desk stretches during your Pomodoro breaks.
Delineate Work & Home Time
When your office is only a stone’s throw from your living room, it’s easy to squeeze in a few more minutes or hours of work because your daily commute has been eliminated, leaving you with a bit more time to spare. However, this can create a dangerous imbalance, which then leads to stress, as you’re still shouldering quite a bit of professional responsibility in a space that should be relaxing.
Make a point to get out of bed and sit at your designated workspace when it’s time to start work in the morning, and at the end of the day, clock out at the same time you usually would if you were still at the office. The urge to put in 15 more minutes of work might be tempting, but that could turn into an hour, then two, and before you know it, there’s barely enough time to eat dinner before hopping into bed. The workdays can start to bleed together, leaving you with no personal time to unwind and enjoy non-career pursuits.
Pandemic or not, a healthy life is all about creating balance, and optimizing your work from home routine is a step towards that.
Discovered any other tips for working from home over the last 10 months? Share with us in the comments!