During this Covid-19 season, some of you have started to work from home for the first time. There are still demands on you, and you have to keep productive and get results.
It is often at this point (a month in) that it can become easy to lose your self-discipline. Time wasters start appearing which eat into your day and cause you to be less productive. The superb weather (at least here in the UK) draws you outside, at the same time, a huge number of distracting things are being posted on social media. Old friends who you have not heard from for years are now contacting you. Your kids are home and are being home-schooled (you may also need to contribute to this.)
But you still need to get work finished. So, here are 10 tips that will help you to stay focused and keep your self-discipline, in order to be productive and finish tasks:
- Ensure you still get up early at the usual time during the week. Get dressed also. It can be easy to let that go, and get up at your weekend time, along with lounging in your nightclothes. Before you know it, you will be losing between one and two hours of your working day. It also becomes harder to return to the earlier timings. Getting up early is an essential part of continuing to be productive.
- Don’t start your day with social media. Have a quick check of work-related ones such as WhatsApp. Check for phone calls also, but avoid Facebook, Instagram or Linked In until you take a coffee/lunch break. Try and block notifications from Facebook or even WhatsApp during your workday. These will distract you when you hear them (they will also make you curious as to who it could be, which then disturbs the mind.) I find it easier to have the phone on silence. I then check it every hour or so for phone calls. Either way, find a way that your phone will not be a distraction to you while you work.
- If you do have to home-school, then design a schedule. Have clear times when you will be teaching, and a clear time when you would work. Otherwise, try and keep to your work timings, such as 9.00-5.00pm.
- Prioritise your work using a To-Do List. I usually find doing a To-Do list in the night before much more efficient. It helps me to hit the ground running the next day. Ensure you prioritise it according to two criteria, importance and urgency. Start with the important/urgent tasks, and then deal with any urgent/not important ones that still need to be done. However, spend good time on the important/not urgent tasks. The more you do so, the more information/options you will get and the more you will do the tasks better.
- Deal with procrastination (putting off difficult/boring but important jobs until later.) It really is the thief of time. Here are some tips on getting those jobs you don’t like doing done.
- Break the task down into smaller tasks and tackle them one at a time.
- Set a deadline to complete the task, along with each part of it, and stick to the deadlines.
- Build in a reward system for yourself for when you complete the task, or parts of it.
- Make yourself accountable. Ask your spouse to check with you on the progress of that task (be careful on this! Do not get emotional if you have not yet started it. You did ask them!)
- Do the difficult/boring task early in the day when you are most energetic/focused. Try and start it the afternoon before.
One of my long and boring tasks have been training reports. Usually, I will start it in the afternoon/evening before. I then continue it first thing the next morning, setting a reward of a coffee break once the section/s I planned for are completed. This plan has usually served me well in getting reports done by the deadline.
- Avoid TV during the day completely. You did not watch TV at work, why start now? Before you know it, you will be watching a film/series during lunch and it will begin to eat into your work schedule. Avoid it.
- Ensure you have a dedicated work area where you can leave your computer, your papers and To-Do list. Avoid the kitchen/dining room table. If you have another room (or shed) try and use that.
- Ask your spouse/family that, if possible, they do not disturb you when working, especially in the morning. You are now available, and they will often come to you with a question, an amazing bit of news, a funny video, all of which completely disturbs your concentration. It takes time to get back to the same level of concentration, so ask them (nicely) not to disturb you unless it is important.
- Watch the food and drink intake and give time for exercise. Everyone is talking about putting on weight during this time, so be disciplined in that also. Keep to your normal meal patterns, and be careful of too much coffee……and cake/sweets! Schedule a walk, run or bike ride into your day, or every other day, all of which will help to keep the mind refreshed also.
- Finally, make sure you take a break over the weekend. All the days seem the same at the moment, so do not treat the weekend like a working day and vice-versa (as has already been mentioned.)
Keep to these tips during this period and you should find your days are productive and fruitful. All the very best!
Thanks to my friend Matt Jones for some ideas for this.