Work From Home: 5 Steps For Relaxed Productivity

We’re living in uncertain times. Have you been asked to work from home? Perhaps you’re a writer who’s already working from home, but it’s become extremely challenging: your children may be at home with you, for example.

A former student, Mandy, sent me a message: “I’m working from home—or trying to. My parents have come to stay, my kids are at home, and my partner’s on-call so he’s never here. Help!”

Work from home: keep track of minutes and hours

If you want to get things done, you need a plan.

I created an easy daily plan for Mandy; I know it works. I use it myself and have suggested variations of it to many students over the years.

Your first step is a morning review.

1. Morning review: what’s today’s major task?

No matter how long or short your To Do list, choose ONE task you must get done, no matter what.

It helps to create a Daily Log, so you can track how you’re spending your time. As soon as I hit my computer each morning, I create a new Daily Log note in my Journal notebook in Evernote. Whenever I think of it—every hour or so—I note the time, and what I’ve been doing.

Ideas for your major task for the day:

  • If it will take longer than an hour, chunk it down into sub-tasks, none of which take longer than 30 minutes.
  • Work on each sub-task until the task is completed.

You’ll be interrupted by urgent tasks. Perhaps you need to run an errand, or you receive an email from your boss asking you to complete several tasks before the close of business today…

On days when Mandy scheduled online meetings with clients, those meetings became her major tasks. Preparation time and chats with her boss after the meetings took time too; she blocked out time for them.

2. Open it and shut it: clear your email’s Inbox 

Schedule time to work with your email early in the day; schedule another session at the close of the day. If a response will take fewer than two minutes, respond. Otherwise, turn each message into a task and add it to your calendar program.

Slack or Quip are great for working with others on projects. I like Quip, because you can work on documents with others right in the app; no need to attach documents and scroll through endless messages. (Yes, I know Google Docs does this too… Quip has an easier interface.)

3. Review your tasks: conduct triage

As your day progresses, you’ll add tasks to your task list. Take the time to delete tasks which you can combine with other tasks. 

4. Always have an agenda: complete your major task

Your major task is your agenda for the day.

Everything you do should have agenda, or goal. Glue a little sticky note onto your computer monitor: “Why am I doing this?” Create another note to stick onto your car’s dashboard.

The stickies will remind you that you only need to do something if you have a reason for doing it. This eliminates lots of time-wasting activities.

For example, if someone calls you to chat in the middle of your work day, you’ll be reminded that there’s no agenda, so opt to call them when your work day is done.

5. Sunset review: check and review your DONE list

Review what you’ve done at the close of the business day. Reschedule anything you need to reschedule.

When you work from home: relax!

A change brings stress. It will take a few days to settle into your new schedule.

When you feel stressed, think about how lucky you are to be able to be at home. Make a list of benefits.

Use the above steps. You’ll soon create a schedule which works for you.

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