Working remotely has become the norm for many of us. If you’re doing it for the first time and are looking for ways to improve your productivity at home, this article is for you.
You’ve probably already seen many posts with tips to make your daily routine more productive. But often these solutions are expensive or require an extra effort that makes them impractical for most of us (“do yoga!”, “wake up at 5 AM!”).
So I’d like to share with you my personal and real experience with remote work and the tricks I’ve discovered to be more useful after many years working remotely, and now doing it as a Software Engineer at Belvo, a remote-friendly company where over 30% of the team works permanently from home.
But first of all, what is being productive? It means doing more with less. What does that mean? If yesterday you did two tasks in one hour and today you managed to get four done in a half-hour, congratulations: you were 200% more productive than yesterday!
Now, let’s look at some of the things that actually help me be more productive:
1. Don’t keep too many tabs opened in your browser
Do you think having 30 tabs opened in your browser means you’ll be able to read them all at any time? Let’s face it: that’s actually a pretty bad idea. If googling something is part of the task you’re doing, you’re researching about a topic, or finding answers to improve your coding, that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you are procrastinating!
The problem comes when you get caught by an article’s headline, a video, or a piece of news but you don’t read it immediately. Instead, you bookmark it, save it, or worse: just keep it open in your browser.
This habit can be counterproductive as they will tend to feel less relevant when becoming part of a growing pile of accumulated things to ‘read later’. And my best guess is in most cases you’ll «never» will return to it (or even close it).
My personal tip: you should have the habit to read things as soon as you see them. Read it now, take what’s relevant from it, take notes, learn what you need from it, and move on to the next thing. You’ll feel less overwhelmed, and thus, be more productive.
2. Avoid home distractions (especially your phone)
Cellphones can be the worst enemy when working from home. Unless you actually need it to work, try to use it as little as possible.
For me, the most effective way to avoid getting distracted by my phone is to keep it as far away as possible from me. Working at home in your live room? Put it in your bedroom. Working in your bedroom? Then leave it charging in your kitchen, but always try to keep it far away.
“But, I live in a small place!” Ok, then try to activate a range when you leave it in “don’t disturb” mode during the day. For example, from 8 AM to 5 PM my cellphone won’t receive any type of notifications.
That’s what I’m doing and it’s paying off. I’m getting more focused and delivering more tasks weekly, thus: being more productive.
3. If you get stuck: ask!
Dividing tasks into smaller pieces, and getting them done one by one, is usually helpful. But still, you can always get stuck with one of these pieces. How to solve this situation when working from home? My tip: ask! When you don’t know, don’t be shy or even you must not think you can solve the problem faster than ask for help.
Seeing a way out of your problem with someone’s help will make you more focused. That’s because if you are not getting positive rewards when you accomplish your tasks, you might not get the motivation you need to keep working. Consequently, anything around you can become a distraction that can make you lose your focus and interrupt your productivity.
Also, by asking someone else, you’re training your skill of communicating better and being more involved with your team (which is also very relevant when working remotely if you don’t see each other often).
Ohh, I was almost forgetting! Of course, all of this will also bring you more results: if you don’t get stuck because you asked, you make things correctly, better and faster. Right?
4. Take worth breaks: no more than 10 minutes
You might have heard of the Pomodoro technique: it consists in breaking work into short intervals of about 25 minutes and doing small breaks in between. In my experience, this is a good technique to boost your productivity. But use it carefully if you’re working from home: don’t take breaks of more than 10 minutes.
I believe 10 minutes is the perfect length for a useful break: I can make an express coffee and fill my water bottle. That’s enough time between a task and another.
Why? More than 10 min starts to become dangerous in terms of concentration even if you were doing an exciting activity. Just take a break that allows your brain to relax, without falling into other temptations.
5. Change the context frequently
Sometimes you find yourself demotivated and don’t know what could be. Working from home can feel monotonous, as your context remains always the same.
Maybe what you need is to create daily motivations, little rewards that give us humans the endorphins we need. And this can be done really easily: just change the scenery!
But how? It doesn’t need to be very big: buy a new keyboard, get a more comfortable chair for your home office. Clean up your workplace. Work from another room one day, get a new plant, or try a new type of light in your room. All those things can bring you the sensation of something ‘new’ that breaks the routine, and then, more motivation for your workday.
You can also try to work from a different place from time to time, like a coffee or a coworking.
At Belvo, we have the flexibility to work from where suits us best. We also have monthly stipends that we can spend in coworking spaces if you don’t have an office nearby, and we can also work from any Belvo office every six months. Really, there’s no excuse to get bored anymore!
If you want to join the team, check out our open positions.