Ground Rules to Increase Work Productivity, the Remote Edition

Weve been talking a lot about working from home during this climate of uncertainty and the challenges it brings. And we’ve analyzed the efforts were all putting in order to overcome these issues while building a new normality. To accomplish this, we need to find new ways to keep our work productivity up, even after the rules of the game have been unexpectedly changed overnight due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Ground rules to increase work productivity, the remote edition

We have prepared some advice meant to help you increase work productivity while working from home in times of COVID-19. 

Productivity is key to success

Being productive means achieving your goals in less time and by putting in less effort. Its not just a number that shows the sum of your achievements, but more of an indicator of your efficiency. It requires good time management abilities, a goal-oriented perspective, and the right amount of knowledge and skills to make your goals possible. Ultimately, productivity is a personal issue that could always use some improvement. So how do you do that?

Here are a few rules that might actually help you.

1. Remove distractions

While working in an office, the most common distraction was probably your smartphone and impromptu visits from your colleagues. At home, things are extremely different and the distractions can come from all sides. Besides the good old smartphone, there are kids, pets, other family members, the TV, and even the coffee mug you left unwashed in the sink or the candy bar in the fridge.

The best way to deal with these is by taking them out of the way. Identify everything that might become a distraction during working hours and deal with it before you start working.

  • Check up your social media
  • Eat that candy bar — or take it with you for later 😉
  • Wash the coffee mug
  • Feed the pets
  • Set up your kids for whatever they will be doing during the day.

Now you are ready to focus on work and give it 100%, or as close to that as possible. 

2. Stick to a schedule

I cannot stress enough the importance of sticking to a schedule while working from home. Having a routine is something that will help you adjust to this new way of life, will reduce your anxiety and the feelings of confusion, and it will also make you look like a reliable team player.

Even when you are allowed to choose your working hours, its always best if your teammates, and others who might need you, know when you are available. 

3. Take breaks

Even though it might seem counterintuitive, taking breaks is actually a productivity booster. According to MIT Sloan Executive Education Blog, taking regular breaks helps you refresh your focus and increase your productivity. The human brain can only stay focused for a short period of time, and go into physiological fatigue every 90 minutes. Senior lecturer Bob Pozen suggests that we need a 15-minute break after every 75 to 90 minutes of work. 

This is consistent with the already-famous time management strategy called the Pomodoro Technique, which also recommends often breaks as an effective productivity booster. The father of this renowned technique, professor Francesco Cirillo, recommends dividing any task into small chunks of 25 minutes, with short breaks of 5 to 10 minutes in between. This will help you stay focused on whats important, and make mammoth tasks feel less frightening. And there’s a double win here: this also makes it a very effective strategy against procrastination. 

4. No multitasking

Some people feel like doing a single operation at once is a waste of time. Multitasking may seem like a good way to get more done, but that only creates a false sense of work productivity. In fact, psychologists claim that switching your focus from one task to another makes you more prone to distractions and could even impair your cognitive ability, making you lose more time in the end. 

Try to engage in a limited number of actions at a given time, albeit they might not seem to interfere with one another. Even something as simple as having your food on the stove while working at your PC might have a negative impact on your ability to focus and increase the probability to give in to the lurking distractions. 

5. Avoid interruptions

Nothing kills productivity faster than constant interruptions. You probably know already how hard it is to regain focus after being interrupted once you were in the zone. While working from home you are a lot more likely to be interrupted compared to an office environment, especially if you are sharing a household with other family members. 

Let your family and friends know your schedule and ask them specifically to only call you during breaks or outside your working hours. Also, dont forget to keep snacks, water, or other beverages at hand to avoid frequent trips to the fridge or pantry 🙂 

6. Eat the frog 

Everyone who has read a time management article before has most definitely heard of this famous quote: 

Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. 

Mark Twain

This is the most used metaphor for a piece of very simple and effective productivity advice: start your day with the hardest and most important task on your agenda. Once youre done with that, anything that might come after will seem simple in comparison.

Besides, our brain is the freshest and has the most energy to operate during the first few hours of the day. So its always good to dig right in and avoid procrastinating.

7. Use the right tools 

During these last few months, the whole world started relying on the internet for pretty much anything.

There are apps that allow you to have everything brought to your door, while you practice social distancing, staying safe and sane. And there are apps that keep you in constant and efficient communication and collaboration with your team. When it comes to remote working, its important to have an app that allows you to connect with your team, share files, discuss work-related topics, but also have some fun time together. All these features help you save time and be more productive individually and as a team.

Using the right tools can help increase your work productivity and keep your life on track. 

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