Working from home has become a harsh reality for many of us over the last eighteen months. While it has its distinct advantages – no commute, no packing lunches, saving significant dollars on takeaway coffees – it isn’t without challenges. When your new co-workers are toddlers or teens, your productivity will most certainly be tested.
In this feature, we’ve put our heads together to share our top three tips for working from home efficiently, productively, and relatively pain-free.
#1 Start your day with a Dragon List.
Ever heard the term ‘slay your dragons before lunch’? The strategy involves dealing with the significant issues first – don’t get caught up swatting at the tiny flying bats (the easy targets) if you have some fire-blowing dragons (major tasks) that need slaying. A Dragon List should consist of no more than three items – and they need to be important. They’re the jobs that are either dull or daunting, but are almost always the tasks that are essential to (a) getting a project to a stage at which it can be invoiced or (b) avoiding penalties or imprisonment for late tax lodgement 😩. When you’ve slayed your dragons, reward yourself with coffee, lunch or a five-minute scroll or stroll before getting back on to the easy tasks.
The Pomodoro Technique was invented in the early 1990s by Francesco Cirillo. The developer and author named the system ‘Pomodoro’ after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a uni student.
The technique helps to train your brain to keep focus for a short, timed period – generally between 20 and 30 minutes. A Dragon List task could take four or five ‘bites’, while an ‘inbox clearing session’ should be strictly one twenty-minute stint. When the timer rings, get up out of your chair, head to the kitchen and down a glass of water or prep a cup of tea.
Important note: using your phone as a timer is not a great alternative (unless you have a Pomodoro app that will lock you out of all services). When you’re doing a solid stint of focussed work, your phone should be on airplane mode and face down and in your drawer where you can’t even imagine you heard a notification.
Bonus tip: the only time your timer should be within a square metre of your phone is if you’re using it as a scrolling screamer. What’s a scrolling screamer? Nothing will jolt you out of a social media scrolling haze like the shrill ringing of an old-school timer. If you want to be productive at home (or work), monitoring your time spent on socials is absolutely essential. (Again, you may have an app for that – use what works best for you.)
Develop a ‘Done List’.
A long list of to-dos can quickly transition you from organised to overwhelmed. If you have tendencies to procrastinate, you’ve probably been guilty of crossing out the day at the top and replacing it with tomorrow, and you are not alone! You may have much more success (and a great deal more satisfaction) by completing a ‘done list’. If you’re a fancy-journal-and-pen person, your list could be strictly analogue, but if you’re a spreadsheet demon, you’ll want a digital version. Whichever way you go, keep it simple – date/client/task/time taken – and you’ll soon start to realise how satisfying a genuinely productive day can be. You’ll also have an excellent reference when it comes time to invoice your client or tally your project times.