Working from Home: What Works and What Doesn’t

With more and more people working from home, its one of the hottest topics on the internet. I constantly find myself googling for tips on productivity (read: how to avoid  the inevitable Netflix binge sesh and get some actual work done). Over the years I have racked up a few methods in my own arsenal on how to make my day the most productive while working from home.

I’ve been working from home for the past two and a half years and I absolutely love it. Some people told me that I may go NUTS within a few weeks of not having any one to interact with at home (my husband works from an office – and works long hours – he’s a lawyer). In fact I myself thought I’d completely lose my mind and would need to join a co-working space soon. In fact I’d researched a LOT about co-working spaces in Delhi (where I live) just a few days into my work from home journey. I didn’t do that because I thought I needed it then, but because I wanted to be prepared to deal with the “crazies” whenever they set in. Luckily, they never did.

I LOVE working from home. It’s the place where I’m most productive and these two and a half years I’ve probably done more, learnt more, created more, than I have in my entire LIFE.

Here are the things which have worked well for me:

  1. Having a Schedule

This is the most repeated work from home productivity advice – and for a reason. It freakin’ works. I have clear working hours and I switch my computer off when those hours end. (Sometimes yes, I may switch my system back on to do an urgent email here or there – but that’s not the norm). I know this is difficult for people who have children to look after, or who have a day job. Even still, figure out which pockets of time work best, and stick to those slots. That way even your children and social circle will be respectful of your “work time”.  And you will too.

Another thing this does is that it establishes a sense of routine & ritual. It takes some amount of decision making out (eg: should I put in these 2 hours before or after lunch?) and gets you on auto-pilot mode.

2. Prioritising the working bit

Working from home means WORKING from home right? So…. in the early days (especially if you’re an overworked & exhausted former lawyer who is majorly sleep and entertainment deprived) it may be all too easy to have “Netflix days”. 2 hours of work and then it’s time to chilllll. Well, beyond a point you will realise that nobody suffers but you and your business if you let this continue. So try to get your to-do list done in the first half of the day or whenever you are at your most alert. For me, 10 am to 3 pm is the time when I’m super productive so I try to hit my daily goals in these hours and schedule extra stuff outside of them.

3. Saying NO to those who try to infringe on your work time

Some times, even the most well meaning of friends and family may end up taking your time for granted. They may expect you to meet up in the middle of the day (your WORK hours), or to run errands for them, or do various other stuff for you during what is your work time. While it’s clear to YOU that said time is your defined work time, it may not be clear to them. So learn to say no politely and just let them know that these are your work hours, and offer an alternate timing (like the weekend!) for your meet up.

In the early days you may be tempted to take others on their offer to hang out mid day, but once you realise that random 2 hour lunch ended up eating up your whole day, you’ll stop saying yes to such requests. Also, I feel for photographers. I’ve been a photographer – and most of my assignments were on weekends. So not only was I missing out on social gatherings which are inevitably scheduled on weekends, but also couldn’t have a week-day routine. I ended up saying yes to mid week mid day socialising primarily to make up for my absence on weekends, but that ended up leaving me feeling drained. So I hear you photogs! I’m no longer doing custom photography projects so I have my weekends to myself now – but fellow photographers out there, if you have any tips on how to handle your week, please share!!

4. Having a Dedicated Workspace

The dining table counts. As long as you can leave your laptop there. The thing is, setting up and cleaning up has a time cost. You want to minimise these daily time suckers, and also have a sense of productivity-association to your desk. And again, having a desk – any desk (yes, including the dining table!) – works because it’s the best for your posture. I’ve been fairly nomadic in my house (I’ve had 4 different spots) but now I’ve settled into a cute little corner where I get natural light through out the day!

5. Having well defined meal times

I’ve suffered both ways. Days when I’ve just been eating the whole time (this happened the most in my first year of working from home – when I also gained a whopping 15 pounds (and that’s a lot for my giant frame of 5’2”)) and when I’ve delayed meals (and have even skipped them at times). Both were bad for my health and mental sanity, and I’d feel the impact of it within weeks of such behaviour. Now, I have a clearly defined time zone for breakfast, lunch, evening tea and dinner. This is a tiny thing which REALLY helps keep your day (and health) organised!

6. Keeping my phone away while getting stuff done

This one is super important to me. I let me phone remain in “loud” mode, but place it on a table away from me (but within earshot). I don’t NEED to constantly be checking all the various notifications popping up on my phone. If there is something important, people will CALL. So just keep your phone away and see the magic happen.

That’s it. Those are my tips & tricks for keeping my day organised and get the Work From Home Productivity Mode switched ON. How do you stay organised while working from home? Tell me your tips in the comments section. I could surely use some help here!

In summary (share it with your work from home friends – they will THANK you):

Working From Home What Works and What Doesnt

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