How to maximise your productivity when working from home

working from home

Productivity specialist Kate Christie.

The workplace landscape is rapidly changing in response to COVID-19. The Victorian government has declared a state of emergency, the Federal government has directed international travellers to self-quarantine for 14 days, and many businesses are asking staff to work from home. 

So, just what does this mean for work?

There is bound to be uncertainty about how to maximise your productivity at home, so here are seven strategies to set you up for success.

1. Start the day well

Don’t fritter the morning away just because there is no longer a sense of urgency to get to the office.

You will be saving significant time by not commuting, so use that time to your advantage. Exercise, meditate, focus and have a set time for when you will start work.

Make this your new normal.

2. Leverage technology

Technology is a massive productivity enabler, so leverage it. For home-based productivity, think about collaboration tools, project management software, cloud storage services, security software, accounting programs and so on. Check-in with tech-savvy colleagues to find out what tools they use and save time by asking them to give you a quick online tutorial on how best to use the functionality.

3. Create a ‘don’t-do list’

Now is a great time to create a don’t-do list. Basically, a list of the activities you do not want to do (because they are a waste of your time).

For example, don’t do the basics for your kids just because you are at home. Your kids can and should do the basics for themselves.

Or, don’t focus on non-revenue-generating work when you can be focusing on revenue-generating work. Spending an hour on admin when you could be pitching to a client is not the best use of your time.

4. Prioritise your ‘to-do list’ 

Working from home can feel overwhelming. You have a lot of competing demands from multiple sources and you will not have as ready access to your team or to decision-makers.

So, how do you best prioritise your tasks?

  1. Rank each task based on its deadline (some deadlines will be determined by external factors, such as customer demands, and some deadlines will need to be imposed by you).
  2. Elevate tasks which have a greater immediate impact on the bottom line. For example, do you need to more immediately focus on sales, customer management or process efficiencies?
  3. The 2-3 tasks left at the top of your to-do list are your key tasks. Lock these into your calendar for today.

5. Batch your best time

Identify your daily high-energy point. It’s the period of time when you are at your most enthusiastic and impactful.

This time is sacred and must only ever devoted to your most important, revenue-generating work. Batch your best time for tasks such as business planning, goal setting, strategic thinking, report writing and client pitches.

6. Batch your worst time

Your worst time is your daily low-energy ebb.

This time should never be used for your best work. Why? It will take you longer, return a substandard result, and result in rework at a time when your brain is actually working.

Instead, batch your low-energy periods for process-driven tasks such as invoicing, paying bills and returning phone calls.

7. Control interruptions

Don’t think that just because you are working from home that you will be removed from interruptions. In fact, the number one biggest culprit, accounting for over 40% of all interruptions to your time, is you.

There will be plenty of interruptions at home — the kids, the postman, butterflies, the sweet siren song of social media. Be strong!

However, if you are tempted, here is a reminder of what happens to your brain once interrupted.

  1. It takes up to 23 minutes to refocus on the task you were interrupted from.
  2. You don’t generally return straight to the task at hand, taking on an average of two different tasks before returning to the original task.
  3. You then work harder and faster to make up for lost time, which increases your error rate twofold, along with increasing your levels of stress and frustration.
  4. Your productivity goes down by up to 40% (because you are multitasking).

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