Work From Home: 6 Little-Known Hacks To Boost Your ProductivityBy Tang Kai Long • 6 min read
Covid-19 has brought up the topic of a new normal for working in Singapore. Workplaces and schools are closed, in favour of home-based learning and working from home.
Some people love working from home, others not so. But we all fall victim to the devil that is the comfort of our own home and the distractions that come with it. It happens to the best of us.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
To help you be a productivity warrior while staying comfortable in your home, here are 6 little-known hacks you can try:
- ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment)
- Zero-based Calendar
- Pomodoro Kanban Technique
- Optimise your tech stack
- Create transitions between tasks
- Build in cues for work
Adopt a ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) mindset
To put simply, the ROWE mindset only cares about results.
Don’t tie yourself down to fixed hours, and don’t feel bad for not adhering to customary schedules. It does not matter how many hours you work, as long as you deliver results.
Admittedly, this may not work for everyone. It requires either a company culture that believes a ROWE mindset, or transparent communication with your boss that you are embarking on a ROWE mindset.
Some employees have complained that their work from home experience is a nightmare, as their employers require them to report each time they leave their desk – even if it’s to go to the toilet.
Start a Zero-based Calendar
When you work from home, it is easy to lose pockets of time to distraction – and distractions are everywhere.
Zero-based scheduling helps you account for all of your time – down to the minutes. It requires you to schedule every single one of your tasks, even your social media thumb-exercises. Here’s how it looks like:
This habit forces you to get granular, so you become conscious of your time and effectively make use of every single minute. When you break down your day into minutes, you become a lot less wasteful of time – in turn increasing productivity.
More than that, you get more time for yourself as well. Because everything is properly allocated, work will never bleed into your personal time. It isn’t because you suddenly have more time, but because you made a lot more of what you already had.
Try the Pomodoro Kanban Technique
Finding it difficult to get into the zone? Spending too much time on Instagram?
Here’s a solution that actually works – and still gives you time to rest. You work in spurts of 25-minutes, and then take a short break of 5 minutes after every spurt.
- Select a task to work on.
- Set a 25 minutes timer. (Every 25 minutes is considered a Pomodoro.)
- Work on the task until the timer rings. You need to be 100% dedicated to your work task at hand. No distractions.
- Take a 5 minutes break. This refreshes your mind and prevents exhaustion.
- After every 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes (adjust to suit your comfort level, but not too comfortable).
This method instills a sense of urgency in you because you are only given 25-minutes at any one point to work on your tasks. Also, it counteracts the burnt-out feeling most of us feel at the end of a long day.
Optimise your tech stack
When working from home, technology can be a great servant – but also a very bad master.
Before it distracts you and wrecks your productivity, optimise your technology stack to facilitate working from home. Apart from the usual Zoom, Slack, and Google Drive, here are some additional tech services to help turbo-charge your productivity.
For remote communication:
- Zoom: Video and voice calls. Works in groups and for one-to-one.
- Slack: Team communication and voice chat.
- Discord: voice chatting platform with channels to accommodate groups.
- Donut: Virtual coffee or group lunches, great for remote communication.
- Google drive: File sharing, spreadsheets, simple documents, and collaboration with colleagues.
- Zapier: Automation tool to help you save time on repetitive tasks and takes away the need to constantly switch between apps.
- Asana: Project management tool to help organise and track work progress.
- Serene (For Mac): Achieve maximum productivity by staying focused on a single daily goal and ridding unnecessary multi-tasking.
- SelfControl (For Mac): Block desktop access to websites that can distract
For time management:
- Toggl: Keep track of the time taken to complete tasks.
- RescueTime: Tracks the time spent on different websites, provides insight to bad browsing habits that could be stymying productivity.
- Focus Booster: An app based on the Pomodoro Technique. A 25-minutes timer followed with a 5-minutes break.
To further help you make the most out of your time, here are more free productivity apps you never knew you needed.
Create transitions between tasks
When we travel from home to work, the journey serves as a mental transition to put us in the right headspace. Without that, the body may not register that “it’s time to work”.
Try this: When allocating time for the tasks you need to complete, factor in time for transitions. It could be as simple as taking a stroll, meditating, or whipping up a hearty breakfast for yourself. These set-shifting activities can help clear your mind and prepare you for the next task.
Spending 15 minutes to calibrate 45 minutes of productivity > a full hour of unproductivity.
Build in cues for work
Soft music playing in the background, furious clicking of the keyboard, the aroma of coffee, and maybe even the air purifier your office owns. All of us have got cues to put us “in the zone”. These are habitualised signals that we cultivate over time, and our body responds to it instinctively.
And while we have a certain set of cues for work, similarly there exists a set for relaxation – and they are all around the house. The key is to isolate the cues for relaxing and intentionally surround yourself with cues that will set you in the working mood.
For instance, this 2-hour office ambience background soundtrack to help you feel like you’re actually in an office.
As we adjust to working from home during this pandemic, we hope these little tips will help you in increasing your productivity as you work remotely.
We are all in this together. Till then, stay safe and take care ❤️
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