A large portion of the United States has suddenly found itself working from home and adapting to a new way of life. How can you remain productive while working from your couch or kitchen table? These five strategies can help optimize your time away from the office.
1. Establish a routine.
A stable routine is always helpful, which is why having a habit machine — or system to help you build positive habits — is essential for those who are new to working remotely. Your habit machine will help you add more value to your daily routine.
The first step is a little counterintuitive to some: Lower the bar. Tell yourself, “I’m going to do this a minimum of one minute today, two minutes a day tomorrow.” Set the bar low, but continually raise it to build momentum.
One of the things the habit machine will allow you to do is to save time. Every day, I set a goal or an objective to figure out how I can save four minutes. Four minutes a day is a magical number for me because I know it represents three full days of productivity each year. I know any positive habit I create or any system I implement that saves me just four minutes a day has a compounding effect on my results.
2. Be a student of your calendar.
By far, the biggest change in productivity came for me when I started studying my calendar. This isn’t taking a look at your schedule, there are three things to focus on:
- Study the things you have planned for the day. Look to create efficiencies with your habit machine, as I mentioned above. For example, I have a 5/20 Rule, where I try to schedule five-minute phone calls and keep my in-person meetings to 20 minutes, making it so the people I interact with are ready for our interaction and focused. With a predominance of virtual meetings today, making even a small change like using a 4/19 Rule could allow for more production.
- Study the white space of your calendar. How can you schedule more of those four-minute calls or 19-minute meetings? How can you be more accessible to those who might need you? And don’t forget to ensure you schedule downtime or fun activities, too.
- Study your sleep. It not only is the restorative process, but it enhances your immune system, which is of the utmost importance. You need to build a consistent sleep routine that helps restore not only your physical being but your mental health, as well.
3. Master prioritization.
As you’re studying your calendar, you must institute the “Do It Now” rule. There’s an old saying: “Ask a busy person to do something for you and you’ll be much more likely to get it done.” It goes beyond that, though.
You have to evaluate your tasks by urgency and importance in order to determine priority. You do this by analyzing the actuality of the situation or event in light of your own personal values, not the urgency perceived by others.
If a task is urgent and important, do it now. If you put off doing something that you can do now, it will take you at least double the time to complete it.
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If something is important but not urgent: Plan it, schedule it in your calendar. Give yourself a deadline!
Something that’s urgent but not important: Delegate it. Trust your team to take care of it.
Finally, if something is not urgent and not important, figure out a way to eliminate it. It’s obviously not worth your time.
4. Eliminate distractions.
What you focus on, or what you pay attention to and give intention to, will create coincidences in your life, whether you want them or not.
I’ve got a story that’s extremely applicable to this that stems from the last time I was in a race car. I was given the opportunity to drive around at a real track, in a real race car, with a real professional driver. They had cones set up for us to maneuver around and I kept hitting the cones. My driving instructor told me to stop looking at the cones, to which I replied, “Well, I don’t want to hit the cones.” He told me to look at the road in front of me, focus on where I wanted to go instead of where I didn’t want to go. After that, I didn’t hit a cone.
If you’re focused on the distractions you face, you’re going to put attention and intention on them, eventually receiving the coincidence of the distraction. Pay attention to what you want for yourself and your business. Stay focused and realize that you will hit the cones if you keep staring at them.
5. Use the telephone.
Finally, the last piece of advice for working at home efficiently is that you’ve got to be tough and learn to use the telephone. Your telephone is one of the best ways to prove to those who you work for or with that you are productive, accessible and gracious. Effective communication is more essential than ever, which makes the telephone one of the easiest and best forms of communication, with minimal technological know-how required.
You have an opportunity to send your frequency, intonation and connotation in context via voice on the telephone. Data can flow on the telephone using text or social media or email, but the telephone is meant for calling people and making emotional connections, something difficult to do over text. If you want to make sure that you’re productive, accessible and gracious, show you can be of service or of value by the way that you connect with others.