I started working from home many years ago. It all started in 2011 when I moved to the UK for higher education and my employer from Suriname suggested continuing working for them remotely, to build websites and applications.
Over the years I’ve had to do a lot of convincing to clients that I’m perfectly capable of delivering their software projects remotely. Along came COVID-19 and suddenly many companies were forced to let people work from home, realising over time that it works very well. Countless companies decided to continue working from home for the rest of 2020 or until further notice.
There are various benefits to working from home, for both companies and individuals. Yet as with everything there are a few downsides. Through this post, I want to share 5 of my tried and tested work from home mantras. Let’s dive straight in!
1. Plan your activities
Believe it or not, 20% of your activities will produce 80% of your results. This is known as the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule.
20% of your activities will produce 80% of your results
To maximize your productivity and feel accomplished by the end of the day, focus your time and energy on getting that critical 20% of activities done. You can use a kanban board to limit the amount of work in progress while still having an overview of all your activities. I use Trello for this.
2. Set deadlines and use a time tracker
Did you know that work expands to fill the time available for its completion? As an example, if you are given a week to perform a task that takes only a day to perform, you will most likely use the whole week to do it anyway. This is known as Parkinson’s law. In simple terms, if we don’t limit the time required for a task, we will take much more time to complete it than actually needed.
…if we don’t limit the time required for a task, we will take much more time to complete it than actually needed
How do we get around this, you ask? It’s easier than you thought! Setting artificial deadlines for every task works like a charm. Our minds use these deadlines to properly manage the pace at which we work, making sure that productivity is maximized and the time spent is minimised. I like to use a time tracker called Klokki to manage my time spent on activities.
3. Batch repetitive tasks
So you’re working from home and you’ve likely got chores to do, including laundry, dishes and other daily tasks. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the work that just keeps piling up. Remember, work never “ends”. There is always something to do, as the law of the universe itself states that entropy (aka disorder) increases over time. Science and philosophy aside, the best way to manage never-ending repetitive tasks is to perform them in batches.
Remember, work never “ends”. There is always something to do, as the law of the universe itself states that entropy (aka disorder) increases over time.
Doing the dishes? Do them all at once rather than washing a plate now and washing cutlery later at night. Doing the laundry? Plan a date and time, sort your laundry and batch away. Invoicing your customers? Pick a day and invoice them all on the same day. You will be surprised at how efficiently these tasks get completed.
4. Plan your meals
If you’re anything like me, you consider every single meal to be a chore, and I somehow consider myself a foodie. If you feel this way too, you could look back at tip number 3, plan a few meals, buy their ingredients and batch prep all your meals for the week…or at least, this is what most guides will tell you to do. While this works well for most, I feel that meal planning itself is a chore and leads to decision fatigue for me. I go from “What do I want” to “what.do.I.want?”
How do I solve my dilemma? Well, if you live in the UK, you could use Gousto like I do. Every week, they provide a curated list of meals which I can pick from. In a very “next-next-finish” fashion, their app allows you to select 4 meals that you want to eat during the week. They then send you a box containing an easy-to-follow recipe for each meal, along with fresh ingredients, measured to exact quantities required. Voilà, lunch and dinner for the week sorted, leaving you to think only about breakfast.
5. Get outside!
Okay so you’ve got productivity, chores and food sorted. Think you are good to go? Almost. Getting some fresh air and exercise can go a long way.
Many of us work in front of a screen for over 8 hours a day. This weakens your back and eyesight, and may cause backaches and headaches. To ensure that you stay healthy and happy, take some time to go outside and get a change of scenery, fresh air and some exercise even if it’s only for ten minutes.
I can tell you from experience that working from home is harder than working at the office, due to lack of coffee breaks, social interaction and other factors. It’s completely up to you to control your stress levels.
If you’re not much of an outdoor exercise person or if the weather just doesn’t permit it (Britain I’m looking at you 👀), consider doing some indoor exercises like sit-ups, press-ups, light weight lifting or even yoga / Pilates if you prefer. The important thing is to take breaks, breathe and ensure proper blood circulation.
There you have it, my 5 tips to survive working from home, COVID or no COVID.
Let me know your WFH tips in the comments below.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to Gousto, Trello or Klokki, and this is not a promotional post.