I’ve worked in offices, I’ve worked from home. I’ve worked in my car, I’ve worked in any coffee shop I could find. I even rented a co-working space a few times (mostly for meetings). And in the variety of settings, and variety of positions, I learned productivity techniques have to adjust accordingly. What works for getting a lot done in the office will not necessarily help you when you start working from home. And let’s be honest, at home, summer is a time when it’s really hard to stay focused on responsibilities.
When the sun is out and the weather’s beautiful (or too hot, whichever), no one wants to sit inside in their home office, cooped up and daydreaming! You want to enjoy the weather! You want to drink fancy cocktails by the pool and barbecue and relax! Unfortunately, somebody’s got to pay the bills. I’m going to share my techniques for finding that balance and keeping your productivity up, as well as your mood.
Automate and Outsource
If you can automate tasks and projects, or outsource or delegate some or all portions of them, do so. You need to focus on doing what other people can’t. Sometimes automating is as simple as creating workflow processes so you don’t need to think about what to do next, and sometimes it’s using tools to finish tasks automatically – for instance, setting up IFTTT integrations to automatically promote blog posts or new products that were added to a website. If you have a blog on your website, it may be a good option to hire a content creator for it, rather than planning on writing everything for yourself. This won’t work for everyone and everything, but if you can simplify your life, why wouldn’t you want to?
Batch Your Tasks
Do all your emails at once. Make any phone calls back to back. Spend the morning doing creative tasks, and the afternoon dealing with accounting. Take whatever is on your “desk” and group them into similar categories – that keeps your brain on one track for things, rather than having to flip back and forth.
If you don’t take breaks, you will burn out. Decide what length breaks work best for you – I normally prefer 10 minutes, but if I’m writing that day, I need at least 20 minutes between different pieces or I slow down significantly because I’m still thinking about the previous article. Some people advocate the Pomodoro method – work for twenty minutes, rest for 5 – but it doesn’t work for everyone, and you need to do what’s best for you. I do recommend breaks no more than an hour and a half apart, but you may benefit from every hour, or every 45 minutes. On your breaks, get a drink, have a snack, read a chapter in your book, or check social media. Get up and move a bit, too, even if it’s just a quick walk up and down the driveway, or a short yoga sequence.
Make Your Work Portable
Basically, work outside in the beautiful weather you don’t want to miss. You may have a gorgeous home office set up inside, but if you spend all day staring out the window, it doesn’t help you. Have a office-in-a-bag set up and you can work from anywhere – your front porch on beautiful days, the coffee shop when you start to feel like a shut-in, a hotel if you want to travel more, or at the airport while you’re waiting for a plane. And don’t think I’m saying just your laptop bag. You’re going to need something a bit…more. A diaper bag might work, or even a scrapbooking tote will work – both have lots of space and plenty of pockets to keep you organized. Pack a variety of colored pens, a couple of highlighters, a binder with paper, your planner, your laptop, and other things that keep you portable (a long list for what’s in the bag, but most of it can just stay there!), and you’ll be free to roam however far you want.
Dress Up Every Day
Even though you’re working from home, you should dress as if you’re headed into the office. You may not need a three piece suit, but don’t look like you’re about to start cleaning either. If you want to wear shorts, avoid denim and pick some nice linen shorts with a pretty shirt. The idea is, if you look like you’re going to the office, you’ll be in that mindset when you start working.
Make Use Of Tools
There are so many apps and programs and tools out there designed to make life and work easier, there’s no excuse for not using them. Figure out what is taking you the longest in your work, and then google it. See what can help you. Is there an app that will just automate it for you? Are there program hacks that simplify the task? If you spend a lot of time driving, get a voice to text program, so you can brainstorm ideas or “write” reports on the road. Don’t stick with a slower method just because it’s the way you’ve always done it – if you can simplify, you should.
Set Yourself Up For Comfort
I don’t know about you, but while I love working outside, when it gets too hot, my brain just starts to shut down. I slow down, the quality of my work drops off, and I get a bit, well, mean. I may love fresh air and sitting outside on a pretty day, but I am not good with heat.
To combat this, I have a big workshop fan that I keep aimed at my table. It’s really strong, so I stay cool, but it’s low enough that it doesn’t blow my papers away. That nod to comfort keeps me going. For you, it may be something else – maybe your furniture isn’t the most comfortable to sit on for long hours. Get a nice pillow, or invest in a new chair. Maybe the sun is too bright for part of the day – a patio umbrella or a small gazebo can solve that issue. Keep track of these small annoyances and fix them – quick (don’t let them get trapped on some to-do list! They matter and it’s best to just handle them).
Spend Time Planning
If you’re not planning your day, you are wasting time. It’s that simple. When you stop working at the end of the day, take a minute to put together a comprehensive to-do list for the next day. Before you start work in the morning, estimate how long different tasks will take you, prioritize them, and come up with a schedule to get everything done. When you get new tasks, meetings, or projects, put them in your planner. You may go analog or digital, calendar style or simple to-do list, but you have to plan.
If you miss out on the fun parts of summer, you’ll spend all your time thinking about them, rather than working. Want a frozen cocktail? Have a non-alcoholic version. I sip on virgin daiquiris or other fun drinks all day long. Craving the chance to barbecue? Pick a dish that doesn’t take a lot of effort to make – slow-roasted ribs or hoisin chicken – and start it in the morning. If you want to go to the pool, take your portable office kit with you – it also gives you the flexibility to go to the lake, the park, or wherever else.
I hope some of these tips work for you, and that you stay productive in this summer heat! It’s not always easy, but if you can up your productivity, you can essentially create more hours in your day, which means more time for fun – or for a side hustle!