It starts with the workspace
Distractions come from everywhere. Making sure you have a clean and decluttered work-space is paramount. Nothing kills productivity as quickly as distractions from a messy workspace. Additionally, don’t feel obligated to fill every screen. Workspace distractions can include:
Cluttered Desk Area
Take this opportunity to clean your office / desk space. Clutter creates confusion. Tidying up your Desk area is key to joy and increased productivity. If you’re stuck or just looking for inspiration, check out the Konmari method (it even has it’s on subreddit) based on the book “The life-changing magic of Tidying Up: The Japenese Art of Decluttering and organizing” by Marie Kondo.
The book description: ” Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. “
Too Many Screens
Sidecar is an awesome feature for extending your desktop experience to you iPad. That being said, don’t get caught up in over extending your screen real-estate just because you can. Additional screen real-estate has it’s benefits, but it also has drawbacks – specifically the ability to have too many windows or distractions open. Minimize the programs you don’t need open to decrease the chances of distraction. Start with Email, Slack, and iMessage.
Too Many tabs
My greatest flaw is too many tabs. I get distracted by ideas and keep tabs open as a replacement to bookmarks. Occasionally I’ll do a purge, but that usually only occurs when my system starts to crawl (even with 32gb of RAM). Practice efficiency by limiting your tabs and look for ways to save important bookmarks to minimize efficiency loss.
The last cause of major distractions occurs with background noise and other distractions. Give yourself time to catchup on youtube videos, but avoid streaming youtube or twitch when you’re trying to be productive. Additionally, find a spotify playlist that drives your focus and productivity gains. I prefer the Retrowave Spotify playlist when I need to “dial-in” and get focused.
Focus on your health (catch a break when you can)
Taking breaks is good for the mind, body, and soul. When I permanently transitioned from office life to working from home, I was shocked to find out how much I actually moved around at the office. A key benefit of working from home is the time saved from your commute. Use that time wisely. Start your morning a little earlier and mange your calendar accordingly to make sure you find time to decompress throughout the day.
Your breaks don’t have to be long. Find a 10 minute slot to decompress, practice meditation, try yoga, or even do a few pushups. Recently, I heard a podcast featuring the author BJ Fogg on his book- Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything. In the podcast and book, he describes tiny little things we can do to increase our life efficiencies in a number of ways. One of the habits that stuck was the suggestion of doing just 2 push ups every time you go to the bathroom. I started this practice a few weeks ago and now I am regularly doing 15 pushups multiple times a day. I look better, I feel healthier, and my wife has noticed too. All from one tiny little change. He also has hundreds of little habits for individuals working from home, looking for a healthier lifestyle, or just trying to make a change.
Take a walk
Another huge benefit of working from home is catching some fresh air. I started the habit of taking my dog for 45-minutes a day, at least 3 times a week (during the work week). An interesting thing happened, after a few weeks, I started walking her every. single. day. Rain, Snow, Sunshine, and Wind. I would use my time during the morning commute, lunch, or evening commute to get away, just her and I and take a nice stroll. Sometimes I listen to podcasts, sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I just listen to what’s going on around me and take the world in. I use this time to purposefully think about my day, my projects, and give myself space to unwind. Since I’m walking with a leash, I can’t hold my phone and be distracted. If you do take a walk, keep the phone in the pocket and let your mind wander.
The office is ripe for unhealthy eating. Most offices provide limited snack options (the valley excluded) that are high in sugar and low in actual health. Working from home provide the opportunity to eat a little bit healthier. Instead of grabbing a candy bar, grab an apple or banana. Take the time you’ve saved from your commute to plan out your meals or actually cook. If that is too difficult, plan your meals nightly. Working from home also makes it easier to avoid spending extra money on lunches with coworkers or eating cheap and easy calories from fast-food joints. All that being said, it’s okay to reward yourself periodically with a cheat meal or that candy bar.
Turn that Video on
90% of my coworkers keep their video off when collaborating remotely. One particular coworker always keeps her video on, no matter what. Undoubtedly with in minutes the rest of teams are turning on their videos and the meeting immediately starts to feel personal again. During uncertain times, isolation can lead to loneliness. Making sure we find ways to keep the interactions going is critical. Take the extra time to make sure you’re find time to interact with eachother, through video, through slack or other messaging solutions, or through facetime.
Take a Shower
It’s easy to forget to shower, to brush your teeth, to brush your hair. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Physical hygiene is as important as mental hygiene. When you look good, you feel good. Don’t disrupt your morning ritual out of convenience. Find time to take that shower, wash your face, trim that beard, or brush that hair. This action will keep the sense of normalcy and will keep you from going into the mindset of distraction.
Working from home can be tough, but there are a ton of benefits. Focus on the positives and we’ll all get through this thing and hopefully the silver lining is everyone enjoys more flexibility in the future.
BONUS: Keep a habit.
Whether you draw, code, make music, play video games, or some combination of all of these. Make time for your habits. Working from home can definitely blur the lines between the hours you’re working and the hours that you control. Make time for yourself to separate that time. One major benefit of commutes is the mental transition from a work mindset to a home mindset. Use your habits to help with those transitions. Talk to your spouse, loved ones, or roommates about it – they’ll understand
Here are some thoughts that came up after I finished writing this blog.
- Don’t ever work from your couch. ever. bad posture, bad habits, bad everything. If you dont have a desk, work from your kitchen.
- Drink Plenty of Water. It’s easier to stay hydrated in an office than at home.
- Stretch / Stand up. One of my favorite features of the Apple Watch is a reminder to stand up. When I do stand up, I try and stretch for a minute or two.
- Get Fresh air. If you can’t go for a walk, go outside for at least 5 minutes a couple times a day. Sit on you balcony, porch, patio, whatever. Let that fresh air in.
- Get a plant. Green stuff is good. (Don’t over water it).
- Check on your friends and coworkers. It’s okay to ask how they’re doing.
- Never get involved in a land war in Asia
- Never stop learning. Read more, find new blogs, audiobooks, podcasts – keep the ideas coming