This post was originally posted on nehaltenany.com and has been republished with permission.
Our edition of “The Roaring Twenties” isn’t quite what we were expecting it to be when we all had our Gatsby-themed New Year parties, back in December. Our goals centered around traveling, progressing and being more productive in general. But now, some of our most important conversations include words and phrases like quarantine, social distancing, “flattening the curve” and even how to increase productivity while working from home. It’s called the “new normal.”
It’s not all gloom and doom though. On the brighter side of things, we can just wake up and work in our sweatpants, schedules have become more flexible, and there aren’t any 1.5 hour long commutes tiring us out. However, limited human connection, mid-day power naps and an overall loss of motivation are some serious cons of the pandemic.
[Read Related: Make Quarantine Fun with Activities for Everyone in Your Home]
The good days are really good. Nowadays, I wake up and get everything done with optimum productivity, take great care of my skin, cook a bomb meal, workout and work on my side hustles. It’s the “lazy” ones that are a real challenge.
I do believe it’s completely OK to take personal days off to do nothing. But there need to be goals to remain motivated and become more productive as the week progresses. I strive for four to five days but honestly, it depends, week to week. But if you’re starting to get through the rest of this and remain sane, here are some tips to help you increase productivity while working from home.
1. Create a Designated Work Space
How many of you guys prefer lounging around in the bed while working? In college, I used to study on my bed. Post-college, I started working from home while on my bed, and it’s just so damn comfortable! When the whole work-from-home deal began during the pandemic, I was happy because that meant I could work from the comfort of my bed again. But I never realized how much I would miss my double-monitor office setup. Keeping your work life separate from your personal one can be a big struggle. However, planning and setting ground rules can help with this transition to a home office.
Step one to being more productive is finding a quiet area in your house or the bedroom and set it up with a proper desk, chair and laptop. It’ll motivate you every morning to get up and walk over to that area to switch your mind to “work mode.”
Every now and then, I still love working while sitting on my bed, but I purchased a bed desk and it’s made such a difference in my habits. Check out the NEARPOW Laptop Bed Tray Table (it’s great for eating your breakfast on too!).
2. Download Task App/Use Planner
Remember all the jokes about tossing your planner out because 2020 is canceled? I’ve only now realized that I need an organizer to map out my daily, weekly and monthly goals more than ever — this will definitely help increase productivity while working from home! I’m a very digital person, so I like to use Asana to organize my tasks. It’s a great project management tool that can help you separate your projects, side hustles and more in different dashboards. They also have an app for it! Other great apps include Todoist (balancing power and simplicity), Productive – Habit Tracker (a great one for starters), Fabulous – Daily Self Care (mix of mindfulness, productivity and fitness) and Microsoft To Do.
For all content creators, check out tools like Preview, Hootsuite and Plann to help build out your Instagram grid and curate the perfect feed. By scheduling content ahead of time, you’ll have one less thing to worry about.
For those who aren’t as tech-savvy, I’ve heard a lot of great things about the Panda Planner. It’s a planner specifically designed to make you happier and more productive. If you’re someone who just has no idea where to start, you should get this. It has a morning review that focuses on positivity and gratitude to help you align your goals for the week alongside tasks and notes.
3. Plan Small Actions
One thing that I’ve learned is sometimes planning ‘bigger’ tasks can be a detriment to your overall productivity. I started to notice that if there was something on my list that seemed hard or I wasn’t sure how to start, I’d avoid doing it. Break down things into smaller steps to help you achieve your goals at a steady pace.
Some examples from my recent days:
- Instead of ‘rebuilding the entire website,’ I’ll list smaller actions like: ‘decide on new website theme,’ ‘transfer content from Squarespace to WordPress,’ ‘write blog post topic ideas’ etc.
- When it comes to my podcast, instead of ‘create a new podcast on X topic,’ I tell myself ‘pick three topics,’ ’email 5 guests,’ ‘write questions for guests,’ ‘create 3 social media graphics,’ etc.
You can see how these actions are so small and easy that the resistance to start them disappears. Also, who doesn’t love the feeling of when you cross a task off your to-do list?
[Read More: 15 Minutes to Reflect During Times of Adversity]
4. Schedule Break Times
When the line between work and home blurs, it’s hard to understand when to switch off. Sometimes I’m working around the clock because I don’t have a set end time. But taking breaks is super important to relax and refocus so you can avoid burnout.
Some great activities to try during your break are:
- Stretching or going for a walk around the block
- Meditating using an app like Headspace
- Reading a book or some online articles
- Playing an online/phone game —I play a game of Ludo or Monopoly Deal online with my friends
- Organizing an area of your house — I love hanging up my clothes or cleaning my bathroom during a break. Is this normal?
5. Bribe Yourself With Rewards
I know this sounds a little childish, but it works. It really pushes me to reach my deadlines especially when a task seems mundane and I’m just not that into it. Examples of this include:
- I’ll watch an episode of “Friends” after I finish three tasks on my list for the day
- I’ll save YouTube videos I want to watch and for each major task completed, I can watch one “Ace Family” YouTube video
- For those practicing intermittent fasting, you can delay having your first meal until you finish X number of tasks.
If you’re motivated AF then you’re lucky enough to not need this sort of reward system. But for people like me, it works to become more productive! BRB, going to eat an Oreo since I told myself I would if I finished this blog post.
6. Set A Social Media Time Limit
Do you feel like it’s become a race to see who can be the most productive during the pandemic? I log onto social media and I’m like wow, this person is doing so much and here I am still in last night’s clothes trying to figure out what I should do today. For anybody who needs to hear this, the worst thing you can do to yourself is pine over social media influencers and wish for their life. It may seem like they have it all together, but creating content isn’t a walk in the park. It takes hours of hard work, trial and error, frustration and so much more. You just don’t see that aspect of it, which I wish more people showed.
[Read More: 4 Effective Ways to Tackle Burnout Through Recovery and Prevention]
Set a social media time limit for yourself daily. I easily get sucked into an Instagram or TikTok blackhole but lately, I’ve been really good about setting that limit for myself. I went from spending like an hour and a half on TikTok to 20 minutes a day, and trust me, it’s had a positive impact on my mental health. A great app for this is Moment (iOS). It tracks your device usage and allows you to set daily timers. You can also use a setting that “pushes” you to turn your phone off with annoying alerts when you cross your daily limit. Another one I’ve heard people use is called Flora. It basically allows you to plan a virtual tree with your friends by not touching your phone. You can see who killed the tree (aka, who used their phone) — it’s supposed to help with limiting screen time and productivity. I didn’t really like this one because I don’t want to be responsible for killing your tree…
These are just some of the tricks I’ve been using to increase productivity while working from home. I’d love to hear what you all have been doing to become more productive. Maybe I’ll learn something new and can incorporate that as well!