As working from home has become a new normal in 2020 I decided to share the 4 unorthodox tips that would help you maintain productivity while working remotely.
My name is Artem and I have been a remote freelancer for more than 8 years so these are the tips that I developed based on my very own first-hand experience as I worked from rented apartments and cafes all over Europe and Asia.
Without further ado…let’s get started!
1. Build an Ergonomic Home Office
Few people truly understand this but comfort is a very important factor for how productive you will be while working.
Let me give you an example…
Say, you are typing on a tiny 13” laptop, sitting on a low back dining chair.
You also don’t have a separate mouse and keyboard while sitting at a small table which doesn’t even allow you to rest your elbows.
In my book, this type of “setup” is a recipe for disaster.
Once I realized just how important being comfortable was for the quality of my work, the entire process became a lot more enjoyable and…productive!
So, what should you do?
First of all, try to get yourself an ergonomic chair…that would already make a big difference.
If you are working on your laptop, I recommend you use a laptop stand that would bring up the screen level.
This is very beneficial for your eyes and…for your neck! Here are a few great options from Solidsignal – check them out!
I also recommend you invest in a separate keyboard and mouse.
Using a laptop’s touchpad is not going to do you any good – you will learn just how much it hurts your index finger very fast (been there, done that).
You can get a simple mouse or (and this is something I recommend) invest in a proper ergonomic mouse that can help with things like repetitive strain injury (e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome).
Make sure the table is also big enough – you need to have enough space so your elbows can rest on it (this helps to reduce strain in upper back and neck muscles).
2. (Try to) Have a Dedicated Routine
I am now very well aware of ergonomics and posture but I wasn’t always like that.
When I just began working from home, I quickly realized that I need a routine that would get me ready for the day.
Having a routine is one of the serious tricks for getting work done.
Here is what my typical day looks like.
My alarm clock goes off, I do some exercise, have breakfast, get ready, and take off…to the nearest cafe where I work for a few hours.
Yes, the pandemic made some changes to this scenario but…it also ended up increasing the importance of having a properly setup routine even more.
Building a routine is not a walk in the park…it’s hard to, first, get started and then to maintain it but who said that would be easy?
3. Plan Ahead
In fact, planning is still hard for me because, well, I just want to jump right in and start doing something!
The problem is – you need to first make sure that what you are about to do actually helps you to achieve your goals or make significant progress towards that.
There is little point in doing some non-urgent, non-important tasks that are just eating up your time.
Here is a simple technique that I use to plan the tasks I need to accomplish.
First, I write down a short list of 3-5 (usually 5) to-dos that I want to get done on that day. All of those to-dos are dictated by a bigger goal that I keep in my mind (say, a project that lasts for a few months).
Second, I pick one (yes, just 1) of those tasks that I perceive as a cornerstone and start working on it immediately.
How do I know it’s the cornerstone?
I ask myself a question: “If this was the only task that I would get done today, would it make all the other to-dos less important or maybe even unnecessary?”
Usually, I’d know the answer right away.
Oh, and for the record…I think I adopted this one from Tim Ferriss and his approach of setting goals to be so small that they are almost impossible to not get achieved.
4. Pace Your Work
This one took me a while to understand but I am glad I figured it out.
It turns out that a typical human brain is capable of 3, maximum of 4, hours of work per day.
When I say “work”, I mean just that – work.
So if you are in the office between 9 and 17, it doesn’t mean you work for 8 hours because you are talking to your colleagues, going for lunch, conducting meetings, and having other types of breaks.
When you subtract all of those, you will be surprised to learn that you have done exactly that – between 3 and 4 hours of uninterrupted work (per day, on average).
So there we have it – 3 or 4 hours of uninterrupted work per day but…a typical human brain can’t handle that in one go.
This is when pacing comes in handy.
As you work from home, you need to get focused and I usually do that by using what’s called the Pomodoro technique.
I work for a 25-minute round and then take a 5-minute break.
I do 4 of those rounds one after another (that gives me roughly 2 hours of focused uninterrupted work) and then have a bigger break (I have some form of a lunch).
After that, I finish my 1-2 hours in the same manner and proceed with other, less brain-intensive tasks (e.g. answering emails, working out, and so on).
Pacing has helped me to get work done and allowed me to feel good as I go through the days and weeks without seeing immediate results (this is the nature of some of my projects).
Working from home is not easy but with the right setup it can be done…all you need is a habit and a routine!
Artem runs a digital agency and an ergonomics blog where he shares his knowledge about posture, ergonomics and office chairs.