I tested WFH productivity techniques, here is what works best
Hack your way to a better day.
With all this time spent working from home (WFH) over the past 18 months, you would think we would have figured it out. But I miss colleagues and the constant human interaction; I need to bounce ideas off without programming Zoom to Zoom.
Mornings are especially difficult – I still have a hard time turning my brain on and often wake up with a dull ache of anxiety. These spiraling thoughts and impending deadlines send me into a spiral of procrastination. This cycle, of course, makes all problems worse: instead of just Make the thing, I put it back. Working from home is not my problem.
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Experts say to “work smarter, not harder” as a way to meet these productivity goals while maintaining mental, physical and emotional health. Is there any way for me to navigate my way to maximum productivity at home? I tested a few strategies on the road to find out.
Tip # 1: Remove distractions
All productivity listings call for a “distraction-free workspace”. It makes perfect sense: close the door to potential interruptions, and they won’t cause any more disruption. For some people, it can be as simple as setting up a desk in a more secluded room or putting your phone on airplane mode. It’s a little more complicated when it’s the hair on your head that sucks you in over and over again.
Those who know me well know that my hair is the ultimate tool for procrastination. It’s only made worse with fewer haircuts. When I’m overwhelmed, I just sit there cutting split ends – an almost insatiable obsession. To limit my one-time distraction, I decided to keep a darling next to the desk. As soon as the anxiety boils, I pull my hair back and out of sight. The shit then becomes real.
Tip # 2: stop multitasking
Earlier this year, I tried to ditch my traditional multitasking methods to task unit instead – essentially, the practice of engaging in one activity at a time instead of several. We think we’re heroic when bouncing between multiple requests and emails, but multitasking makes us more inefficient, hectic, and scattered. Deliberately doing one task at a time does wonders for the to-do list.
It’s always a work in progress, as I often have to remind myself to sit still and engage in one task before the next. When I listen to my inner guru, I feel so much better for it, however. I do more, feel less stressed, and let my roaring brain rest.
Tip # 3: Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique originated in the late 1980s, taking its name from the traditional tomato-shaped timer. It is a tool often designed to create work and rest intervals. Using this method, a timer is set for 25 minutes of dedicated work, followed by a five-minute break, repeated four times before taking an extended rest.
It makes sense: distractions are less disturbing when you know that the minutes are limited. As a result, it is much easier to ignore the urgent text or the push notification – only 20 more minutes. Regular breaks help reduce interruptions and improve workflow.
The Pomodoro technique has completely changed my WFH game, allowing me to balance work tasks with minor things around the house. During my mini-break, I can stand in the sun, take a short walk, clean the kitchen, or make up for lost time. I practice the technique daily now, at least in the morning when I go scratching with every scratch that comes my way.
However, it is essential to personalize the method. I find that 25 minutes is not enough to settle into a task and feel accomplished. The fast schedule made me more stressed, anticipating the short bursts that were coming to an end. Instead, I focus for 90 minutes and reward myself with 15 minutes of rest. A journalist and researcher agrees with this deadline: “When we are awake, we go from higher alertness to lower alertness every 90 minutes.” The flow allows for more intense focus, so we get more done in less time.
Before I know it, it’s mid-afternoon, and half of my list is checked. To help I use the Stream application, which lets you customize the intervals and even gives encouraging motivational messages at the end of each burst. Shia LaBeouf told me, “Do it! », And I did.
Tip # 4: Listen to functional music
Background music is vital for my working day; the tunes can really make or break my mood and my productivity levels. One day, I listen to firecrackers, I jump and crush every task. The next day, I fall asleep if the vibrations are a little too chill or emo.
To boost my 90 minute morning bursts, I tried using Brain.fm, which implements a scientific approach to music. “Functional music” is designed to optimize behavior, whether for deep work and concentration, meditation or sleep. There is something soothing about these gentle beats and the gradual sound flow; I breathe easier and slide into heavy work much faster. I am a convert.
Brain.fm is a paid subscription, but it’s not too hard to find some free options as well – search for “working music” on YouTube (Brain.fm even has a few 30 minute downloads) or rather try ambient tunes (sounds of coffee, rain, gentle waves).
There will always be good days and bad, but a little productivity hack can work. Sometimes I even use them all at once and see my to-do list shrinking before my eyes. Stronger, better, faster, stronger: it’s me.
For more tips on working from home, try this.