One of the things I’ve struggled with most since I started working from home is how to be more productive and to get things done – even with distractions like Netflix, YouTube, and my bed tempting me 24/7.
I go through phases where I’m super-productive and get so much done in just 24 hours, but then there are days where I really struggle to focus, and something that would usually take me about an hour to complete ends up taking an entire day.
Last week was one of those weeks; I had a to-do list as long as my arm, but come Friday, I hadn’t managed to get through even half of it. Fortunately, I’ve discovered several tried-and-tested ways to boost your productivity since I started working from home over two years ago… and after yet another slow start yesterday, I woke up today with the intention of putting my productivity tricks to good use – and I managed to get quite a bit done as a result, even with a few unexpected spanners thrown in to the mix! From responses to my snaps over on Snapchat (my username is @Chereen_FTBOI, in case you want to see more of me), it seems that I’m not alone in my quest to try and overcome unproductive days, so I thought I’d share a few tricks that help me. Hopefully these will help you, too!
GET OUT OF THE HOUSE (OR OFFICE)
A change of scenery really goes a long way towards providing some much-needed inspiration, and taking your laptop to work from a coffee shop is often the best way to remove yourself from distractions (I’m looking at you, Netflix) and get things done. The Husband also works from home and when he’s having a slow day, he’ll often take a drive to a nearby wine farm (we like Vergelegen) for a quick cup of coffee and a walk in nature, before settling back down at his desk. He finds that a quick break and some exercise helps him to focus when he gets back to his desk.
However, this tactic doesn’t work quite as well for me – instead, I find myself wanting to continue the explorations and go on another adventure, and before I know it, it’s 5pm and time to feed and bath Bean – never mind work through my to-do list!
When I’m feeling unproductive and lazy, I force myself to get up and get out – usually to a nearby coffee shop with free, unlimited internet access. I find that working from a coffee shop helps me to get a lot more done in a shorter amount of time – there’s just something about the buzz of activity, the good coffee, and the energy of others around me that does the trick for me.
SET A TIMER
Regular readers must be so sick of this tip by now (I mentioned it here, and a similar tactic, here), but it really, really works. I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro technique and find that it’s one of the only ways to get me to do something that I really don’t feel like doing.
I’ll set my timer for 25 minutes, then focus on one task. Once the timer goes off I give myself a five minute break, before setting the timer for another 25 minute session (or ‘pomodoro’). I find that I have to force myself to take a break, because by the time my 25 minutes is up, I’m usually so caught up in what I’m doing that I don’t want to stop!
Another tip is to use your five minute break to do something completely different. I typically find myself scrolling through my Instagram feed, but since I work in social media, that’s hardly a proper break, now is it? Instead, I try to go for a quick walk around the block with Beanie, or I’ll throw a ball around the back garden with our new pooch, Savannah. Otherwise, something as simple as making myself a delicious, healthy smoothie or a really good cup of coffee does the trick as well (and when I’m finding it hard to discipline myself, I watch a YouTube video… sssh!)
HAVE A QUICK TIDYING SESSION
If my desk is messy and chaotic, it’s likely that I won’t want to sit down and do any work – and can you blame me? I definitely wouldn’t describe myself as a tidy person, so my office gets overrun with beauty products, press releases, books and magazines very quickly. When I find my productivity is at an all-time low, I’ll grab a recycling bag and start chucking old magazines or press releases I no longer need. I’ll clear my desk completely, then add only the very necessary – things like my bullet journal, my laptop, a few pens, and a beautiful scented candle. Never underestimate the power of a pretty work space!
MAKE A LIST
This seems like an obvious one, but I’ve been told that there are people who don’t make lists that somehow function and manage to get things done. If you fall into that category, I take my hat off to you because I literally could not get through a day without my to-do list. My to-do list keeps me on track and makes sure that I don’t forget any vital tasks and that I’m constantly working towards my goals.
When I’m having a bad day, I find that making a big, fat to-do list is the quickest way to re-energise me. Some people say that a to-do list overwhelms them, and I can totally relate to that because I used to be that girl sitting at 2am frantically trying to tick off the last item on her to-do list. The trick? I’ve started creating a weekly master list with no more than between 10 to 15 tasks on it – that’s between two to three tasks per day.
When I sit down at my desk each morning, I immediately identify the two or three most important tasks that need to be completed that day and I get to work on those. Of course this means that I have several emails in my ‘follow up’ folder and I often have smaller, less important tasks that get shifted to other days, but hey – that’s life, right?
I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m never going to get to the end of my to-do list – well, I’m trying to at least! As long as I manage to complete two or three important tasks – whether that’s writing a proposal, compiling a content plan, or making a dentist appointment – and there’s progress every day, I’m happy.
TAKE THE DAY OFF
Yep, taking the day off is an option (unless you’re writing your final exam tomorrow or you’ve got a presentation that will make or break your career coming up, that is). But, seriously – if you can afford to scratch your to-do list for today and take some time out for yourself, do it. Last week, after days of battling to get into the zone, I decided to plough through the work that had to be done for Friday on Thursday afternoon, then took Friday off. I watched series, read books, played with Beanie, took a bubble bath in the middle of the afternoon… and it. was. bliss. Better yet? By the time Monday rolled around, I was ready to hit the ground running and had a super-productive day, which more than made up for my duvet day on Friday.
Most of all, remember: you’re only human. We all have bad days. Be gentle with yourself, and take it easy. Set little goals, then reward yourself with treats as you get through them. Try my tips and see whether they work for you, and please leave your tips in the comments section, below. I’m always looking for ways to boost my productivity, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that so let’s share our resources!
PS: The beautiful images I’ve used in this post were taken by Roxy Hutton, the talented blogger and photographer behind City Girl Searching. I’ve long admired (and envied, if I’m being honest) Roxy’s photographic skills, so I was super-excited when she offered five beautiful, FREE stock images to members of the #CGScreative community (click here to sign up, if you haven’t already) to use as you please! (And no, this post is not sponsored and Roxy hasn’t asked me to post this – I just really, really love her work and wanted to spread the love).