As a Leadership consultant who has been working from home for almost two decades now, here are some of the strategies which have helped me effectively manage my productivity whilst at home.

Create Structure

1.      Carve out a scared space which is your workplace: Maybe in your study or a table in your bedroom and make that place as professional as possible without any clutter.  Ideally, this should be in a quiet corner of the house, with sockets to plug in your laptop charger. Avoid areas which have larger footfall like the Living rooms or Dining areas.  

2.      Use the Pareto Principle: As per the Pareto Principle, 80 % of our productive work is done in 20% of our time which is our peak productive time. Learn to identify your peak productive hours and guard them zealously to get the most important part of the work done and out of the way. I have realized that 7 am-10 am in the morning is when I am at my sharpest best, and that is the time I use to get my most creative work done. Routine work, household work, and work outs are kept for a time other than that.

3.      Chunking: While working from home, many of us could be grappling with additional household activities besides the work such as cooking, house cleaning or helping our kids with their activities. Chunking one group of activities together is a great time saver. For example, If you are cooking, try to get the day meals organized at one time so that you do not spend too much of your time on this later and you can devote an undivided stretch of time to your work. I like to get my household chores done in one go and my workout routine in another chunk so that I am free to do my work during the day. I l also like chunking my days, for e.g. one day of my week is devoted only to research, keeping pace with my learning and keeping abreast with the latest content. I try to chunk my client meetings in one day during the week as well.

4.      Self-discipline: It is easy to get into temptation to have an extended lunch break with your family. If you can do that, then why not? The idea is to create a sense of balance and make sure that you can do complete justice to the work being done. What is not acceptable is spending hours on binge-watching TV, only to realize later that it is evening already, and then spilling your work unnecessary for later hours. On the other side, self-discipline also extends to having ruthless a cut-off time when you will shut off your laptop and switch off from work.

Create Rituals:

1.      Start time and end time: Create specific time when you will start and end your work. It is tempting to give in to the luxury of sleeping a little late or linger over that family breakfast. Being mindful of starting and ending work on time will enable sharper focus

2.      Managing your presence:  Letting your family members know that it is work from home and not away from work will help you manage their expectations. When I had started working from home almost 18 years ago, as a single mother with young children it was important to let them know in their language that like they go to school, so is Mom. This helped them understand that while I was there physically, I was at work. The same goes for extended family members too.

3.      Being Sharp: Get rid of your nightwear. I realize that the moment I have had a bath and dressed – maybe in much more relaxed dressing as opposed to if I were going for meeting –  I have put myself in the zone of getting into my mental work-mode.

4.      Active Break time:Get up, stretch, take a short walk and have a quick catch up with family. We can keep sitting for long stretches of time, eyes glued to our screens, without realizing the impact that this can have on our eyes, shoulders and other body parts.

Create Systems

1.      Check your internet bandwidth. A quick speed test will give you an idea about the bandwidth that you have. Better still, if you are foreseeing yourself doing this for the long haul, then get yourself a dedicated connection different from what your family uses.

2.      Answering the doorbell and handling deliveries: There is a tremendous switching cost when you are in a state of flow for your work, and the doorbell rings which you have to answer. Either assign someone to take this responsibility- it could be staff or a family member. I have young adult kids at home, and this is something that I have delegated to them. In case you have no one to delegate this to, for critical work, be ruthless about either switching the doorbell off or putting a notice outside that you will not be able to answer the doorbell. Give a specific time for deliveries which don’t disturb with your work.

3.      Managing disturbances during conference calls: One of the key problems I often face is having to be on a client call, while my mother or children are speaking to me from another side. Letting people in my environment know when I am going to be on client call / webinars works well. Creating symbols and using them works very well with all age groups. A closed door is an indicator to all my family and staff that is strictly DND and that I could be on a client call or on webinar and under no circumstances is the door to be opened.