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Whether you’re hiding from the virus, in self-imposed quarantine after travelling, or simply a telecommuter or freelancer with the luxury of working from home, you’ll know the struggles of staying productive when you’re working remotely. We know this struggle all too well, and the Localiiz team has compiled this handy list of tips to help you whip you into such efficient and productive shape you’ll wonder why you aren't always working from home!
Waking up is the hardest part of the morning, and when you’re working from home, it’s easy to just stay in your PJs in bed and get to work. However, we’ve found that getting up and getting ready as though you’re headed to the office is the ideal way to start your day.
Studies show that “dressing for success” (known scientifically as “enclothed cognition”) will help get your mind into work mode, as the symbolic meaning of what you’re wearing affects how you think when you’re wearing them. So if you’re setting yourself up for a successful day, put on some pants (not sweatpants), wash your face, and put the coffee machine on!
We all have our own ways of getting organised, but the simplest way to do so is to write up a daily to-do list and set up a timetable for your goals. We’ve found that it’s best to aim high, rather than low. Prioritise the most important items on the agenda, get those out of the way, then even if you don’t finish everything on the list, you’ll still have accomplished the most pressing matters.
In terms of arranging your time, we like setting up “work blocks.” Designate a block of time for one specific item; for example, set two hours for Task A, take a 30-minute break, and go back to work with one and a half hours of Task B.
When you’re working from home alone, it’s easy to get distracted. I mean, why get that presentation done when you could just binge-watch a new show?
To make sure you’re staying on track, keep yourself accountable by setting your daily intentions with a friend, or a colleague who’s also working remotely. Shoot them a text with the agenda that you’ve outlined, along with the amount of work you believe you could realistically finish.
If you’re relying on a coworker to keep you honest, you could even make it a challenge to see who gets more work done faster!
Yes, we know, space is a luxury in Hong Kong. The majority of us don’t have the luxury of a home office, and any flat surface would serve well as a desk. The beauty of working from home is that you can work anywhere, but just like stepping through the office doors, you can initiate a mindset shift if you carve out a comfortable area that’s just for getting it done.
If you have roommates, or still live with family, separating “work” space from “home” space signals to them that you are not to be disturbed. Most importantly, don’t work in bed! You could be waiting on a client call and next thing you know you’ve woken up from a four-hour nap that you didn’t even need.
Clear desk, clear mind. Everything has a place in your home, especially if you’re trying to get locked into work for the day.
First, set a reminder with a sticky note or on your phone to not leave things lying around. This is a preventive measure to ensure clutter doesn’t build up.
Second, maintain an uncluttered desk by keeping like with like—all your writing utensils are in one pencil case or holder, your laptop charger and other cables are kept neatly in cord managers in one drawer, and so on and so forth. Clear away loose pens and papers off the top of your desk, too.
Third, make sure you keep a dustcloth or cleaning wipes nearby in case you need to tidy up again in a hurry. Eliminate the need to look at the fridge by keeping some healthy, energy boosting snacks on hand as well.
Last but not least, schedule your clean-ups for before you sit down to start working, or do it over the weekend. It really doesn’t take up much of your time, and as you fall into a habit of tidying up as you go, you’ll get more work done and feel the serenity of Marie Kondo shining down on you.
As we mentioned before, there are many temptations that’ll tear us away from the task at hand when you’re working from home. Number one on this list is the obsessive need to check your phone, and we’re not talking office emails or Slack messages, we mean social media! We promise you that the memes, cute animal pictures, casual text conversations will still be there when you’re done.
The easiest way to do this is to set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode, where incoming notifications won’t turn into an audible alert. If you really lack self-control (don’t worry, we’ve been there), aim for a more drastic measure: Download a social media blocker app for your phone and computer. There are heaps of apps out there that help track your social media usage and limit your time spent on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. We recommend Offtime, FocusMe, and Moment.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” If you don’t want to end up like Jack from The Shining, avoid cabin fever by taking much-needed breaks from work. If you’ve set up an agenda following our tips, make sure you’re allocating time to rest your eyes, eat your meals, and get other personal or professional tasks done.
In order to avoid going down a rabbit hole of wasted time, try and find ways to give your mind a break with a clear finisher or that can help you contribute to the task at hand. If possible, try to go outside. If you definitely can’t leave your house, at least step out onto the balcony, or roof, stick your head out the window, or even just get to the front door of your building. It’ll help reset your mind, and the fresh air keeps cabin fever at bay.
While these are productivity hacks, we do encourage you to take care of your physical and mental health first. If you’re feeling burnt out from working, and there aren’t any urgent items that require attention, give your mind a break and call it a day.
Lighting is something that may not seem like a big deal, but it definitely is. The right ambience makes or breaks a working day. Try to find a spot in your house with a good amount of natural light—a study conducted by Cornell University found that workers who worked under natural light reported a 51 percent drop in dreaded eye-strain, a 63 percent drop in headaches, and a 56 percent reduction in drowsiness. If you can’t get natural light in your home, ensure that you’re at least working in a spot with sufficient lighting so as to avoid tired eyes and drowsiness.
Everyone’s working style is different, but if you’re someone who has to work with background noise, it’s key to find a lengthy playlist of instrumental or ambient music that you’re familiar with to boost your productivity. And while we love chucking on the Today’s Top Hits playlist, voices in music actually distract us more. Same goes for unfamiliar music: if a new tune comes up that you enjoy, your brain will focus more on what’s playing rather than the task at hand.
When you listen to music you know and enjoy, the brain releases dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter that’ll keep your stress and anxiety levels low. Feel free to experiment with different types of music to find what works best for your productivity, but here at the Localiiz office, you’ll often hear the legendary Lo-fi Hip Hop Radio playlist (you know, the one with the studying girl) accompanying the tapping of our keyboards. We’d also recommend investing in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones if you’re someone who needs to just zone in.
Last but not least, we have the most self-evident tip: It’s time to stop. Setting up a clear finishing time while you’re working from home is an important boundary that shouldn’t be overlooked. As mentioned above, your physical and mental health comes first.
If you’re still working on tasks from the office or answering calls from clients outside of your clear working times, this stress bleeds into your off time. If you say you’re going to call it a day at 6 pm or 7 pm, then you’re going to call it a day at 6 pm or 7 pm. Go spend some time with your friends and family, turn off those social media blockers, and unwind.
Work-life balance may be off-kilter in Hong Kong, but we can at least make an effort to achieve a semblance of it.