[Transcribed and adapted from the YouTube video: ‘How To Be Productive While Working From Home’]
- Accept reality as it is and prioritize what’s important to you in the short-term
- Build new routines that encourage productivity at home
- Develop techniques that create proper work-from-home and life balance
- Productivity apps should never replace productive habits and routines
We are going to talk about schedules and how to be productive while we’re all at home. I’ve been working from home for about 20 years. And I want to talk to you about my schedule before coronavirus and I want to talk to you about how it’s changed.
There are many people who are working from home for the first time and countless people whose schedules have been completely disrupted since the pandemic started.
My old schedule used to be: I would wake up around 6:00 AM and have a leisurely morning until about 9:00 AM when I’d start my creative work. Around noon, my meetings would start—calls, project management, and other meetings. Around 4:30 PM or 5:00 PM I would wrap up, 5:30 PM I’d go to the gym. That was my usual schedule. I’d be asleep by around 10:00 PM.
Since the pandemic, my schedule is: wake up at 7:00 AM (about an hour later than normal). Most of my creative work happens in the morning and calls happen later. Today was the first day I went to work out and it wasn’t the best workout, but it was the workout that I could get. What’s kept me on track is what I’m about to share with you so you can be more productive at home or continue to be productive.
Accept Change and Find Out What Works Now
Things have changed. But, you need to figure out what works for you now. In my schedule, I’m sleeping a little more. I’m watching at least an hour more of TV per day. I’m on social media more. It’s okay to stretch a little bit and loosen up on the normally rigorous schedule.
But, I know that there are a few things and routines that are important to me, so I want to make sure that I figure those out. That’s point one: accept change, but figure out what works now. If you need to wake up an hour later or need to watch a little bit more mindless reality TV, do what you need to do to keep yourself sane. Pick those things in your day-to-day that are important to you and find a way to fit them in. That’s number one.
Build New Routines when Working from Home
I got an email, recently, from someone who said, “I want to know about building new routines because I’ve heard so many people say that, if I just had time, I would learn a language… I would read Shakespeare… I would do all this stuff. And now that I have time, I’m not doing any of it.”
It’s completely normal to feel that way, and if you ask any retiree, they’ll tell you, “Oh, I had a long litany of things I was going to do when I retired. Now, my day consists of going to eat brunch and then going for a walk. And that’s a good day.”
Now that’s fine for some people, but even though there are things going on outside that we can’t control, I always want to focus on the things that I can control. Watching the news or scrolling endlessly through Twitter? That’s not the most productive use of time. So I have a couple of suggestions and things that I’m doing to implement new, constructive routines.
Learn something new
First, build a new routine for learning. If you were going to build learning into your routine, what would it be? How many people here have talked about wanting to learn a new language one day? Maybe that day is today. Maybe you join some language program, do it online. Sign up for an online class, learn a new language or a new skill.
Make time for relationships
The second thing is to build a new routine for relationships. We can’t go out and see our family and friends like we used to, and that can really put a lot of stress on ourselves. But, it’s so important to maintain these relationships and bake in time to talk to friends and family. Text and FaceTime everybody. Next up, get a bunch of friends together on Zoom, almost like a house party, but virtual. These are the kinds of things that we need to do for our routine, for our relationships.
Take pride in the little victories
Did you know that as I was growing up, my mom taught us every day how to make our beds? There is beauty in simplicity, and it can be so helpful in maintaining productive, long-lasting routines. Try these different routines that celebrate the simple:
- Brewing fresh coffee
- Making your bed
- Performing hygienic rituals at times you normally would during the workweek
- Actually get dressed, don’t wear pajamas every day
- Planning and cooking meals
- Finding ways to get exercise inside the house or in low-populated outdoor areas
- If you want to become a morning person, now’s the perfect time
Think about one routine just for you. Overall, the key is to accept what’s going on outside and remember that we can only focus on what we can control.
Find ways to be of service
So the third one is to serve someone else. I believe that every single person has something we can do to help someone else, and I’m willing to bet each and every one of us can help someone. When I was a kid, my mom used to take us to retirement homes and we would play piano for them.
What if you called up an elderly care or nursing home in your neighborhood and said, “Can I talk to someone there for 15 minutes?” Do you think someone would be there and be welcoming to a call? Yes.
There are so many ways that we can help people. And, right now, there’s a lot of elderly people who can’t even get groceries. So I would say every one of us has something that we can do right now to help other people. Community service would be something that I would build into our schedule.
Working From Home Versus Self-Care
What percentage of the day do you devote to work and what percentage to self-care?
Self-care, for me, is a leisurely morning, right? I don’t want to be rushed in the morning. Self-care for me is working out, being able to text friends whenever I have the chance, and enjoying the little things.
People traditionally think about massages and things when they hear “self-care.” That’s why I think whether it’s serving someone or building a routine just for you, you’ve got to find something that’s going to give you energy during these times. A percentage is a weird way to think about working from home versus self-care, so I’d say that make sure you’re doing enough things that give you energy or sustain you and you’ll find that happy balance between work and life.
Another step you can take to promote work-life balance at home is to carve out your own workspace. Find a spot in your home, apartment, or wherever you live and dedicate a certain portion of it to your work. Our homes can be super cozy, and Netflix is right there. But, if you dedicate yourself to a workspace, you can get more stuff done and turn your brain off of work mode easier.
Productivity Apps—Do They Work?
I think productivity apps are highly overrated, just like personal finance apps.
I use a calendar and email, but productivity is not about apps. It’s about psychology and boundaries. It’s deciding what’s important to you and building the systems into your life. Apps are irrelevant. Yes, a reminder five minutes before a meeting is fine, but don’t focus on apps. No magical app is going to save you. It’s about getting clear-minded and then finding the personal systems that enable your productivity.
Live a Productive Life at Home
Remember, you get the chance to reinvent yourself right now. As much bad stuff as there is happening outside, we can only control what we focus on. We can only focus on what we can control.
Sometimes, all we can do is live day by day, and that’s enough. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t come out the other side of this pandemic like a Renaissance person. If there are days where you must focus on simple truths and routines, that’s okay.
So, I’m hoping as much as possible that things get better outside and that we can focus on things that we can control and build new routines and mindsets that work for us. Accept that things have changed, figure out the important things, and prioritize it.