Work from home hacks for productivity
Given the current Covid-19 situation in Singapore, most of us back to working from home – and more offices will follow suit, provided your job scope allows for it.
While it sounds amazing getting to work in the comfort of your home, productivity levels can take a hit with the temptation to nap or watch “just one more show” looming above you. Use these work from home productivity hacks to stay constructive and remain on your boss’ good side.
Read our other Covid-19 articles related to staying home:
1. Change out of your PJs or sleep clothes when you wake up
Feels cosy to just use your laptop in bed while lounging around in a nightgown or PJs, but that might affect your progress more than you think. It’s a psychological thing, where your mind and body will still feel like they’re in “nua mode”.
Fully get into the right frame of mind for the daily grind by changing out into something else that’s comfortable – and we don’t mean another set of PJs.
It’s also a good idea to separate your workspace and sleep/leisure spaces. As such, you should work away from your bed – preferably in a different room altogether where you can’t see it – so that you won’t be constantly tempted to sink into those soft pillows. Out of sight, out of mind.
2. Set alarms for fixed meal times and breaks daily
Most of us are guilty of counting down the last minutes to lunchtime at the office, where we can finally run out to buy our favourite Chicken Rice at the hawker centre. But when you’re at home, the lines between “work” and “rest” can be blurred.
Set fixed meal times and breaks so there will be a clear distinction between the two – use an alarm if you’re the sort who tends to lose track of the hours. These little breathers can also act as “markers” for the day, around which you set your mind on completing a certain task before a particular break.
Recharging both physically and mentally in this way will keep the fatigue at bay, resulting in a better state of mind overall.
3. Use productivity tools like StayFocusd and Just Read to aid concentration
StayFocusd, a Chrome extension that blocks you from accessing certain websites of your choice for a certain period of time.
Image credit: StayFocusd
The Internet does wonders in helping you with work – if you use it the right way, that is. If you can’t seem to stay away from YouTube or Facebook, make use of the plethora of free productivity apps and Chrome extensions to help you keep on track.
Those who need to constantly write reports and lengthy emails for work can try The Most Dangerous Writing App, which scarily deletes your work if you’re idle for more than 5 seconds. Another one to try is Just Read, which removes distracting banner ads and redundant content from a web page so you can fully focus on digesting what you’re reading.
4. Set your aircon at exactly 25 degrees for better concentration
Nobody likes working with sweat soaking their shirt, and it’s easy to get fidgety and lose concentration when it’s so darn warm. Ever trying to escape the heat and humidity, we Singaporeans naturally gravitate towards cooler temperatures – but be careful not to set your air-conditioning too low.
Some of you might have noticed you tend to get sleepy in cooler environments. This is because when it’s too cold, your body works harder to keep you warm, resulting in faster depletion of energy. A comfortable 25°C should suffice.
For those who do not have aircon in their homes, make sure there’s sufficient breeze and ventilation so it doesn’t feel stuffy.
5. Have a calming playlist, preferably lyric-free
There are tons of funny Covid-19 playlists on Spotify, with songs that reference medication or social distancing. Those are great for loner parties at home, but when it comes to getting work done, hits like “Toxic” by Britney Spears probably aren’t the best choice.
You’ll want a calming playlist instead, one that’s preferably lyric-free lest your mind dwells too much on the words than your work. Classical music is always a good choice. If you’re not a fan of Debussy and the like, try searching for instrumental versions of your favourite anime soundtracks or slower pop songs.
6. Exchange memes and vid calls with colleagues and friends during lunch
No man is an island. You may now be deprived of whatever interaction you once had at the office, but it will be good to have some lighthearted exchanges with your colleagues and friends that don’t involve work-related matters from time to time.
So go on and send them your buddies some dank memes or cute animal videos; With little stress relievers like these, we can all better remain in good spirits despite the current situation, and this will in turn help maintain our motivation to work.
To go a step further, hold video calls with each other for some face-to-face interaction, because it’s just not the same through mere texts.
Of course, keep these spots of fun for lunch breaks or after “official” work hours so you don’t end up distracting anyone.
7. Wake up with enough time factored for prep, a.k.a. the “virtual commute”
Though we no longer have to spend half an hour squeezing with the crowds in MRT trains, there’s still this thing called the “virtual commute” that’s a real time sucker. That is, the time taken to prepare for work before getting any actual stuff done.
This includes dragging yourself out of bed, turning on your computer, and opening up all the browser tabs and programmes you need. Oh, and those few quick scrolls on Instagram of course.
Waking up with enough buffer time is thus extremely important. If work starts at 9, don’t wake up at 8.50 or 9 itself, because chances are you’ll need at least 30 minutes to get things going. Start on time and finish on time so you’ll have more room for relaxing afterwards!
It also helps to create a daily routine with constants like your morning coffee, breakfast, and skincare regime, as if you are really going to work. This will allow you to get mentally prepped for the day and put you in the right headspace.
8. Back up your work as you go along
Nothing worse than spending hours on a project, only for your blood, sweat, and tears to go *poof* after a WiFi disruption or programme crash. Save yourself the pain and make sure you back up your work periodically so you don’t have to waste any precious time on unnecessary re-doing.
Those who need to type a lot can do so online on Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word, as it auto-saves your work every few minutes without you having to spend any extra effort. You can opt to turn on the “edit offline” mode, so you won’t be left hanging in the event your Internet messes up. Other offline documents should be saved on hard drives.
Try to also search for backup alternatives for software that you use often, just in case yours decides to malfunction without warning. For example, those who need Photoshop to edit images can rely on dupes like Free Photo Tool. They may not be the real thing, but it sure beats sitting around waiting for your troubleshoot attempts to work as the minutes tick away.
9. Make sure your work corner is free of clutter
Clear workspace = clear mind.
When your table is free of clutter, your thoughts also tend to be more organised as there are fewer things around to steal your attention. Make sure everything is packed neatly so that you won’t have to hastily sift through piles of paper and stationery just to retrieve what you need.
You also don’t want to have dirty dishes or anything chore-related lying around within your peripheral vision. That will serve as a distraction that’ll make you want to get up and settle it instead of focusing 100% on your tasks at hand.
Work from home productivity hacks
Working from home isn’t a “holiday” – we still have to get our stuff done and deliver results. If you’ve been feeling sluggish in your little home office, stay on top of your game with these methods and you’re on your way to peak productivity.
As a reminder, do avoid any non-essential trips out of the house, even if it’s to a relative’s place. We all need to do our part to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and staying home will help reduce transmissions of local cases, which have been rapidly on the rise as of late.
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Originally published on 9th April 2020. Last updated by Josiah Neo on 14th May 2021.
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