Getting things done while working from home


Many of us have been working from home for a long time and it looks like it’s not going to change any time soon.

How has it been for you?

Based on the input I get in my courses, some people find themselves to be more efficient since they are working from home, but others are struggling….

The struggling is mostly linked to the changed circumstances.

  • Some have to home school and/or take care of small children: it’s almost impossible to be as effective as before…
  • Others are worrying about loved ones, suffering from Covid, or in the worst case, even mourning them.
  • Many complain that they can’t get anything done (often people managers) because they have to be ‘available’ all the time and therefore they are constantly interrupted.
  • I also hear that the constant stress and the lack of perspective is starting to take its toll.

Besides, the mere fact of being at home could be distracting: there are so many other things to do…

If you are struggling, my first advice to you would be to take good care of yourself (oxygen mask first!) and to go back to previous articles I wrote.

I have already talked about Stress management in times of a crisis (in March) and I shared my Lessons from Lockdown (July). While these are still valid (do check them below), today I would like to focus on efficiency.

Please find below 10 tips:

  1. No endless to-do lists

Endless to-do lists are not inspiring. Often you get only half (or less) of it done and because of that you feel frustrated at the end of the day. It’s better to only have 3 ‘must do’ items on the list. I try to come up with 3 for the week and then each day 3 for that day. Of course, I will also do other things but … the 3 planned items are a must.

  1. Make sure to also put something ‘important’ in the ‘musts’

… and not only ‘urgent’ things… Even if you can only spend 1 hour on it… this is the way to make sure the important also gets done and you will feel less frustrated.
Besides you do know the story about the vase and the rocks, right? (If not, let me know!)

  1. Start with the hard thing first or … ‘eat the frog’ (another one of those stories)

I agree that for many of us it’s a good thing to do hard things first and get them out of the way. However, if you function/focus better in the afternoon (for instance), it might be better to start your afternoon with it. It is always good to know at what time of the day you function best. The important thing is, make sure that also the hard things get done!

  1. Do not disturb

I am a big fan of helping yourself NOT to be distracted: no mail, no phone, close all the tabs you don’t need. Just do what you need to do. For some of you this is very scary, for a few of you this is almost impossible. But… why not start with 25 minutes? (Remember my article on the pomodoro technique?)

  1. Breaks

Going back to the pomodoro technique which I just mentioned, after every 25 minutes of focus, there is a 5-minute break. Why? Our brain cannot stay focused for too long. Now more than ever: being glued to the screen all day long, as well as being interrupted all the time is very tiring for our brain. So… take a break, and make sure it is away from the screen. If you need inspiration, go back to the articles I mentioned at the beginning of this one.

  1. Mono-tasking

We are all so proud that we can multitask (no, you can’t). Multi-tasking is ineffective and harmful. We need more time to complete a complex task, it exhausts us, it reduces our memory quality, it reduces our IQ… Need I go on?
Again (I know, I’m repeating myself), the pomodoro technique can help: how about working on one thing for one (or 2) session(s)?

  1. Batching

Have you heard of batching? You group similar tasks together and deal with them all in one go. For instance, I did already do some batch cooking: during the weekend, when I have more time I cook bigger portions so I have some meals ready for during the week (=more efficient!). Translating this to work: there are definitely things you can batch: replying to email. Making a series of phone calls. For me it could be writing articles or making videos. It is a way of monotasking. You will be more focused and waste less time. You still need breaks, though!

  1. Parkinson’s law

Have you heard of it? “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”
What does it mean? If I have the whole day to do something, it might take all day… or if I have a week to do it… it will be spread out…
How to deal with it? Break down tasks and deadlines, set clear boundaries. The planning and prioritizing from above will also help.

  1. Take note

When you are in the middle of something, and you are thinking of something that also needs to be done. Don’t start doing it (because that would be an interruption and you might lose focus) but … take note. By writing it down, it will stop distracting you and … you can remain focused. It is recommended to have a system for these notes… Post-its tend to disappear, have you noticed?

  1. Working apart together

When you are working at home, on your own, distractions are everywhere. You can already try and apply the tips from above but … sometimes you need something extra. Working apart together. People work together, everybody from their own home (so corona proof), but they work at the same time, they share their objectives and somehow this creates accountability. It becomes easier to stay focused. In the morning, they say they are going to do xyz, and by the end of the day they want to be able to say that they did! I’ve tried this out in different environments and for me it works. Not every day of the week. But 1 day, if I can organize my time, it really does.

On Sunday I got the idea: why do I not host some of these ‘Working apart together’ sessions? And I will. Starting from Friday. (YES – tomorrow, Friday, February 5 and NO, it will not always be a Friday)

How does it work? We start at 9, work in blocks of 1 hour (50 minutes focus, 10 minutes break), with a lunch break and some catching up. We end at 16.30 or 17.00 (depending on whether or not you want to briefly catch up afterwards.)

If you need to get things done and you could use some accountability, this might be something you want to try out… Let’s help each other to be more efficient.

If you are interested, you can sign up here. I’l send you all the practical details and I’ll even throw in some tips for resourcing breaks! (it’s free! No strings attached!) Let’s do this!

Did you find some of these tips useful? Do let me know!

Would you like me to expand on some of them? Let me know too!

Have a lovely day!