Are you taking this time in your stride to increase your productivity by enjoying the personal space, and peace and quiet away from the office hubbub?
Or are you finding it a challenge to juggle personal commitments, persistent distractions or maybe overly excited children – seeing your motivation and productivity suffer as a result?
However you’ve taken to this Coronavirus-fuelled change in working habits, we’re all having to make adjustments to our individual ways of working as we adapt to these unprecedented new circumstances.
You’ve probably already put some steps in place to try and increase your productivity in your new working environment. Perhaps you’ve transformed the spare room into a cosy office space. Or made a point of checking in with a different member of your team every day?
As employee engagement experts, we know getting used to new ways of working can often come as a bit of a challenge. Especially when they’re thrusted on you so suddenly – without so much of a chance to step back and take it all in.
So if you’re looking for a little extra support and guidance on how to make your new remote ways of working work for you during the Coronavirus crisis, we’ve compiled a handy list of tips and tricks to help you stay on track, and increase your productivity and motivation.
1. Make a plan – and stick to it
You’ve probably heard this one before – it’s tossed around so often that it’s practically a buzz-phrase. But the value of a solid, well-thought-through plan can’t be underestimated – especially now we all have new distractions to contend with!
Start by making a note of all your most pressing tasks. It doesn’t matter where you jot them down – just as long as you’ve got sight of them so none slip your mind.
Then, as you complete each task, tick it off your list. And celebrate it as a small win (that’ll motivate you to keep going). Once you’ve worked through the majority of your to-do list and new projects start coming your way – create a new plan so things don’t get muddled up!
You don’t have to just stick to one comprehensive plan – if it helps, break your task list into smaller chunks so it’s easier to organise and manage (and also doesn’t seem like as much to do). You might find this will not only increase your productivity, but also your motivation to see them through!
Which leads us nicely onto…
2. Prioritise (realistically)
Once you have your plan, you have to prioritise what’s on it.
After all, there’s no point in spending loads of time on something that doesn’t need doing right away – when you have much more pressing projects to get over the line!
So before you get started on working through your tasks, consider how important each one is in relation to the others on your list.
Have you got a major deadline looming?
Has someone requested something for a specific time?
Are there any tasks you can afford to push back to focus on another, more important project?
Taking the time to organise your plan will save you getting caught out at a later stage. And increase your productivity in the long run!
3. Get smaller and more mundane tasks out of the way early
Have you ever heard someone tell you to ‘tackle your biggest frog first’?
If so, you’ll know that it means you should get the most pressing, challenging and substantial task on your list out of the way early, before moving onto other, less important tasks later.
But is this really the right approach to getting stuff done?
In fact – research suggests you should do the opposite.
Studies have shown that experiencing periods of low stimulation and boredom can actually increase your productivity and creativity later on.
So, it stands to reason that tackling smaller, less challenging and uninteresting tasks first may help you build up the creative stamina needed to focus on more intensive projects later in your day.
Getting smaller, easier tasks out of the way early on is also a great way to get through your to-do list quickly, which (as we’ve already touched on) can significantly boost your motivation to keep pushing through.
So in short – if there are any tasks you’ve been avoiding simply for their sheer dullness… do them first!
4. Use definitive action language
How many times have you fallen prey to ‘should’ syndrome? Saying things like, “I should start this report”, or “I should take a break”?
By succumbing to this affliction – you’re already well on your way to falling behind on your to-do list.
Instead, use more direct, action-oriented language like “I will”, or “I can”.
“I will follow-up this email.”
“I can finish this presentation today.”
When you frame your commitments as definitive actions – you’ll be much more motivated and prepared to see them through.
5. Respect your rhythm
You’ll know it’s not always easy or even possible to complete a certain task at a specific time.
How many times have you stuck your head down to tackle a particularly challenging project – and realised fairly quickly that you simply couldn’t muster the energy or motivation to see it through?
Your energy might have been lagging, or you might not have been able to muster up any worthy creative ideas.
You might have experienced writer’s block, or creative block.
And like a dam stopping the flow of a stream – you’re stopped dead in your tracks.
The good news is there’s an easy way to solve this problem.
The answer? Just don’t do it.
When you sense yourself losing your drive, stop. Take a break. Have a drink or a snack. Make small talk with a colleague over a messaging app.
Truth be told, we all have individual rhythms. Some of us are early birds, whereas others might be night owls.
And at the end of the day, it’s not a competition to see who can get things done the fastest.
So when you need some time out – don’t be afraid to take it. It’s one sure-fire way to increase your productivity.
6. Automate processes
With all the technological marvels, gadgets and gizmos now at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever to automate particular task-based processes so we can free up our precious time to invest elsewhere.
It also means you won’t have to spend as much time on things you’re not particularly interested in, which can be a killer for motivation and drive.
For example, an automation programme we use frequently is Zapier.com. It enables us to seamlessly automatically transfer data, log information, and integrate different online applications and processes.
It’s like having an extra pair of hands working alongside you to power through your to-do list.
So here’s the nub – if a task doesn’t require a pair of hands, give it to the robots!
7. Cut out distractions
Another common one – but as we mentioned earlier, it’s particularly relevant right now!
The amount of distractions constantly competing for our attention now can be overwhelming.
Social media notifications.
Phone calls and video chats.
…the list goes on!
But the panacea isn’t to cut these out distractions completely. Some of them are crucial to helping us get stuff done.
But sometimes, switching off completely (yes, even your phone!) makes it much easier to get into the ‘zone’ and zip through those niggling tasks.
And if you still find yourself succumbing to the allure of various distractions – give a bit of thought as to why that might be.
Are you feeling isolated? Bored? Or perhaps daunted by the scale of the task at hand?
If you don’t get to the nub of what’s causing you to be distracted in the first place, you won’t be able to put strategies in place to help you stay focused.
If you’re feeling isolated, set aside 15 minutes to chat with a colleague or friend to create that sense of connection. If you’re feeling bored, stick some music on in the background (this can be a particular boon for your productivity). And if you’re feeling intimidated by a particular challenge, consider breaking it down into bitesize chunks, or asking a team member for help.
By getting to the heart of the problem – you’ll find it much easier to stave off distractions and stay in the zone.
8. Take regular breaks – outside
You might be thinking having seen this particular tip that it might be a tad difficult given the current situation we’re in.
Taking regular breaks among nature to keep the creative juices flowing now seems like a long-lost luxury!
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the most of whatever time you have to take a quick trip out into your garden or onto your street for some fresh air and sunshine.
After all, spending all day at your desk can be incredibly exhausting. Yet many of us don’t realise when we’re doing it.
So make a habit of stepping away for a bit, making a drink or a snack and just breaking your state.
It doesn’t have to be outside – but getting out amongst nature is one of the best ways to recharge the batteries and ‘flush’ any nagging thoughts out of your mind.
Freeing you up to return more focused, energised, and productive.
And it’s great for your wellbeing too!
9. Relax your inhibitions
When you think of a new idea, do you spend a lot of time wondering whether it’s the most ingenious in the world, or will make you the laughing stock of the office – rather than just getting it out there?
And have you ever encountered one of those people who just seem to be able to reel off pie-in-the-sky ideas one after the other like the Roadrunner, while you struggle to come up with anything at all?
As it turns out, there’s a simple explanation for why these folks seem so infinitely imaginative.
And it has nothing to do with them being more creative.
In fact, research has shown that they’ve simply mastered the art of lowering their inhibitions. They’ve shrugged off the shackles of their inner critic – and are more confident sending their ideas out into the world as a result.
Of course, we all naturally want to avoid saying anything that might raise an eyebrow or send funny looks in our direction. Every one of us wants to give the impression that we add genuine value to our team – fearing that one bad idea might make us seem out of touch, or less worthy than our colleagues.
But if you ever find yourself wrestling with an idea you’re not sure you should share, just remember: it could just be the best idea anyone’s ever had.
And if you keep it locked away inside – then no-one can benefit from it.
10. If you need help, ask for it
It hardly needs saying, but we’ll say it anyway – sometimes even the most efficient people need help getting things done!
Just like wanting to share the very best ideas, it’s easy to bite off more than we can chew in an effort to prove our value to our team.
You might have a colleague who seems to always take everything effortlessly in their stride, spinning more plates than a clown on Red Bull.
And you might think to yourself, how can I keep up?
Leading you to pile your own plate higher and higher – until you find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole into certain burnout.
But saying ‘no’ every once in a while doesn’t make you inferior, incompetent, or a failure to the organisation.
Instead – it makes you responsible.
Recognising your limitations, and sharing your workload with others, will have a positive impact on everyone’s productivity because it reduces the risk that burnout will occur.
Which means it’s less likely someone else will have to suddenly pick up the pieces, and keep the vicious cycle ticking over.
And remember that everyone has had to ask for help at some point. Just because you don’t see it happening, doesn’t mean it never did.
So when you hit a sudden roadblock in a project, don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.
Be confident about asking for a helping hand – and you’ll likely find it much easier to overcome.
Have a unique way to increase your productivity at home during the Coronavirus crisis?