Working from home has become the new norm for freelancers and entrepreneurs as the epidemic rages on.
Initially, it raised many concerns about a drop in productivity rates. Yet recent studies show a 47% increase in productivity since the coronavirus lockdown started.
The study also shows that people are more content working from home than in an office.
So how did these individuals boost their productivity, how did they stay sane in isolation?
It’s a matter of integrating their career and personal life together. It might sound tricky, but it’s quite simple. Here’s how.
1. Create a “you” space
Find flow in your own little corner of the universe
An ideal work space is your favourite area. A space that really defines you.
For example, I like to work on the balcony, sitting on a beanbag, surrounded by lush greenery. The faint smell of an americano accompanied by lo-fi music; the faint pitter-patters of raindrops on the roof.
This kind of space helps me enter a state of flow as I work. Here, as psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly puts it:
The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one…”
Most freelancers would agree that an office would confine creativity. These kinds of ‘flow’ moments are often easier to create when working from home.
As everyone is different, my idea of a work space may not be ideal for you. Some may enter flow around the company of their loved ones, others prefer to sit in a more professional personalized office space.
Whichever your preferences may be, the main idea is to find a spot where you can do your work while getting lost in the moment. As Virginia Woolf famously wrote, a person needs a room of one’s own to truly create meaningful things.
2. Make a to-do list for work and chores
A surefire way of improving your productivity at home is to make a to-do list. While making a to do list, remember to be SMART about it.
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
- Achievable (agreed, attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)
A good practice is to also include daily chores in your SMART to-do list. For example, one trick I’ve learnt is to do the chores which require waiting in between projects. The washing machine or the oven can be used as a timer.
Waiting for the laundry to be done while doing your projects. Hanging the laundry while you’re waiting for a reply or taking a break. Chores, which are considered a distraction at home are now repurposed as tools to aid you in your workflow.
By innovatively integrating your personal and daily distractions chores in a to-do list, you are optimizing your time and drastically increasing your productivity.
Speaking of distractions at home…
3. Goof off with a sense of discipline
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”
– Some guy with an axe, 1980
Working from home blurs the lines between your personal and professional life. There are so many distractions around you. TV, pets, kids, game consoles. Interpersonal distractions can be minimized by setting boundaries with those around you.
Let the people around you know that you need your space to work. Build boundaries so that you are able to focus on your work.
The most difficult distractions you will face are your temptations. All the things that you love doing in your free time surrounds you. How does someone fight such temptations?
It is hard to imagine but it is scientifically proven that taking breaks increases productivity.
Studies show that being too focused on a task for long periods of time leads to decision fatigue. Regularly recharging one’s self with proper breaks is a great way to stay healthy and increase productivity.
A proper break is doing something you really enjoy, away from work. You could consider going out for a walk, cooking something, or talking to those around you.
Personally, I face writer’s block every so often. When the words are starting to form gibberish, I put the laptop aside and start noodling on the guitar.
I am able to come back to my piece feeling refreshed after a great jam session. The words start flowing again and I can even find errors I didn’t notice before.
As for how often and long should a break be, it varies person to person. Generally, people take breaks every 30-90 minutes. Some freelancers are fans of the Pomodoro Technique which is taking a 5-minute break every 25-minutes, and after the 4th time, take a 30-minute break.
The key to optimal productivity is finding the right balance between working hard and hardly working.
4. Don’t be an island
No need to lock yourself away in your room
Social distancing does not mean social isolation. Actively interacting with loved ones and your industry’s community is a great way to stay sane while potentially gaining some inspiration.
Joining a freelancer’s Slack group lets you network with your peers globally. You are able to share ideas, information and insight amongst each other. You might even be able to score a client through a Slack group.
Sharing your ideas with family members or housemates is also a healthy way to gain insight. I live in a place with a shared workspace. At certain times when I’m second guessing my photo editing skills, I can ask my neighbor who freelances as a designer. Likewise, he will share his doubts on copywriting with me.
There is a surprising amount of inspiration a freelancer can get just by interacting with those around them. Having a chat once in a while and sharing ideas is a great way to boost your productivity while working from home.
Being productive from home isn’t impossible!
Improving your productivity while working from home is a matter of having your own space, and a little bit of discipline.
Distractions can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Giving once in a while lets you de-stress and gain inspiration.
Being home allows you to carefully balance your career and personal life. By making a to-do list and setting goals for yourself, while allowing yourself to be you, you’re able to be more happy and productive.