Staying productive throughout the day is much easier said than done, no matter what your work setup is like. However, there are a few things we can do to improve our focus, motivation, and ultimately our mental and emotional states during the 9-5. Whether you work from home or in an office setting, discover our productivity tips below that will help you not only succeed professionally, but maintain that work-life balance we’re all striving for.
These tips apply to any at-office setting, but are all the more impactful if working in a co-work environment.
1. Create a focus zone for yourself
This “focus zone” is really just a quiet space that you can go to or create to knock out work tasks productively. The workplace, although not intentionally so, can be riddled with distractions: coworkers to talk to, snack kitchens or fully stocked bars, break room chatter, calls, and meetings occurring left and right. If you’re not actively making yourself focus on your work, it’s WAY too easy for time to pass us by (and for tasks to be pushed to the next day, consistently). If you’ve found yourself in a coworking situation, or an open floor plan of desks, first consider making your desk space the most conducive environment for productivity it can be. Noise-cancelling headphones are a dream come true for coworking situations, especially if you have trouble focusing when side conversations are occurring. If visual distractions are more your weakness, clear your desk space of anything that will snag your attention. Start by putting your phone away, eliminate any clutter, pending task, or calendar reminder (you need to focus on the task at hand, afterall). Maybe even consider adding desk blinders to ensure you can really dial into your work. It may feel silly at first, especially if your coworkers don’t require the same tactics, but the priority is you and creating an environment that you can be your best professional self in.
If your at-desk setting is still too distracting, many coworking spaces provide additional meeting rooms, call pods, or nooks to work in. Reserve or hop into one of those spaces for an office space that’s all your own. Even if it is just for an hour, make the effort to create or find a space that allows you to get your work done effectively. If you are lucky enough to have a private office of your own, consider adding small touches to make your space all the more peaceful and inspiring. Bring some scented candles(if allowed) or a diffuser for a little aromatherapy, play some instrumental music, and organize your space to remove clutter and create a free-flowing space of thought. Our environment directly impacts our mood and motivation levels – ensure your work environment allows for your most productive self to thrive.
2. Make the most of free time with coworkers
Many of us have experienced the loneliness that can come from working alone at home (flashbacks to quarantine and a year of mostly remote work). Although it may be tempting to work through breaks or lunch at times, choose instead to make the most of break time with your coworkers. Begin by scheduling breaks for yourself, so that you’re truly able to shut your mind off from work and enjoy a little social time. Consider using your breaks for short walks with coworkers around the building or campus, or head to the snack room to grab a bite and catch up on eachothers’ lives. It is important to maintain work-life separation when it comes to work tasks, but forming friendships with coworkers builds trust, camaraderie, and respect, while also creating a more fun and relaxed work environment to help mitigate the stress your job may bring. You’ll be able to carry the feel-good vibes from break time into the rest of your work day, making the time more enjoyable and your work all the better. On top of breaks, carve out a solid lunch period each day – at least 30 minutes away from your computer – and use it as a time to refresh and reboot, as well as continue to build those personal connections with your office mates. Keep the work talk at break/lunch times to a minimum, and take this time to relax, improve your mood, and give yourself a mental boost to bring into the rest of the day.
3. Stick to a set schedule
This is perhaps the most important productivity tip of them all. Work days are long, tiring, and can be mentally and emotionally draining. To keep your energy levels high and your mind sharp, create a daily schedule for yourself that breaks up your tasks into segments and also provides adequate break time. Yes, things will come up during the day that may throw you off schedule, but the important thing is to maintain boundaries between work and break time. Set up your work calendar to include each task for the day, giving yourself adequate time to knock out each to-do, and add cut off or stopping points to ensure you’re giving yourself a mental break when needed. Utilize the 50-15 productivity rule, working for 50-60 minutes at a time, then breaking for 5-15 minutes depending on how much time you need. Block off time on your internal company calendar for specified breaks so that you won’t be bothered during that mental refresh. Schedule in personal brainstorms so that you have a designated time to think and create freely. When it comes to questions or requesting feedback, book specified meeting times so that you and your co-workers/boss are best prepared. Time is valuable for us all, so be mindful of the time others need and/or have scheduled for work and breaks as well.
Working from home has its pros and cons, but finding a balance between the two is key for productivity.
1. Create a workspace away from distractions
Working from home has its perks, but it also comes with many, many distractions. This is especially true if family members/roommates are at home, or you don’t have a specified office room. Set yourself up for success by creating the most distraction-free environment possible. Unless background noise is your thing and you enjoy being in the center of activity while you work, designate a work zone away from common areas and noise, and without distractions or temptations like a TV, the kitchen (because who can resist snacking? ) or a bed or couch (when lounging is an option, we often choose it). This could be a spare room, a secluded corner of your apartment, or even an outdoor space – any environment that can be designated as your “work zone.” It is important to separate your “productive space” and “personal space” so your brain can more easily switch between modes and separate the two environments. Look at it as creating a space to avoid distractions while you work, with the added benefit of helping you avoid work while you’re trying to live – creating a work-life balance simply by forming physical boundaries between the two aspects of your life. It is common to allow work to spill over into personal time when working from home. Creating boundaries is absolutely necessary to avoid this.
2. Use break time wisely
It can be tempting to take longer breaks while at home – as mentioned, the distractions are endless – but try to maintain a similar schedule to what you would have when in office. Schedule in 5-15 min long breaks throughout the work day for movement and a mental refresh, but try your best to ensure these breaks don’t spill over. Set an alarm, schedule calendar notifications, designate signs or signals to tell housemates when your break is on and off. Whatever you need to do to keep you on track, do it. In addition to keeping these breaks short, consider using that time to knock out any nagging personal task that is taking your attention away from work. We can only be our most productive if we are able to maintain focus on the task at hand. If there is an appointment you’ve been needing to make, a quick mess you need to clean up, or a disorganized spot in your home that you need to tidy up in order to feel clear and ready to mentally kick butt, use your break time to knock those out. Simple tasks that require little brain power or thought can be cathartic and a great mental break. Plus, once those things are off your plate, you’ll feel a weight lifted and be better able to give 100% to your profession.
3. Stick to a set schedule
Similar to when at work, creating a daily schedule for yourself is key to productivity. When at home however, a schedule is all the more important to maintain work-life balance and avoid burnout. When setting up your calendar each day, plan out designated times for each work task as well as when you’ll take breaks and lunch. Most importantly, be sure to also include personal tasks and personal time before and after work. Write out specific work start and work end times, and don’t let your work spill over on either end. We need to create solid boundaries between work hours and personal hours to avoid work and life blending together. So, schedule in your workout for before or after work to ensure you get it in, write down a timeframe for your morning routine so that you won’t wake and immediately start working, and don’t just stop working at 5 or 6(whenever office hours end). CLOSE your computer, tidy up your work space, and leave that work zone until the following day. Just because you work from home, doesn’t mean you need to be or are expected to be available at all hours of the day. You need your designated personal time just as much as someone who works in an office. Give yourself that time and the opportunity to live a truly balanced professional life.
Whether you’ve heard of these tips before or learned something new, know that the most important aspect of productivity is taking care of yourself as a whole. Not one of us can succeed in life if we’re not mentally, emotionally, or physically thriving, so make those small productivity changes and take the time to create an environment that promotes nothing but balance, positivity, and joy for you. Both your personal and professional lives will benefit from it.