Inspiration Lab member Hayley Luckadoo is an audacious dreamer who started with a hobby wedding planning business born out of her college apartment and turned it into a serial entrepreneur success story fueled by determination and Dr. Pepper. Through her company, Luckadoo Media, and her passion project, the Females on Fire podcast, Hayley spends most days in her very pink office, creating content and resources to educate and motivate entrepreneurs to change their lives. Below she tackles something that became so common this year, it now has its own abbreviation: WFH — also known as working from home.
2020 threw everyone a curveball in a lot of ways, but one of the biggest impacts this year has had is shifting so many of us into an unfamiliar work-from-home environment. Working by yourself or getting to stay home all day can be awesome, but sometimes it can mean the death of productivity (I’m looking at you, Netflix).
Staying on track doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. If you’re new to working from home, or if it’s something you’ve been doing for a while but could still use some pointers on, then you’ll want to start implementing these tips ASAP to help maximize productivity, rock your to-do lists, and make sure each day is a success!
1. Understand the Difference Between “Constant” and “Consistent”
This is the most important concept for being efficient and productive. We often trick ourselves into believing that being highly productive means getting more things done. The truth is, productivity lies in your ability to accomplish things that need to be done. That doesn’t always equate to doing more.
Productivity falls short for many of us because we spend a lot of time on irrelevant or mundane tasks we didn’t actually need to do, such as constantly checking emails, scanning social media, rewriting our to-do list in the middle of the day, or doing a quick household chore to avoid starting on the task we don’t really want to work on.
Productivity is all about habits. You have to build a routine you can sustainably stick to and make it a habit to actually follow through on it. This doesn’t mean being in a constant state of work. It means creating consistency in your daily schedule and allowing yourself the breaks, time off, or creative space you need to be productive during your work time. Constant work does not equal consistency, and aiming for constant work will only lead to burnout.
2. Get Dressed and Make Your Bed
It seems so silly when talking about productivity, doesn’t it? But this act is actually a big ingredient for starting your day off on the right track. Changing clothes helps wake yourself up and tells your brain you have somewhere to go. Making your bed is a quick task that will help you feel accomplished when you check it off your to-do- list, and it also creates a clean environment in your home, which is important for keeping your mood in check.
We tend to adapt to the environment around us. So if your house is a mess and you’re rocking the leggings you slept in, you’re going to feel more sluggish, less focused, and more vulnerable to calling it quits for the day and turning on a Netflix show instead. If you don’t have time to fully clean your home on the regular, making your bed and getting dressed each morning are quick ways to make your environment feel a little less frustrating, which helps put you in a calmer, better mood.
3. Time Block Your Day
Time blocking is a fancy way of saying you should outline your day. Think of time blocking as a first draft. There will inevitably be things that come up that mess with your outline and send the rest of it off course, but those are the moments you should revisit your outline and make your next draft for the remainder of the day.
Time blocking starts with creating your daily to-do list, with your priorities listed first. Realistically estimate how long each task will take you to accomplish and build out a schedule for your day. Add breaks into your schedule so you aren’t burning yourself out by lunchtime and losing the rest of your day. Try scheduling 5-10 minute breaks every hour to stretch or scroll Instagram and a 30-minute break every three hours to really give your brain a rest, get your body moving, grab a snack, etc.
4. Set a Timer
It’s great you’ve blocked out a schedule for yourself, but if you’re trying to truly maximize your productivity, you want to make sure you get everything done within that schedule that needs to be tackled. Setting a timer helps you focus harder on the task at hand, because you feel like you’re trying to beat the clock and therefore are more motivated.
If you’ve scheduled one hour for a task, set a timer for 45 minutes and push yourself to complete the task in that time. If you’re successful, you can get ahead on the next task so you’re guaranteed to finish the day strong, and now you know you can complete tasks a little faster than you thought you could. If the timer goes off before you’re done, set it for another 5 minutes to see if you can finish up in that extra time.
The point of the timer is simply to trick your brain into thinking you have a closer deadline than you technically do, so you’ll focus more, get distracted less, and allow yourself to take on the “done is better than perfect” mentality.
5. Create a Space Free From Distraction
This can be difficult if you have small children or other people in your home or don’t have a dedicated office space, but work with what you do have. Find a space you can dedicate as your workspace and do what you can to make it as distraction-free as possible.
Try to avoid sitting directly in front of windows so you’re not paying attention to things outside or starting to daydream. Avoid turning on TVs or other electronics that could catch your attention. This includes putting your phone away until your next break. If you’re worried about missing phone calls, keep your phone nearby, but turn off notifications for things like texts and social media.
As much as most of us love listening to music or a good podcast while we work, it actually decreases your productivity because it splits your focus. Try working in silence or with an instrumental music playlist, and then play a couple of your favorite songs during your breaks to get you pumped up again.
Working from home doesn’t have to be the end of your efficiency, and you don’t have to feel like you’re in a state of constantly being stressed, frustrated, and behind on your work. Follow the above steps to make sure you’re putting in the work to maximize your productivity, and after a few days of getting the hang of it, you’ll start to see the results and feel much more relieved about your new work-from-home environment.