In these days of Covid-19, many of us have found that we have to work from home, living the dream! But the reality of how to stay on track and avoid procrastination is not easy. When you’re not in the office, it’s easy to get distracted by all the comforts and demands of home life. Do you find yourself giving in to an urge to tackle the ironing or drawn to the fridge to make a bacon sandwich rather than start on that report for the boss? Before you know where you are, the deadline is a couple of hours closer, and the report is still a blank piece of paper.
Here are some tips and strategies to take back control and avoid procrastination when you’re working from home.
1. Create an Office Space
There are several reasons why we procrastinate. One problem is that your home is a relaxation space. You are mentally attuned to performing certain actions in a specific location. When you’re in an office, the focus is on work and getting the job done. Go to the Gym, and you switch to fitness mode. Home is about housework, familial responsibilities and relaxation. This need to change the scene is one reason why seasoned work from homers often go to a coffee shop or library to create a distinction in their surroundings. You need to create some space that is just for business. Ideally, a separate home office is a perfect solution. A door you can go through at the start of the day, and close behind you when you finish signalling that the work phase is over for the day.
Unfortunately, that is not always possible, especially if you are sharing a space with others who may also be working from home. At the very least you need a desk that you don’t use for anything else. If all you have is the kitchen table, make sure it is cleared of ALL non-work clutter before you start. Sit where you do not usually sit to help enforce the idea that you are here to work. Put a water bottle and a bowl of fruit in reach to stop yourself getting up and going to the fridge. When you finish, remove all your work things into a box labelled “Office” and put the butter back on the table. You are clearly marking a different space for work and home in your mind.
DO NOT slump on the sofa or flop on the bed with your laptop. Both these places have powerful non-work associations, and it will be tough to get into work mode if you do.
Do try leaving your home for a short walk before you start, even 5 minutes to the end of the road and back helps create a break between home/work mentality. Repeat at the end of the day. It may take a few days but stick with it. Habits can take time to form, but once you are there, everything will be easier.
2. Prioritize Your Time
Organize your time professionally. Explore the possibilities of something like Google Calendar or Microsoft Calendar. Both of these integrate with your emails for added efficiency. Take your lead from what your company uses. Load all your meetings and deadlines and block out time in your day for particular tasks.
Two other time efficiency tips are the Eat Your Frog method and the Pomodoro technique.
Brian Tracy believes that if you tackle the task you least enjoy at the start of the day, the rest of the day will be a lot easier. You could vary this if you’re a morning person, by getting your demanding or thought-heavy tasks done early in the day. Conversely, night owls can choose to work late or use morning time to sort emails or do admin.
Francesco Cirillo invented the Pomodoro technique in the early 1990s. The name comes from his tomato-shaped timer. The idea is that you break down your work into 25-minute tasks and then take a 5-minute break. After 4 Pomodoro periods, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. Make a daily task list and check things off as you achieve them. Take great joy as each task is completed.
3. Stay Motivated
Research has shown that lack of motivation is a crucial driver of procrastination. If your motivation is low, there’s little reason to get on with your work.
If you find it hard to stay focused on your work, consider using rewards to boost your motivation. It can be as simple as choosing to do a work task before
you check social media or have a movie night to celebrate hitting a milestone. If you’re struggling, try reframing each piece of work as money in your pocket.