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Are your work habits at home productive?

Last year our lives, to differing degrees, were turned upside down dealing with changes to our work and social patterns. Some of us who were fortunate to keep our jobs were sent home and instructed to carry on in the new norm— working from home.

Now, that we have been doing this for a while, I am sure you have noticed if you are more productive working from the comforts of your abode, or less.

For me, I am more productive. However, I live on my own with my dog—not nearly as many distractions as home-schooling kids or having a partner also working in the house. But, for others, they may have noticed they get easily distracted or feel that doing the laundry is far more important than writing the report for the boss.

I think the first step in becoming more productive is figuring out which one of the above are you?

Are you the “get my head down and get it done” type or “let me get dinner prepared first” type? Or a third option, which I believe I am, is a combination of both?

Knowing this will influence what you need to do to ensure your workday is productive.

Some overall tips, which I hope you have put into practice by now, are:

· Talk to the other family members at home so they know when you need to be working

· Have a separate area or space that delineates your work environment, and

· Make sure you have the proper equipment.

However, the following pointers take each scenario into consideration as well as keeping in mind the benefits of working towards and maintaining a healthy mind and body.

Get my head down and get it done!

If you are the type of person who dives into work as soon as you sit down in your home office and does not move until the final activity is complete – you could be less productive than you think. The average adult has an attention span of forty-five minutes, and if you are “focusing” for eight hours, you are not actually focusing at all.

To ensure you are giving your best at work it is important to give your brain and butt a break! Get up, walk around, offer your senses different stimuli. Sitting is the new smoking, or so they say, so please do not sit for eight hours with barely move from your seat (bathroom breaks not included!). Take a few moments to walk outside or up and down your staircase to simply get your body moving.

Visit another room in the house, do some Sudoku, or smell your favourite perfume—something to stimulate your brain in a different way from work. These simple actions will reset your focus and give you a break from the monotony of your work day.

Even taking a few deep breaths can give you the change you need to reset your focus and it is a fantastic stress reliever! Do not underestimate the power of standing up, taking a big stretch, touch your toes (or as far as you can reach) and breath deep belly breaths slowly in and out.

All of these practices will help to recharge your concentration and keep you in a state that is fresh and productive!

I have a meal to cook first!

If you are easily distracted and cannot focus until all the household chores, meals and other tasks are complete, then planning and scheduling will need to become your best friends. It is fine to take breaks during your workday, just as you would in an office environment. As mentioned above, breaks are necessary to keeping your body and mind healthy, but too many of them and your workday slowly becomes your personal day—and that is not a great scenario for you, your company, nor your boss. If you are your own boss, you do have more control about when you can take these “personal” days, but you are also fully accountable for controlling your productivity.

To find the balance between getting things done around the house and fulfilling your work obligations, try scheduling regular breaks (two to three throughout the day) that give 10-15 minutes to preparing your dinner or chilling with your children. But, when that alarm or reminder goes off, pack it in and head back to your workspace and get your head back down!

You can also segregate your lunch into chores and downtime if you feel you need to get things around the house done at that time as well. Do not forget to give yourself the time to rest and recharge though and not just do housework on your pauses.

Another helpful tool could be a list (I love lists!) of all the personal things you want to get done in the week or day, whichever works for you, and whittle it down to what is manageable in two to three breaks. That way you can see the results as you check them off your list and your focus can remain on work as you will not be worried about, “what do I have to do before the kids get home?”

Try not to get up from your workstation every time a fleeting idea of how to redecorate the front room pops into your head, rather write it down and add it to the list for next week or tomorrow.

Keeping your personal tasks separate in this fashion, should help your productivity and focus during the working hours you need to fulfil each day.

I had my head down, but now I need a break!

If you are like me and a combination of the above scenarios, it may be a bit easier to ensure your work is done and in a productive manner, but you may also get easily distracted….

Ooooooh, look something shiny!

See what I mean?

I can find my mind wondering from my work tasks and have the urge to get up and check if I have the right cleaning products for the bathroom I will scrub this weekend. Or I can equally emerge from my work bubble forty minutes past my lunch break because I was so engrossed in building a SharePoint site for a client.

If this is you, then all the steps mentioned in the other two scenarios can be applied.

For me, I regularly take breaks to breathe and get up and move or have a five minute stretch in the sun, but I also make lists of what I need to do or buy before my workday begins so I can focus on the work tasks in front of me.

Which leads me to the next suggestion – take advantage of the tools you have within your work environment to help your productivity. I use my Outlook calendar to block times when I need to do things, such as writing this blog. As a company we use Microsoft Shifts to schedule our work, so we know exactly what we are doing that day and for how long.

And being a big fan of lists (can you tell?), I also use Tasks by Planner and To Do and My Tasks in Outlook to help prioritise and organise all the things that need to be completed.

To help me remember to breathe and stand up and take a break, I have a free mindfulness app on my mobile that chimes randomly and each time I hear it, I take a moment to breathe, feel gratitude and have a stretch. I also make sure that if I have personal tasks to do during working hours, I take 15 minutes on my lunch to do some and then take the other 15 minutes to eat or simply relax and recharge.

These may seem pretty basic, but you will be surprised how simple things can help you live a more productive and balanced life, in work or personally.

I hope you find these pointers helpful and please add some of your best tips for making working from home, happy, healthy and fruitful.