My Top 10 Productivity Hacks for working at home

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In this new environment with lots of people now working from home and coming to terms with what that means, there are some good productivity hacks for remote workers.

Productivity is about 3 things – attitude, focus and then the right tools so let’s just quickly work through some of those.

[HACKS] Top 10 – Working from home productivity hacks

1. Attitude – With this new environment, approach is everything and your attitude is critical in helping you get the most in being productive.

• “Present is not productive” is one of the big things. Take regular breaks, be social, do some of the things you would normally do at work and remember, just sitting there all day staring at the screen doesn’t mean you’re productive.

• Establish routines that keep you focused. If you need to get dressed for work, drive around the block and drive back in the driveway and then go into the workspace, then do it. If you always get a coffee in the morning, still get a coffee. Have your coffee, have your tea breaks, your lunch breaks, and regular team meetings. Think about virtual coffee and lunches with your co-workers. If you’re normally caught up with a couple of your friends from work, then do it online—it’s easy using Zoom or FaceTime to have a quick connection with them and a coffee while you do it.

• Claim your space. Designate a workspace even if it’s temporary. If it’s the end of the dining room table, set it up like it’s your workspace and do it. Create rules for your family. I’ve worked at home for the best part of 20 years and my 2 young children knew that if Daddy was in the office with the door closed that he was at work and weren’t to disturb him. I know other people have things like a dinosaur toy, and when that dinosaur toy was out the kids knew that Mum was at work and they don’t need to be there.

• Use noise-cancelling headphones for privacy and/or for confidentiality so you don’t have your speaker blaring out some confidential information around the room. It can also just help you focus.

2. Focus – Stay focused on what you need to do. A couple of techniques here:

• Use the 4 Things model. What are the 4 areas of activity that you must focus on to be successful in your business or in your role? In my business, my 4 Things are: client work, sales & marketing, strategy & planning and personal development to grow and sharpen the tool which is me. I tick off something from the list every day so if I take 15 minutes to do sales, at the end of the week I’ve spent an hour and a quarter on it. What is the framework for you? For more details on the model, watch the video here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wRFjvzBaXs

• Use the Stop Doing Matrix. For all the things that don’t fit into your 4 Things model, what are you going to stop doing? My coach, Chris Mason says to me every year, if you want to increase your productivity by 20%, what are you going to stop doing? Now, if you can’t stop it then delegate it to someone internal to you in the business or outsource it from someone external to you in the business. Following that, what can you do to re-engineer the process, so it takes up 10% of the time? More details here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1v3-jJn-54

• Have better meetings which is a combination of face-to-face and online meetings such as daily huddles or transactional catchups from 5 to 15 minutes, or circuit breaker meetings monthly for 15 to 20 minutes and quarterly performance reviews for 30 minutes. It is important in this current environment that you have better meetings to understand how your people are going and how they’re faring. If you need more details on meeting structures, I’m happy to discuss them with you.

3. The Right Tools – Most people think productivity is about tools but if you don’t get your attitude and focus right first then the tools are often a waste of time.

• The Pomodoro Timer – Work in 25-minute bursts and then have a 5-minute break and then in every 4 cycles, take a longer break. What it does it increases focus and concentration, reduces interruptions and maximises output. Use the app Pomodoro Focus Timer or Focus Booster to keep you focused on the things you need to be doing. I’ve done a short video of that here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DO9T27-JKo

• Task Management – When you’re in a distributed network with some in the office and some working from home, use a software system that you can integrate with your Team. I use Trello.com for my small Virtual Team in the Philippines and we’ve used Trello for the best part of 10 years to communicate. It’s functional, easy, it syncs with all my devices, and best of all it’s FREE. Watch some tips on how to use Trello here – https://www.shifft.com.au/videos/#oArrfgSv-gQ

• Use Zoom/Skype – There’s a whole heap of video conferencing solutions to choose from but I use Zoom predominantly. It’s easier to use than Skype and Zoom maintains video quality better than Skype. But one thing Zoom doesn’t have is the capacity to call people like a phone call so Skype is a really good option for that. There are heaps of resources on using Zoom and you can find it all here – https://www.shifft.com.au/using-zoom/

• Audio and Video Messages – Respond to complex emails and phone messages with either an audio message or a short video message. My experience is that it takes you 20% of the time to complete an audio or video message and you can often provide a far more detailed response. Just remember to plan your response, make dot points so as not to ramble. Use desktop tools such as Loom, Snagit, Zoom, Camtasia, Screenflow or some smartphone tools such as video and voice memo.

• Email – This is a major productivity drain. Don’t view it first thing or last thing. You don’t want someone else setting the agenda of your day. Set up “Rules”to allocate your inbox to specific mailboxes and check emails in time with your Pomodoro breaks. Turn off notifications so they won’t distract you with what you’re doing now but make sure you check your email regularly. And if you’re doing similar responses, set up some templates.

So, these are my tips on how to work from home productively. And if you want some more help, you can check out a whole heap of free resources on the website – www.shifft.com.au.

Also, if you’re really struggling with this COVID-19 situation and not sure how to handle it, please use this link – https://calendly.com/russellcummings/30-min-meeting and book a call with me at no charge. I’m happy to help you navigate this process. It’s important that we all help each other out so I’m more than happy to do my part to help you and your business move forward in this difficult phase.

Take care, Russ.

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