5 Tips to Stay Organized While Working From Home
Whether you’re the most methodical person in the office or always running late to the meeting, abruptly making the switch to working from home wrenches a new kind of insanity into our schedules. Kids tele-learning in the living room. Spouses video conferencing in the dining room. Pets who think it’s Saturday because you’re home. And bored friends who think they can bother you because they somehow equate telecommuting with vacation. Even the most organized among us have been tossed into chaotic disarray for the past few months—and it’s time to take back control.
These five tips will help you shape up your organizational skills so you can ship out your work on time:
- Identify your most productive hours. First, find the times that you’re most effective. This is important because when you’re working from home, there’s simply no escaping the distractions of the household, even if you set up your own personal workspace (which you should) and lock yourself inside (which may be a bit much). And because studies show that workers are only productive for 2 hours and 48 minutes per day, it’s important to find when those hours are for you—especially since we can be up to 500% more productive when we’re in a flow.1 To figure out your superhuman hours, either keep manual tabs on your activities and results for a few days, or try time management and tracking apps like RescueTime that analyze your work habits. After a few days of data collection, look to see when you were most productive.
- Create a list to keep your time yours. It’s easy to get distracted doing little chores here and there while you’re working on assignments there and here. This can piecemeal your day to death and easily turn your eight-hour workday into 12 hours.2 Reclaim your time—and your sanity—by creating a list of your tasks each morning. Jot a schedule down on your glass notepad while your coffee is brewing, or as you go through your morning emails. Carve out blocks of time for tasks and deadlines based on your most productive hours. If you know you have to walk the dog or start dinner at a certain time, pencil that in, too. Then use alarms, timers or time management apps to keep yourself honest.
- Schedule blocks of Focus Time. Focus Time is a term coined by the time management experts at Clockwise. It’s defined as two or more hours of uninterrupted time for work: No laundry, kids, dogs, calls, meals, deals or wheels. Just pure work-related tasks—including quiet prep time and brainstorming. Why? Studies show that it takes an average of 25 minutes and 26 seconds to get back on track after an interruption.3 On the other hand, a survey of engineering managers showed 90% felt more productive with more Focus Time, 80% said it helps them finish projects faster and 76% said it helps their company bring in more revenue.4 So while it may be hard to find the time, the numbers present some pretty good reasons to try—especially during your most productive hours.
- Make your routine a routine. Working from home can send you into a time warp because even when your workday is over, you’re still “at work.” It’s important to keep certain aspects of your day as regular as possible, so that your personal life and work don’t suffer.5 Find ways to align your mind and body with a time to work and a time to play. Take a jog at a certain time every day, or enjoy your morning coffee and breakfast in a certain spot. Shower and get dressed as if you were going into the office. Take breaks to chat with a coworker. Meditate in lieu of your commute home and unwind after work with something rewarding. Work and life will tend to naturally organize themselves around your habits.
- Don’t get sucked into the news. Finally, as the majority of people who are working at home right now are doing so because of COVID-19, we all have a vested interest in it—for more reasons than just work. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to turn a five-minute check on the latest news and health updates into a three-hour panic-induced trip down the rabbit hole. This can seriously ruin your day—and your productivity. Regain control of your agency. Keep timers for your breaks if you know that you tend to wander off into more than a few news sites. If you feel that you can’t help yourself, turn off your phone notifications until after work and then catch up with the evening news.6 Similarly, if social media has become a time suck—with more of us using it to stay connected—sign out of your accounts at the beginning of the workday. Then you can thoroughly enjoy catching up on pictures of cats, babies and memes as you wind down in the evening.
To learn about at-home organizational tools that can help you stay on task, keep family schedules in place and, overall, work and live life more efficiently, get in touch today.
1MacKay, Jory. “How to Find and Work during Your Most Productive Time of Day.” RescueTime Blog, 15 Oct. 2019, blog.rescuetime.com/most-productive-time-of-day.
2“Wahm Articles.” Wahm, www.wahm.com/articles/11-ways-to-stay-organized-when-you-work-at-home.html.
3Mark, Gloria, et al. “No Task Left Behind? Examining the Nature of Fragmented Work.” University of California, Irvine, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science, 2 Apr. 2005, https://www.ics.uci.edu/~gmark/CHI2005.pdf.
4Reisenwitz, Cathy, and Cathy Reisenwitz. “How Focus Time Impacts Productivity, Speed, and Revenue.” Clockwise, www.getclockwise.com/blog/how-focus-time-impacts-productivity-speed-and-revenue-for-engineering-teams.
5“20 Tips for Working From Home.” PCMAG, www.pcmag.com/news/get-organized-20-tips-for-working-from-home.
6“7 Essential Tips for Working From Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic.” Merrimack, 18 Mar. 2020, career.merrimack.edu/blog/2020/03/13/7-essential-tips-for-working-from-home-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic.