Considering how the world is right now with the coronavirus, most of us have been in a situation where we have to change the work environment.

Working from home, if you’re used to going to the office every day, can be uncomfortable and may take you some time to adjust to the remote style of working. Therefore, this week I’ve decided to create 5 videos and share with you some tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years on how to work from home efficiently.

This is the article with the entire content of the videos. You will find the videos linked at the end of the article.

1. TIME INTERVALS

You have already heard about Pomodoro and how it recommends that you should work in time intervals of 25 minutes and then have a 5-minute break, right?

In my case, after testing for several years, I’ve discovered that 25 minutes is a short time interval and I usually work more than that before I decide to take a break. But if you’ve never used the Pomodoro technique before, then I suggest you to start with time intervals of 20 to 25 minutes and then have a break of 5 to 10 minutes.

I usually work in time intervals of 45 to 60 minutes and I take breaks of 10 to 15 minutes. And I have to say that the same time intervals may not work for you. That’s why it is important to experiment and test it out.

On the other hand, you should pay a close attention to the type of activities you’re doing.

I’ve noticed that the Pomodoro technique becomes a really powerful productivity obstacle when you are passionate about what you are doing. If you really like what you are doing and you enjoy doing it, taking a break after 25 minutes will not be necessary.

When I usually do things that are related to my passions, I’m able to focus for a few hours, up to 4 and sometimes even 6 hours, without taking a break.

With that being said, make sure you start with short time intervals and then experiment. It’s important to find the time intervals that work for you. Moreover, keep in mind that how you feel is important for how long you are going to work without taking breaks.

2. PRIORITY AND IMPORTANCE

When I start my day, I usually focus on only three things. Those three things may be something I don’t like doing, are important and have a high priority, or both.

Starting your day with the top 3 things you don’t like doing, in case you have such tasks, is really important. In most cases, our mornings are full of energy and doing something that’s not enjoyable won’t feel as tedious.

Therefore, you can use this as a factor for how you organize your tasks and start with those that you like the least.

On the other hand, you can make a list of your tasks and set grades of importance and priority for every task on your list.

Here’s an example.

This is just a random list with random tasks. As you can see, there are some tasks that have the same level of importance. This means you can find two or more tasks as important. But then you have to decide on which one you want to focus. That’s where the priority comes in.

When you create the list of tasks, make sure you don’t have multiple tasks with the same priority. It’s not recommended to focus at the same time on two or more tasks.

3. THE SEINFELD CALENDAR

Are you struggling with being consistent with your tasks and you find hard to do something for 5, 10 or even 30 days in a row?

Working from home is great because it gives you the opportunity to create yourself some extra time. For example, the time you use when you commute can be invested into something else. Also, being able to focus and work without interruptions will give you some extra time.

The Seinfeld calendar comes as a great addition to those things.

The Seinfeld calendar is a tool developed by the famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who used this calendar to make sure he writes daily for his show. In short, he used to have a big calendar on his wall, with 365 squares, each for every day of the year.

The purpose was to set himself a really important task for every day and then, after the task is done, put a big X on the square that represented the day of the task. Eventually, he’ll end up having a big chain of X’s and the purpose was not to break the chain.

I’ve used the Seinfeld calendar and I use it every time I consider I may struggle with something.

During 2017, I used the Seinfeld calendar for setting some 30-day challenges with cold showers, running, dancing, and so on. I’ve achieved most of what I set back then and that was a special year, full of new experiences.

But you can use the Seinfeld calendar for anything, from writing to painting, from preparing for a speech to training for a marathon. Basically, anything that can be done daily for 5 minutes up to a few hours.

I wrote everything about the experiences from 2017 in this book, called The Power of 30-Day Challenges.

30 day challenges book cover

This is how the Seinfeld calendar looks like.

Seinfeld Calendar to increase productivity

What you’re seeing right now is the calendar for one month. You have to fill in your name, put in your signature (to make yourself more responsible) and the starting date.

Then mention the activity and the reasons you’re doing that activity. Finally, put there a passion if that activity is related to a passion of yours.

Then, after you do your task, put a big X on that specific day.

For example, if you have to write 30 mins a day for a new book, then write that next to Activity and then but a big X on every day you’re doing it. To be even more specific, put a big X and write next to it what you have achieved during that day.

This is how the calendar for the whole year looks like and I used one like this in 2017 for my challenges.

I recommend you to print the calendar, either for a month or for a year, and make sure you have it close to you so you always remember that important task that you set yourself to do daily.

Here are the links for the Seinfeld calendar so you can print and use it right away

4. ENVIRONMENT MANAGEMENT

Have you recently started working from home and you need to improve your productivity because you’re not used to working remotely?

Taking care of the environment you’re working in is an important factor of how productive you are.

When it comes to working from home, you have to take care and explain things that at your office are well known by your colleagues.

In most cases, when you work from home you are not alone, therefore, you have to find creative ways to make sure your environment is manageable.

Managing your environment is mostly related to making sure those who are living with you (your spouse, kids or parents) understand that you are working.

The best way of doing this, if you have a room where you can work, is to create a schedule with your busy hours, print it and stick it on your door. This way, those who are living with you will see the schedule and bother you only when something is really important.

On the same note, make sure you create something like the most important rule and put it on the same piece of paper. It can be something like: “Try not to disturb me during my busy hours unless it’s really important and you can’t solve the problem yourself”.

Another important aspect of managing your environment is to close your phone, disconnect from the internet when it’s possible and basically preventing any external factors that can make you lose focus.

Even though it sounds really simple, this is a trick that will help you a lot when it comes to working for a few hours in a row without being interrupted.

5. ROUTINES

Routines are great if you know how to manage them. A routine can be something really helpful, for example drinking a glass of water just before you start working, or really bad, for example spending time on Facebook and playing games on your phone instead of calling your team members.

If you know how to use your routines to your advantage, you’ll be able to focus more and to become more productive. Therefore, I’ll give you an example of two routines, one for each of the following situations:

  • one for helping you start working and getting over the mood of not wanting to do anything;
  • another one for helping you become creative when you feel stuck on the same idea – also known as the writer’s block.

Let’s start with the first one.

For sure you have been in a situation where you would have done anything but work. There are high chances it will happen again if you are working from home.

To overcome this, all you have to do is to force yourself to work and by that I mean that you should try to remove any external distraction and focus as much as possible for the first 20 minutes.

Forcing yourself to work for as less as 20 minutes will, eventually, over time, transform into the habit of not postponing things with the excuse that you’re not in the mood for doing something.

Therefore, every time you feel like you don’t want to do something, force yourself to do it for at least 20 minutes.

The second routine is about overcoming the writer’s block.

It’s called the writer’s block because it’s mostly happening to writers when they try to write for many hours in a row without breaking their creative process. But it happens to everyone who has to use at least some sort of dose of creativity into their work.

To overcome it I recommend you take a step back from your activity, pause, and do something that will help your brain refresh. For example, go for a short walk of 10 minutes, drink a glass of water and breathe fresh air. Anything that will make you use your whole body will be useful.

When you use your whole body, you improve your blood circulation and that helps the thinking process.