Productivity in times of social isolation
Here at The Splendid Word we have mostly worked from home since our inception nine years ago, and we have ‘mostly’ been thankful for the opportunity it provides to juggle work and home life.
I use the word juggle here because it rhymes nicely with struggle.
For those of you now working from home, you will understand that the struggle is real and many of us are now becoming acutely aware of what it takes to get shit done now that we are ALL at home to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing tools we use to get work done at home, which has literally become the centre of our universe.
Working from home can be a challenge whether you’re living by yourself, with pets, children, or both. Distractions are real and there is always someone or something looking to take your focus away from work.
Some of you may already be pros at working from home, while others are adjusting to this new normal, which looks set to be with us for some time.
So, how do we get work done and keep our deadlines here at TSW?
School holidays have always offered a challenge for us and we are hoping this practice will hold us in good stead as we brace ourselves for what looks like at least 12 weeks of kids now studying at home – yikes!
In the past we’ve used various routines and tools that help keep us on task, however we need to say upfront that there is no one perfect solution and it doesn’t always work.
Firstly, I thought I’d share my average day and some of the challenges and hacks I’ve discovered along the way. Most mornings I actually plan out every hour of my day. And even though it does not always go to plan (most days actually) at least I have a guide, somewhere to start and something to refer back to when my day veers off track (again, this is most days).
Mornings are best for me, and I’m lucky we have teenagers (never thought I’d be saying that!) who sleep in late, which means our house is relatively quiet first thing. This is when I get the bulk of my work done.
However, even with a quiet space there are still distractions: emails, phone calls (it’s only natural some want to chat more during social isolation) and messages pinging through from various group chat platforms – WhatsApp, Messenger, Zoom and Google Hangouts, to name just a few.
These are all wonderful tools for this new socially isolated life of ours… BUT they are extremely distracting!
The news is also a constant distraction, with everyone keen to keep abreast of government announcements and/or any positive or negative updates on ‘flattening the curve’. This current pandemic situation has us all on high alert – for good reason – but this also reduces our ability to focus on work.
So, what can we do to combat distractions from all corners, particularly those coming from our handy little smart phones? If turning your phone off is not practical, try using some handy built-in tools such as the Do Not Disturb mode – extremely under-utilised in our opinion.
You can also turn off all notifications on your phone and just check-in a couple of times a day – this is my preference. I also subscribe to the ABC News bot through Messenger and receive three updates a day, which is more than enough.
Helpful tools and growing a forest…
And when it comes to checking that ‘one’ thing on your phone and falling down the ‘rabbit hole’ for half an hour, I use the Forest app. Forest allows you to set a block of time (which you decide) and if you make it to the end, you grow a tree for your forest! Alternatively, if you touch your phone during this set time, the tree dies. Yes, it’s a little drastic but it actually works really well for me.
The trees might not be real, but the flow I get from joining a couple of 30-minute blocks together is awesome. Breaking the interruption game is the key to this app, as research states it takes 22 minutes to refocus on a task after you’ve been dragged away by distraction.
See the Forest App here – you’ll love it!
Do you listen to music?
I swap between two main Spotify playlists when I am in ‘work’ mode: Your Favourite Coffee House and Jack Johnson Acoustic. When I have these playlists on, I am mentally in a productive working space – in theory. And, every Friday at 4pm I play Bob Marley – Legend to signify the end of my working week – a glass of wine usually follows.
Blocking out the noise!
Investing in a good set of headphones also works wonders in a shared working space, and is particularly handy for blocking out choice teenage music!
We love Trello!
We’ve talked about Trello a lot when it comes to productivity and planning and I find that right now if I don’t list things, nothing gets done.
Prioritising what needs to be done is also important, however we can get overwhelmed with a list of 50 plus things. Trello recently shared Top 5 Blockers to Your Productivity and they suggested to list:
* 2 items you’re currently working on,
* 2 items you’re planning to work on next, and
* 1 item that you think you’re working on, but you’re not actually doing it at all. We all have one of these and it’s usually something we’re avoiding. I would suggest you just ‘eat the frog’ and get this task done ASAP.
Visit here for the full list of productivity tips.
Brooke over at Slow Your Home Podcast advocates a master list and then a daily list which includes ONLY three things.
We love this concept and I often use it for non-work-related tasks like housework. For me it eliminates the feeling that there’s so much to do and I’ve no idea where to start (which often leads to me doing nothing!).
Importantly, during this unusual scenario we find ourselves in, remember to be kind to yourself… it will be slightly messy and imperfect. Also, remember to schedule in some time for the ‘fun’ stuff like exercise, gardening, creative pursuits or a simple lunch break. I admit, I often eat lunch at my desk, when I could be outside in the sunshine with my pugalier Harry (pictured). A much better option!
We’d love you to share what you’re doing to get work done in this new (albeit temporary) way of life. What hacks do you have, what playlists do you listen to, and what routines or tools help keep you on task? Share over on our socials or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy working from home everyone,