Matt Hadman, Regional Support Manager shares his top tips on how to work from home.
The challenging times we are currently facing mean many of us are now ‘working from home’. It can be quite difficult to keep yourself motivated and focused, especially with all the distractions of being in your own home. Here are a few tips that I’ve picked up and wanted to share with you to try and help you make the best of a difficult situation.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a method of time management that originated from the late 1980s. Named after the Italian word for tomato, the technique originally employed the use of a novelty, tomato shaped timer – hence the name! Here’s how it works:
1. Decide on the task you want to complete
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the time rings
- Take a short break – 10 minutes or so.
This can be altered to suit your work flow, but by creating a clear work/break cycle, you can eliminate distractions and prevent burnout. Give it a try if you’re struggling to concentrate! I use the alarm function on my iPhone to remind me when to stop – but anything will work, a kitchen timer, alarm clock – the list is endless.
If you have a piece of work to get started, but keep finding yourself procrastinating, try watching a video or listening to a podcast, or even better – a bodcast! There are lots of them on our website – https://www.practiceplan.co.uk/category/podcasts/
Just make sure the video or podcast you listen to is related to the same subject. This can help to get your brain focused on the topic at hand – by not going from 0 to 100, you’re lowering the risk of being distracted, and can find a more comfortable way to work.
Start as you mean to go on
It can be tempting to skip your morning shower and slip straight into your pyjamas for the day, but the novelty of this can soon wear off and you may find yourself struggling to concentrate. I remember, back in the early days of starting my admin time as soon as I got up, by at 4.00 pm I still hadn’t brushed my teeth! (It’s not good, and it’s not healthy!) Instead, try to keep up the habit of showering and getting dressed each day. You should find the routine helps your mind switch into ‘work mode’, not least because it’s the routine you, and your body is used to.
Work in a different area to where you ‘chill out’
Similarly, it can be hard to resist the urge to lounge on the sofa with your laptop. However, we subconsciously associate these spaces with relaxation, which can negatively affect your productivity. There are so many distractions in the lounge – not least the TV. To avoid this, try to set up a working spot away from the place you relax. A desk or home office is ideal where you can reduce distractions but you can always use the kitchen table or breakfast bar. Being sat up helps you to concentrate too.
Get regular breaks in
Just as it can be easy to get too relaxed, it’s also possible to let work completely take over your day, which can take its toll on your concentration and productivity. Be sure to schedule your breaks into your day, and if you still find yourself working through your lunch, apps such as TimeOut for Mac and Smart Break for Windows can lock you out of your computer for 60 minutes.
Working without breaks can feel ok in the short-term, but after a few days it will have an impact on your well-being. Get out of the house – utilise the 60 minutes a day of exercise that we are currently permitted. Fresh air, and a walk/run can really help ‘reset’ our thinking and prepare us to face the next task more positively.
Keep in touch
Working remotely can lead to feelings of disconnect and isolation, which can be difficult for all personalities – even introverts. To combat this, aim to engage with your colleagues on a social level at least once a day. This could be via a WhatsApp group, Zoom video call – whatever works. You can use this time to chat about common interests or just share funny stories or memes, it doesn’t have to be about work and we are all in this together. It also helps to set up video calls for meetings or projects – chatting to colleagues face-to-face is a nice reminder that you’re part of a team. It can be reassuring to check in with your work ‘family’ on a regular basis.
Use music to help keep you focused
If you find there are too many distractions at home, putting on a pair of headphones can focus your mind and improve your concentration levels. Various studies have found that music can also help with stress, so try to put together a playlist of your favourite tunes! If you find lyrics too distracting, you may find it helpful to listen to instrumental music instead. If you’re struggling to find instrumental tracks in your music library, try searching for the soundtracks to your favourite films.
I use Apple Music and find ‘relaxing classical’ playlists – classical isn’t as bad as it sounds and you can find some albums of well-known tunes that have been reworked into classical pieces.
Have a routine to close down with
Just as it’s important to start your working day with a routine, it’s also helpful to signal the end of your day with a daily habit. This could be something simple like a brew and a chat with friends over FaceTime, a short walk with your headphones listening to your favourite music. Whatever helps you to unwind and clear your mind is perfect – we are all different, but just find something that helps signal work has finished for today.
Turn devices off
If you have a laptop, company phone, etc once you’ve finished working for the day, turn them off! It’s so easy to keep them on, checking back into emails occasionally – but if you never have a chance to fully disengage with work, over time it becomes overwhelming and it’s not good for your mental health and well-being. Even WhatsApp groups and social notifications – while it’s important to have these as ways to keep in touch with colleagues, it’s important we remember work is only part of our life and those at home want our undivided attention sometimes too.
I remember working in the NHS and taking calls from heads of service while sat on a beach in the Dominican Republic – while at the time I claimed I didn’t mind, looking back now it was super stressful and not good for me or my relationship.
I hope you find this useful and you all manage to get some time to relax – and while it may feel different to other years, have some quality time with those that are most dear to you.