"What should I do for lunch? Too lazy to get take-out, no clean dishes to cook."
"If the amazon delivery gets here during a meeting, should I excuse myself? Or, switch off video."
"I need to take a break, and have enough time to play one game of FIFA."
"How the hell is she so motivated and well dressed every day? I can hardly get out of bed and brush my teeth before the first meeting."
"I am tired already, will anyone notice if I log off at 2 PM?"
👆 is a snapshot of the thoughts I've had in the last 30+ weeks of work from home. The actual list is much longer, but let's not go there.
For almost six weeks now, I have felt that my productivity is lesser than what it was earlier. But the thing with productivity is that there is no scientific measure for it, nor is there a universal scale to determine how productive is productive enough for a superstar PM. (Yes, I think of myself as a superstar PM 😛)
To give some meaning to the said feeling, I decided to investigate further.
The goal was to design a system to measure my productivity, identify factors that negatively affect it and develop a method to keep it high.
- My mood at the end of the workday is a representation of how productive I was on that day - good mood equals a highly productive day. A low task completion rate and high task completion time negatively affected my productivity and my mood.
- I lose focus more easily working from home than working from the office. This has a direct impact on the completion rate and completion time. I, then, identified the triggers that lead me to lose focus. [Read questions at the top.]
- I researched productivity hacks and shortlisted the ones that I think could work for me.
How to measure productivity?
There is no easy way for me to estimate productivity objectively. And that doesn't worry me. So I chose to limit the measures to subjective criteria like work-related mood and a sense of achievement at the end of the day.
I am the only one measuring my productivity. There are no external persons who can influence the measurement. Most importantly, I have no incentive to cheat or to justify it to anyone. Hence, this system works. It helps me track directional changes to productivity. As long as I am progressing in the right direction, I am happy.
Why do I lose focus more often at home vs the office?
There are too many variables at home. [Read questions at the top.]
There is no standard start and end to my day. I start 15 minutes before my first meeting and only stop when I am exhausted. Not having an end time makes me more lenient about micro deadlines. And that leniency triggers the part of the brain which prefers getting distracted.
This was very different in a physical office.
- The 20-minute commute to the office helped me prepare for my day, and the commute back helped me unwind and shutdown. The commute primed me to switch on and off, with enough prep time on both ends. The only commute I have now is from the bathroom to the living room.
- Grabbing a coffee and partaking in random kitchen chats provided me with much required breaks. And the one guy who is always eager to return to work motivated me to do the same.
- Working with others around me created positive peer pressure, which helped me focus and do more.
- Physically stepping out of the office helped me close one - and start the next - chapter of the day.
- Seeing people leave the office earlier than me signalled that the end is near, and I should start wrapping up my day.
How am I increasing my productivity at home?
I am sharing ten methods to increase productivity during WFH. I divided them into two lists: first includes the tried and tested methods. The second list contains methods that I am yet to try.
Tried and tested methods:
- The Pomodoro Technique works miracles for me. I highly recommend it. I am more efficient with my tasks when there is a timer counting down. For those who are not aware - the Pomodoro Technique is a time management method. It breaks down work into intervals of 25 minutes in length. Each interval, known as the Pomodoro, is separated by a short break (typically of 5 minutes).
- I am not fond of being late. Ever. I use that to my advantage by creating and advertising time-bound goals. For example, suppose the engineers need a document by Friday. In that case, I commit (in front of the entire team) to deliver it by Wednesday. The ambition to fulfil my commitments keeps me focused for longer periods of time.
- Having something to look forward to at the end of the day keeps me efficient all day. I play football on Wednesday evenings, and miraculously I am the most productive on Wednesdays.
- A comfortable home office is quintessential. The most important part of the home office - something that I learned the hard way - is a comfortable chair. If you don't already have one, buy one right now. Thank me later.
- Keep your home office organized and clean. Cluttered and messy workspaces are a real motivation killer.
- Shutting my laptop's lid at the end of the day is a simple yet effective technique. I use it as a signal of my workday ending.
- Research shows that listening to specific types of music while working increases productivity. Classical music, nature sounds, epic music all seem to do the trick. I haven't tried any of them yet but will do soon. Some more playlists: Spotify, Youtube.
- Minimizing screen time helps your brain relax. Doing non-screen activities during breaks appears simple, but I haven't been able to do this consistently. I am either reading or watching something on a screen during my breaks.
- Adequate sleep is essential. Yet, I struggle to sleep and wake up early. I will get there soon-ish.
- Exercise and meditation calm the mind and fill you with positivity. But, need a high level of discipline, which I lack (at least as of now.)
Being productive, especially in a home office setup, isn't easy and needs work. You might not believe me, but you will believe Paul J. Meyer (the pioneer of the self-improvement industry.)
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”