A 2013 Millennial Branding Report showed that young workers prefer a flexible workplace over higher pay by 45 percent. With that in mind, more and more companies are turning to telecommuting as a solution to keep their brightest employees on the payroll.
In fact, Global Workplace Analytics (GWA) found that telework grew by almost 80 percent between 2005 and 2012. GWA projects that number will grow an addition 63 percent in the next five years.
Whether working for self or for a company, many at-home workers struggle to stay productive and focused. At home, there are many competing distractions for one’s time. Fortunately, being aware of these distractions and learning how to counteract them allows you to be more productive while working from home.
Start the Day off Right
According to the Brookings Institute, physical activity “stimulates the development of new mitochondria.” This simply means that your cells can generate more energy throughout the day, helping you stay focused and alert. Before you begin work, take a minute to take a short walk, do some jumping jacks or take just get outside and putter around in your yard.
Break Big Tasks into Parts
Janet Polivy did some research around diet and came to an interesting conclusion about big projects. She found that the human brain is afraid of big projects and will find other things to do to avoid those big projects. This is one of the reasons many people abandon their weight loss efforts before reaching goals. One way to combat this tendency is to break a big project into more manageable pieces.
Make To Do Lists
While studying which violin players were best, K. Anders Ericcson found something interesting. The best players weren’t necessarily those who practiced the most but those who practiced with focus and a goal in mind. They had a plan for how they would use their practice time, and they got right to it. To-do lists can help you plan ahead and make the most of your work day. In addition, if you start to lose focus, you can refer back to your to-do list and see what you need to finish next. This may be all it takes to help regain focus.
In addition to the to-do list, it’s smart to prioritize tasks by order of importance. Otherwise, your brain is going to shy away from those big project tasks, as found by Polivy’s research. There are many theories about how to prioritize projects. One that works well for most people is the Pareto principle or the 80/20 Rule. The principle simply states that only 20 percent of your day is typically spent on tasks that make a difference to your business or work. With that in mind, you can start to look at which tasks are truly crucial and hopefully turn the 80/20 principle upside down.
Go Ahead and Procrastinate
Research conducted by Hiroshima University showed that people who stopped and looked at cute animal pictures online or took a long vacation were simply resetting cognitive energy. Apparently, the human brain functions better after viewing the images by 15.7 percent. Researchers hypothesized that the positive emotions triggered by looking at cute, fluffy animals triggered approach motivation and gave workers a tendency to better systematically process information. Besides, everyone needs an occasional break, just keep it short and fuzzy.
Nap at Lunch
Sleep researcher Sara C. Mednick of the University of California, Riverside, conducted a study that found an hour to an hour-and-a-half nap improved memory as much as a full eight hours of sleep. If you would typically take a 30-minute lunch break and spend 20 of those minutes cleaning house, try taking a short nap instead and see if it improves productivity for the afternoon.
Set a Start and End Time
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is separating work and home. Setting a start time and an end time is vital to keep from burning out. If you’re completely exhausted, you’re not going to be as productive.