WFH (work from home) has become a well-known acronym in the last few months with stay-at-home orders in effect. Many people are now working from home while managing children, spouses, roommates, and pets — under circumstances no one could have predicted.
Whether you’re a seller, marketer, sales enablement leader, or another role, it can be challenging to achieve focus and stay productive with all of the distractions in the current environment. Here are 36 productivity tips from the Extreme Productivity Benchmark Report to help you succeed. Each of these correlate statistically to Extreme Productivity, and they make up the 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity.
- Hold yourself accountable: Accountability is one of the most important factors related to productivity. If you want to get something done, give yourself a deadline, and tell someone about it. When you share your most important activities with an accountability partner, and regularly check-in with that person, you boost your output.
- Be proactive: Procrastination kills productivity. Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen to you. Take the lead and make them happen for you.
- Employ productive work habits: Don’t just read about productivity — take these tips and apply them. Choose a few to try out each day and stick with the ones that make an impact for you.
- Sustain your energy: When working from home, there’s a fuzzy line between work time and home time. Create boundaries for yourself and take time to care for your mind, body, and spirit. You can only be productive if you have the energy to do so.
- Maximize investment time: Everything you do falls into one of the 4 levels of TIME: Treasured, Investment, Mandatory, and Empty. Make sure you’re focusing on the right things by maximizing the time you spend on your priorities and what will get you to your goals.
- Start the day with your Greatest Impact Activity (GIA): Each morning ask yourself this simple question — what’s the most important thing I can get done today? When you begin work, do that first.
- Recover when derailed: We all get sidetracked. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Simply stop what you’re doing and jump back into your GIA.
- Multi-task: There’s a fine line between multi-tasking and rapid task switching. The former is good, the latter is bad. Need to have a call with a colleague? Go for a walk while you chat. Need to do some data entry? Watch a webinar at the same time. However, when it’s time to focus on something important, give your undivided attention to that task for a certain period of time (see #9 below).
- Sprint into the Zone: The best way to focus and make significant progress is by getting into the zone — a mental state where a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. You can sprint into the zone by focusing on one activity for 20 minutes, using a timer counting up. Follow these rules to sprint into and stay in the zone.
- Write down your goals: When your goals are written down and regularly reviewed, you increase your motivation and likelihood to achieve them.
- Calendar investment activities: Manage your time and ensure you spend it on your investment activities by putting them in your calendar. When it’s in your calendar, you’re much more likely to do it.
- Don’t react to others’ agendas: If you spend all your time on other people’s priorities, you have little time for your own. Drive your own agenda.
- Plan actions weekly: At the beginning of the week, plan your actions for each day. Calendar when you will focus on each item (see #11). Share your plan with an accountability partner (see #1), and then…
- Track progress weekly: Tracking your progress can be powerful. At the end of each week, check to see how you did with an accountability partner.
- Use positive self-talk: Don’t let your inner voice hold you back. While the constant news cycle may get you down, counteract it with positive self-talk.
- Say, “3…2…1…Go!” and begin immediately: When your calendar notification goes off telling you it’s time to work on a proposal, don’t hit snooze. Open the proposal and begin working on it.
- Set up a productive work environment: A space that promotes productivity is especially important when working from home. From a second monitor to an organized file cabinet, little things can make a big difference.
- Maintain the smallest priority list: If you have too many priorities, you have none. Keep your list to 3-5 priorities that you’re working towards at any one time.
- Plan how you’ll respond to triggers: When your phone vibrates, your first instinct will likely be to pick it up. Consider intentionally removing distractions. Put your phone in another room, then use checking your phone as a reward when you complete a task.
- Track your time: If you want to control your time, you need to first understand how you’re spending it. Are you really spending 3.5 hours per day homeschooling your child, or is it more like one hour and the other 2.5 are spent exchanging memes with friends? Tracking your time may reveal that you have a lot of it you can recover.
- Minimize low impact activities: For each of the activities and tasks you complete, ask yourself, “Does this need to be done now? Does this need to be done by me?” When you can eliminate or outsource activities that don’t help you make progress toward your priorities, you make additional time to focus where it counts.
- Say “no”: You can’t do it all, but you can control what you do and how you spend your time. Think of it this way — when you say yes to everyone else, you’re saying no to yourself. Learn how to say no, practice saying no, and when it counts, say no to protect your time.
- Follow a consistent morning routine: We are creatures of habit, and routines are incredibly important especially when working from home and managing the distractions around us.
- Keep a “to-don’t” list: Everyone has a to-do list. Everyone needs a to-don’t list. Not everything is “no” forever, it’s “no” for now. You can come back to this in the future.
- Signal “Do Not Disturb”: Close your door. Tell your family members or roommates that they’re not allowed in for the next hour. Set an out-of-office message on your email. Do what you need to do to let people know you’re focusing and to not disturb you.
- Do not allow yourself to be distracted: As soon as you notice that you’ve been distracted and switched tasks (oh, a new Slack message…), note the switch and simply switch back.
- Become difficult to interrupt: Consider batching email and Slack responses, checking them on your own time instead of letting them interrupt you.
- Turn off alerts: This is a big one. It’s hard to do, but once you’ve done it, you’ll be happy you did.
- Devote undivided attention: Whether you’re working, homeschooling, or taking treasured time, when you’re doing something important, give it your undivided attention. Be present.
- Concentrate for longer periods of time: Extend the amount of time you’re focusing on one activity — 20 minutes is a great place to start. You can extend up to 90 minutes, and then take a break.
- Stay active: When working from home, it’s important to remain active. Go on daily walks, participate in online yoga classes, and ride your bike to complete your errands.
- Take treasured time: Don’t forget to carve out time to do the things that are important to you, whether that be spending quality time with family or learning a new song on the piano. Taking this time key to avoiding burnout.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness brings you back to the now. It’s a great skill and has been proven to help reduce stress among other health benefits.
- Break larger tasks down into smaller ones: Have a daunting project you need to get started on and keep putting off? Start with a small piece of it. It will be much easier to keep going.
- Stop ill-advised activities quickly: Mindlessly wandering the internet, turning Netflix on in the background, lounging in bed when you should be working. Say to yourself, “3…2…1…Stop.” Stop what you’re doing and get back on task.
- Recruit your drive: When working from home, it can sometimes be hard to get out of our own way. Drive is in there somewhere. We all have it. Do what you need to do to find yours.
There is no single day where you’re likely to practice all 36 of these tips. But if you practice a few of them each day, they will begin to become habits.
Try out the tips that make sense for your life and see what works for you. You’ll find that you can get more done while working from home — and become extremely productive.