It took me a few weeks to get going when our practice closed for the COVID lockdown. I was trying to motivate myself to work from home but I lacked direction and really didn't achieve anything of significance. I found myself getting frustrated that I couldn't do more work when I was looking after the kids, then I'd sit at my desk and not do any work because I knew I could be outside having fun with them.
Something had to change.
The key for me, as it was before COVID and will be forever more, is to boundary my work and play. Work when I'm scheduled to work and be a husband and a father when I'm not working (read more about "being" here in last weeks blog if you missed it). Work right now means taking phone calls for the practice and helping any patients who need me (whether they're registered with us or not), writing lectures, recording webinars, completing the CPD courses I was attending later this year which have now been moved online and catching up on a long long list of interesting research that I've just not had the time to get round to reading.
This means that when I work, I actually need to get things done.
I have a limited amount of time and a lot that I could be doing and I think I've found my rhythm. I’d therefore like to share a few techniques that I’ve found really help me get things done when I’m working from home.
To do lists - a list of tasks grouped in to A’s B’s and C’s based on priority for completing. It's all to easy to procrastinate on simple but less productive tasks only to reach the end of the day and realise you hadn't done the most important one.
Use the last 30 minutes of every work session to decide what needs to be done next time. I found it difficult to dive straight into my work if I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. I found myself bouncing through multiple different jobs without real direction and getting frustrated at my lack of progress. Deciding what I want to do at the end of the previous session utilises my work-activated brain to channel the key aims for next time.
Create the right working environment. Noise levels, clutter. Personal preferences. I like multi screens so I can still see everything full size without overcrowding my desktop or having to switch between desktops frequently. Having my iPhone out on the desk does not count as a multi-screen and is also incredibly detrimental to my concentration.
Keep to a routine and don’t be lazy. Cal Newport's Deep Work (available here) opened my eyes to why I spent so long idling when I sat at my desk. Activating work mode isn't a switch that you flick, you have to have a bit of a run up to it, so to speak. This means repetition, a repeated sequence of steps that tell your brain that you're about to start working. I've found starting my working day with a short simple task helps in this regard.
Take breaks. A morning break and an afternoon break will keep your mind fresh and you’ll be able to stay on task. Taking 15 minutes to make an enjoy a brew will greatly increase your productivity when you get back. The same applies to taking a proper lunch break.
The result of this is that I'm getting a lot more done, allowing me to switch off when my work time is over and enjoy being at home with my family.