Avoiding procrastination when the last thing you want to do is work

We’re all working from home and let’s face it, it’s hard to stay productive. I’ve been working from home for years and usually, I can switch everything off and do all the things. But that’s all changed now that my kids and partner are at home. I’m finding I now need to follow some of my productivity strategies to get anything done.

Perhaps you have a paid job you’d like to hang on to (that’s probably wise…) Or you own your own business and you need to drum up some extra cash. When there’s no one looking over your shoulder and the couch is right there, sometimes it’s hard to stay productive when working from home. Here are some of my work from home strategies to remain productive when the last thing you want to do is work.

1. Dress for success

While it might be tempting to lounge around in your PJs all day, it could actually be harming your productivity. When you’re working from home, it’s more about impressing yourself rather than your colleagues. Think about it – when you go into the office, you’re dressed in your work clothes and your body knows it’s time to get work done. There’s even science to back it up. A paper in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that wearing formal business clothes increased abstract thinking. It may have given people a feeling of power

You might not want to wear a suit and heels to sit at your kitchen bench (or maybe you do?), but it might be worth thinking about the types of clothes that make you feel successful and wearing them.

For me, I feel successful wearing activewear to work. I know I know, it sounds like such a cliché but hear me out. I love being able to jump up from my desk and go for a walk or do an online Pilates class without having to change my clothes. Then, not only have I managed to do some work but I’ve also managed to fit some exercise in. And I only have to wash one outfit. To me, that is a successful day.

2. Rethink your house to find somewhere of your own to work

If you have a spare room then you’re one step ahead. However many of us don’t have extra rooms so finding a place to work can be challenging.

I used to have a delightful study all of my own. However, my third child has a scream that can pierce a thousand eardrums and a penchant for 3 am wake ups so putting her in the same room as her sisters hasn’t worked out. Her cot is now nestled between the filing cabinet and the ironing board in my study 🙁 and I’ve had to find somewhere else to work.

I tried working at the dining table for about 17 minutes but it didn’t work out so have set up a table in my bedroom. It’s private, it has a lockable door and there’s an ensuite. What more do you need?

When you’re setting up a desk, make sure it’s ergonomically sound. Have your neck aligned with your monitor and ensure you have all the right supports for your hands, back, and feet. I learnt this the hard way with my first month working from home – it was a very expensive physio bill sorting out my neck followed by a trip to Office Works to buy a proper ergonomic chair and laptop holder.

3. Pack snacks… for everyone

This has been a game-changer in my house. When I am preparing breakfast, I put together a little snack box with some fruit, cheese, muffins etc for my kids. If I’m feeling super organised, I pack one for myself. Then when they ask for a snack (which they do about a thousand times a day and usually when they can see I’m about to work), I can simply tell them to go to their snack boxes. Believe when I tell you that this has saved my bacon on numerous occasions.

4. When you start work, give yourself 3 short tasks

Yep, that’s it. Only three. Sometimes it’s the never-ending to-do list that overwhelms us so much that we can’t get started. For example, I have had this blog post on my to-do list for about 3 weeks. When it’s a client blog, I find it really easy to sit down and write but I never seem to get around to my own blogs (sound familiar?!) Every day, writing the whole blog seemed too much to take on when I had so many other things to do. So I broke it down into chunks and just did a bit each day.

  1. Write blog outline
  2. Do keyword research
  3. Write first draft
  4. Design images in Canva
  5. Edit blog and proof read
  6. Share

So much less overwhelming! Pick three easy tasks for tomorrow like ‘write the email, do the research, and call Jenny about the thing’. Then when you’re done, have a break. Reward yourself with a hot coffee. And go back and choose another three tasks. Or break down one big task into three sections. The point is it’s not overwhelming and you get started.

5. Test out the Pomodoro method

When you need to knuckle down and focus, the Pomodoro method is a winner. The idea is you put a timer on for 25 minutes and work uninterrupted during that time. Then you take 5 minutes to walk around, regroup and sit down again for another 25 minutes. It’s best to remove your phone and turn off any email or chat notifications if you want this to work. I love this method first thing in the morning when my brain is fresh.

6. Work out your most productive time

Perhaps your reason for insufficient productivity isn’t your own fault? Yep, I’m looking at you kids. I’ve been working around my kids for, well, my entire working from home career. It’s not easy, and it’s certainly even harder to be productive when working from home during the day right now.

Thanks to years of working on early morning news bulletins, I’m most productive before the sun gets up. Give me a cup of tea and I can get straight to work and write a website homepage that might take me hours if I attempted it in the afternoon. When I’ve got big deadlines, that’s when I tend to get my best work done.

For some people,  it might be night-time with a glass of wine. Pre-COVID days, I also worked at the park, while on a walk (client calls and training sessions), while kids are napping and when they’re watching TV (obviously). Whatever works, hey?!

7. Go with your strengths and outsource the rest

When you’re running a business and you’ve got limited resources (yourself), it’s easier to work on the tasks that you’re good at and that make the money. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to try to do everything else and you’re better off outsourcing. Think about what you could be delegating – perhaps a bookkeeper could manage your finances, a virtual assistant could sort out your social media schedule or instead of spending hours procrastinating doing a blog post each week, you could get a copywriter to help you out.  By delegating tasks, it frees up your time and headspace to work on what you really want to do in your business.

Or… maybe you shouldn’t worry about always staying productive when working from home?

I know this is counterintuitive to the blog topic, but this article resonated with me. Business coach Alexis Rockley wrote an entire Twitter thread about how it’s completely natural for our brains to not focus right now.

CAN’T SEEM TO FOCUS? That’s b/c your brain has temporarily shut down some functionality in your prefrontal cortex—the part that juggles complex tasks + planning— due to the stress response. – Alexis Rockley

She highlights it’s normal to feel tired, flakey and uncreative. It’s totally normal to feel like our mind is a roller-coaster of ups and downs. It’s also OK to give up some days and accept we’re not going to be productive. We need to be patient with our brain and give ourselves a break.

And with that, I’m going to get another cup of tea.

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